Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beavis and Butt-Head are Back!

If there's anything that we need today -- badly! -- it's the silly, sour, kinda sad and often very sage P.O.V. of MTV's legendary animated duo Beavis and Butt-Head, Mike Judge's brilliant series that debuted on the network back in 1993.  Lucky for us, they're back in a new series, starting tonight at 10pm, back on the network that made them famous, and the other way around, too.  It was a perfect give-and-take, the crazy antics of B and B on the crazy network that wasn't afraid to have some fun and take a chance with a new filmmaker's scabrous and yet somehow adorable creation. (Mike Judge, of course, went on to create Fox's longtime hit animated series King of the Hill, among other successes.)

Beavis and Butt-Head was a cultural phenomenom, screamingly hilarious and willing to skewer the very pop culture product and audience that took the series to the heights during its nearly five year run. Like a lot of seemingly stupid comedy, it entertains on a variety of levels, not all of them as facile as you'd  imagine.  In between the utterly anarchic antics of the excitable Beavis and the more phlegmatic Butt-Head, there's a lot of insight, pain and frustration, and not all of it caused by blue balls, either.  

If the original show was a real world, now almost twenty years later one could only imagine both of them in their early thirties, probably meth addicts, wearing wife-beater t-shirts and somehow being politically conservative Republicans dead set against raising taxes on the rich.  That's how a lot of marginally illiterate, culturally disadvantaged/disinterested and economically-downtrodden Americans end up, and not by accident.  Surely poor Beavis -- even with the help of his dynamic alter-ego Cornholio -- and Butt-Head wouldn't have been able to figure a way out of their socioeconomic morass; actually, what you'd be looking at would be a really grungy episode of Cops, in all its lower-middle-class glory. 

But we don't have to face that ugly reality with this new Beavis and Butt-Head.  They're back all right, but time has stood still, and they're still the same goofy, nihilistic teens, endlessly amused by double-entendres and entertally hoping for a little sex.  They'll be doing their riffs not on music videos like in the old days (because music videos hardly exist anymore), but instead on MTV's line-up of pathetically appealing (or should that be pathetic and appealing?) reality shows like Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant, and boy, do they deserve some skewering, too. 

I'm a big fan of Beavis and Butt-Head, for all the highs and lows of the characters and their situation.  These kids are surviving the best they can, as they sit on their dingy couch, in a living room with cracked plaster walls, trying to make it through school, uninspired, unloved -- maybe deservedly so -- doomed not by anything specific they've done wrong but by a society that simply doesn't have room for most of the unexceptionals, and especially not for kids like them.  Beavis and Butt-Head is either a funny tragedy or an ultimately sad comedy, but luckily it is hilarious and these are unforgettable characters.  Take them for what they are, and thank goodness that MTV knew enough to approach Mike Judge to bring them back

Viva Cornholio!


Jane said...

The 90's really were a golden age of cable TV animation. Beavis and Butthead's existential brilliance on MTV...Angry Beavers and Ahh! Real Monsters on Nick. Of course South Park has its own deranged following (and I sure would love to see the Mormon stage show on Broadway). Thanks for this excellent and amazing post which reminds us of MTV's relevance in the TV landscape. I thought it had been overlooked these days with all the H8ers for Jersey Shore and the teen preggo milieu.

Lisa said...

I knew you'd understand how brilliant they are! I'm so happy they're back!