Returning to MTV this fall is Mike Judge’s superb satire of the American idiot, Beavis and Butthead. Originally a short for Liquid Television, Beavis and Butthead became a phenomenon spawning a movie, video games, t-shirts and allegedly even injuries to countless latchkey children. Judge, aided by moderator Johnny Knoxville, came to Room 6A to discuss the return of the show and show the first footage from the re-launch.
Read on for a description of the footage and key quotes from the Q&A.
As the loose and fun panel began, Knoxville pulled out a pair beer bottles, an attitude that permeated the rest of the hour-long discussion. Knoxville’s endearingly unprofessional interview lasted for about twenty minutes before he ran out of questions and asked to watch the footage.
And boy what footage.
Judge presented about fifteen minutes of new material including segments from three new episodes as well as a plethora of Beavis and Butthead’s famed music video narration, now expanded* to include various MTV programming including Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, Teen Cribs, UFC fights and Youtube videos.
Describing a teen father’s job hunt montage that consisted primarily of playing guitar hero and literally looking out the window,
“See he’s looking for a job. Gotta be one out there somewhere. But once he does get a job, I’m sure it will be smooth sailing. This guy looks like he might be stupider than us.”
Describing a scene where the Jersey Shore crew makes a tree-diagram of overlapping hook ups,
“This is like a family tree, if your family were made of whores. If they made this tree long enough, you could find out where herpes began.”
During another Teen Mom clip, where an adolescent mother is told that she has failed math class,
“Look, she has her smart face on.”
“You only got 39% and you needed 65%. I know you suck at math, but that means you failed.”
The narrative sections were equally strong.
The first episode, titled “Werewolves of Highland” details the boys’ misadventures after seeing the latest Twilight film. Inspired by the movie, Beavis and Butthead decide to become werewolves as a way to pick up chicks. The only Lycan they can find is a homeless man who happily obliges their request for bites. Unfortunately, he is also mentally ill and infected with Hepatitis C, amongst other diseases.
In another episode, titled “Tech Support” Beavis and Butthead get jobs working in a phone bank, a position for which they are woefully under-qualified. This segment had fewer laughs but stayed true to the mood of the original characters.
The final episode was called, “Holy Cornholio” and featured by far the most audacious and politically incorrect content of the whole presentation.
After Beavis shoves a screw through his hand while simulating anal penetration on a GI Joe, Butthead tries to help out. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to use an electric screwdriver and succeeds only in screwing Beavis’s hands together. A short trip to the emergency room later, Beavis is full of pain medications and transforms into his alter-ego, Cornholio.
Somehow, Cornholio encounters a cultish group of New Age Hippie Christians. Seeing that he speaks in tongues and carries the stigmata, they confuse him for the second coming of Christ. The cult grows in size as Cornholio rants on a stage. Eventually, “I need TP for my bunghole” becomes a sort of prayer for the cult members, who buy out all of the town’s stock of toilet paper and give it to Cornholio as offerings.
MTV has uploaded scenes from “Holy Cornholio,” plus the Jersey Shore clip:
The new animation is very close to the original but slightly sharper and brighter. Gone are the squiggly lines of the characters constantly shifting perspectives. Technically speaking, the new Beavis and Butthead is a better-looking show, but I miss the homemade edge of the original. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it is certainly noticeable.
The interstitial footage is very funny and expanding beyond the music video framing works well in a world where the music video is all but extinct, but I felt a genuine discomfort while watching the Teen Mom clips. Yes, I laughed, loudly even. But when it ended I felt a bit sad and dirty.
While I am aware of how manipulated so-called reality TV is, these are still documents of actual human suffering that Judge is poking fun at and this strikes me a perhaps a step too far into the realm of Schadenfreude. That said, the slimy context of these spoofs might well be mitigated within the context of the show as a whole.
Overall, Beavis and Butthead looks like a strong addition to the MTV lineup and will almost certainly get me to tune back into the network for the first time since they canceled Wonder Showzen.
Other quotes from the panel:
On bringing the series back,
“I felt like TV was getting too smart… basically the answer is I really like doing it and it’s fun.”
On the show’s dialogue,
“I was pushing 30 when I did it. I specifically tried to make them talk very un-hip.”
On Jersey Shore,
“Jersey Shore kinda felt like pay dirt to me… I don’t really feel good after I watch it.”
On how much of the original series Judge drew himself,
“I animated things like them slapping each other and walking… you know, the important stuff.”
On Korean animation studios,
“They say sweatshops but it’s not really like that… it’s a very efficient use of space.”
On his influences,
“The Road Runner shorts are like the pyramids in Egypt to me.”
*This is likely because the original spoofs were only licensed for on-air distribution and thus could not be included on the DVD box sets without re-licensing all of the songs and videos.
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