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"Beavis And Butthead" Vol. 4: The Boys Are Back In Town

Over a decade has passed since two of society’s greatest critics worked together. No, it’s not Ebert and Roeper…. huh-huh-huh, I said “rope her”. Beavis and Butthead have returned to an MTV much different than the one they left. Largely gone are the music videos, replaced by the teen culture reality shows. Still, the dumbasstic duo are in high school, working fast food, and sit on their couch every week to watch music videos, Jersey Shore, and other bits of “culture”. Are these two the product of a bygone era, lost in the world of tomorrow, or are they long-lost friends who fit right back into society?

In 1997, Beavis and Butthead ended their career on MTV. After an entertaining movie and controversial TV series, Mike Judge decided to take things to Arlen, Texas, and create King of the Hill for FOX. A success in its own right, that series recently came to a close, and Judge found himself with new opportunities, and he decided that after nearly a decade and a half of sitting on a shelf, Beavis and Butthead could be dusted off for a new generation. Traditionally featuring two plots per episode (and interspersed with the characters watching music videos), the formula was simple, and nothing truly dated the characters. In fact, people nowadays still know of Metallica and AC/DC, the bands covering their shirts (when they weren’t being merchandized), even if they’ve been off the scene in a notable capacity.

So it’s as if they never went anywhere… and that’s a good thing. Plots aren’t awkwardly interspersed with new technology, such as iPads and iPods, and only a few things, such as references to Twilight and the glorious return of Cornholio stand out as stuff that only exist because of the dozen or so years between episodes. Many of the plots, such as the duo getting stuck in an elevator, adopting a rat, believing that they’ve traveled through time, and so forth fit so well into the series as a whole that they could have been from years ago or 2012, and nobody would be able to tell the difference, beyond the visual upgrade. (While the show retains its fullscreen aspect ratio, the animation is naturally cleaner due to digital coloring). Are all the plots and episodes perfect? Far from it, but they average out to that above-the-bar that make a show like this watchable. If you liked their older stuff, you’re ready for the new episodes.

One issue with the new episodes, which may or many not be an issue in how you perceive the series, is that many segments borrow old elements. Old footage is used for the commentary bits, the series is stuck in fullscreen, and so forth. The new animation works, is clean and concise, yet keeps the original style of the series going. Compare it to, seconds later, footage that originated in the early 1990s, is garbled and comparatively poorly colored, and the series takes almost a bipolar turn. Yet, all of this is just a catalyst to get the writing out there, which has always been the series strong suit. Sure, seeing Beavis and Butthead flail about trying to get rid of a rat in the kitchen is a specially subverted brand of Looney Tunes humor, but hearing Beavis call a woman in a Katy Perry song “the one from the Dove commercials” and declare that he too likes to stick fireworks in his underwear, and the genius of Mike Judge seeps out. Deciding that The Human Centipede and Sex and the City movie franchises should merge is a stroke of genius.

Extras are minimal, but nice. A bit of a convention panel with Mike Judge, theatrical bits, and four segments of the duo calling the Jersey Shore crew were all done for promotion for the new series, and while it’s nice to see them collected, aren’t substantial enough. Commentaries and retrospectives would have been nice, but getting something at all is appreciated.

Beavis and Butthead are back to rock the minds of viewers; while they’ve been superseded by South Park and Family Guy in the cultural zeitgeist that defines animated commentary on society, they both owe it to their grandfathers for their existence. Like your grandfather, make sure to listen to these two: they may have something to say with their age and experience, and you’ll be a stronger member of society for it.

Huh-huh-huh. I said “member”.

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