The New Beavis and Butt-Head Series Is a Grand Return to Form

Comedy Reviews
The New Beavis and Butt-Head Series Is a Grand Return to Form

For 30 years, Mike Judge’s most beloved creations Beavis and Butt-Head have lived by the old saying ignorance is bliss, and we were all swept up in it. It’s a tale as old as…1992: two horny and juvenile teenage Texans whose brains operate on 100% stupidity find themselves in wacky scenarios on a day-to-day basis. Whether it be sitting on their broken-down couch and watching TV in their rusted house or trying to score with a girl and utterly failing, the simplicity of Beavis and Butt-Head has factored in its ongoing timelessness. The 1990s adult animated comedy has become an integral part of culture and animation history. After seven straight seasons, a theatrical film, a failed 2011 revival, and just recently a stand-alone sequel for Paramount+, Beavis and Butt-Head are uuuuuuuhhhh uh huh huh back once again with a second revival for the streamer, doing what they do best: being dumbasses.

Now that Beavis and Butt-Head’s interstellar adventure across space and time (Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe) has reached its end, setting the stage to bring the bumbling boys to 2022, fans will be pleased that not a single step was missed. The two are still horny on main, causing nonsensical mayhem, and exuding their ignorant charm. Due to this being a Paramount+ exclusive rather than returning to MTV, I was initially hesitant, thinking this would be far more explicit with over-the-top crass humor, the same way Netflix has done with most of their adult animated content. Thankfully, it walks the same path tonally and humorously as the original show.

The 2011 iteration evoked a calculated “how do you do fellow kids,” energy that was on the same level of redundancy as Trump-era SNL. It tried far too hard to take jabs at media that were already dead horses, such as Twilight and Jersey Shore, while focusing heavily on promoting other MTV-related programs instead of commenting on the network’s music videos. Thanks to the new team of fresh voices behind the scenes, this revival, on the other hand, captures the nostalgic essence of what made Beavis and Butthead both unique and enduring. Similar to Jackass Forever—another MTV property about lovable idiots that got a resurgence—part of the freshness comes from the collaboration between Judge, veteran animation writers, and up-and-coming comedy writers. Newcomers Moss Perricone (Patriot Act), Brandt Hamilton (Mr. Mayor), and Eden Dranger (The Unicorn) are entrusted to carry the flag of the characters and set ‘em off on modern-day misadventures. Much life and harmless hilarity is infused in each respective writer’s designated episodes, and it feels as if nothing has changed whatsoever—in the best way possible.

While the recent Do the Universe film utilized as much current social commentary as possible as a basis for its humor, the segment portions (thus far) don’t rely on that at all. The main modernized aspect is the settings that the two misunderstand and destroy. From the two episodes I screened, some of the standouts from various segments include the boys mistaking a bathroom for an Escape Room, and attempting to be honey entrepreneurs after they see their teacher David Van Driessen at a farmers market. The writers get experimental, making some preexisting ideas come to life with hilarious results, such as, what’ll happen when Beavis personifies FIRE? The humor still follows a consistent flow of fun slapstick mixed with madness that only these two would get into.

Though it is now on a streamer, the series still abides by the signature format of its MTV days: 7-8 minute segments and reactions to various content spliced in-between act breaks during each 22 minute episodes. Apart from the segments, the commentary portions are where it’s at. Beavis and Butt-Head are the originators of reaction videos long before YouTube was in diapers. If there’s anything this revival excels at, it’s the variety of content provided for the two to watch and make fun of.

This may be an oddball comparison, but the segments share a weird similarity to see the Scream franchise. Just as each installment of those movies openly discussed the current trends of horror franchises per installment, Beavis and Butt-Head subtly does the same by exploring the current trends of media consumption in each of its iterations. In the 90s, pre-social media and when MTV actually gave a damn about the “M” in its name, the two would solely react to music videos. It was the primary characteristic that gave the show and the network legs for so long. The 2011 revival, while fun, lost its identity due to reacting to only Jersey Shore, 16 & Pregnant, and whatever MTV forced them to watch. Now that we’re in a completely digitalized era where we have multiple forms of entertainment via every platform, they’re now reacting to music videos, TikToks, YouTube videos, etc, and it’s completely natural. Most of the best jokes that have one dying from laughter stem from Judge’s organic ad-libbed line deliveries about whatever content B&B are watching. You’re not ready to see which of the boys is a BTS Army head!

Though the crude designs remain intact, it’s sad to see the animation not be quite as rough-and-the-edges as back in the good ol’ days. With animation studio Titmouse taking over from Rough Draft Studios, though, the animators deliver grandeur with expensive shots, camera angles, and movement to elevate the comedy while fleshing out the setting of Highland. Even with the reaction segments, they hardly recycle animation as much as the past iterations did. It’s nice to see that Paramount put as much money into this revival as they did with the recent Do the Universe movie.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head is a grand return to form for the titular idiots on nearly every level. Judge and his new roster of writers find the common ground between retaining the classic formula while contemporizing it for fans young and old. In a time when existing in a world of bleakness and anxiety-induced uncertainty feels daunting, pure mindless comedy such as the goofy dumbassery of Beavis and Butt-Head might be just what we need right now. Much like Jackass Forever, this iteration is like reuniting with old friends you grew up with who have gladly stayed as timeless as ever.

Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.

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