Judge Brett Cullum fondly recalls the Night of the Living Bands That Suck.
Our reviews of Beavis and Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection, Volume 2 (published June 14th, 2006), Beavis And Butt-Head: Mike Judge's Most Wanted (published October 5th, 2011), and Beavis and Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection, Volume 3 (published August 9th, 2006) are also available.
Beavis, Butt-head: [in unison] Diarrhea cha cha cha Diarrhea cha cha cha.
According to his IMDb biography, Beavis was born October 28, 1979. This means he is now into his adult years. We can safely assume Butt-head is about the same age. The two boys were the nation's most well-known teenagers back when their show debuted on MTV in 1993. They weren't the coolest fourteen-year-olds on the block, nor were they smart or well-bred. They never were fashion icons either, choosing to always wear simple "Metallica" and "AC/DC" concert tees with shorts and white socks. Yet somehow these two changed the landscape of American television with just a simple "huh huh huh" laugh and a scream of "Fire! Fire! Fire!" They became American icons and heroes of the slacker generation, and paved the way for a pack of naughty third graders in Colorado. This is their story…or at least a third of it, anyway.
Facts of the Case
Inside Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection—Volume One we find forty episodes of the boys misadventures. The plots include: Beavis and Butt-head get sent to the principal's office, get beat up by Todd, get rabies, wash the dog, play plate frisbee, attend a drawing class, try to hook up with Lolita and Tanqueray, make fun of Daria, host a late-night talk show, turn into the Great Cornholio, amuse themselves with a ball washer they find on a golf course, try to get their own 900 number, get sent back to kindergarten, learn to drive, and get ripped off at a charity walk.
Why do I love this show so freaking much? Why was it a national obsession? How did it come to define a generation? There's universal truth behind every episode of Beavis and Butt-head, and it speaks to the fourteen-year-old inside all of us. We weren't necessarily these boys, but we went to school with them. Remember the type from junior high? Guys wearing faded concert tees and always seeming stoned no matter what time of the day it was. Hell, most of the time they weren't chemically altered, just boys going through puberty who thought farting and talking about their balls were the two best topics of conversation. They had goofy haircuts and bad orthodontic appliances. They enjoyed gross things like killing frogs with golf clubs, or threatening to go cow tipping. Beavis and Butt-head takes you back to the awkward time when you were on the cusp between childhood and full-fledged young adult. A time when your head seemed awfully big for your body, and hormonal changes made your voice strange and your thought processes muddy. Beavis and Butt-head captures the magic—and all the horror—of being fourteen. As gross as the boys could be, it was always charming in some odd way.
Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection—Volume One comes with a personal note from the show's creator. On this missive found inside the box set we find the following quote from Mr. Judge:
"I've often said there's about a third of Beavis and Butt-head that I think is great and I'm really proud of, another third that is okay, and then another third that's really awful and embarrassing. A while back, I talked with the folks at MTV and we agreed to put out a DVD set that would contain the two thirds that didn't suck and call it 'The Mike Judge Collection.' This is the first volume of that two-thirds."
And that, my friends, is why we are not seeing the traditional season release approach for Beavis and Butt-head on DVD. You have to remember the show aired almost every day on MTV from 1993 until 1997. There were all sorts of problems getting episodes completed, firestorms of controversy about content from the media and censors, and a whole slew of stumbling blocks that prevented the first season from being strong enough to make a quality set Mike Judge would be proud enough to put his name on. Be happy it's here, and even more happy it's gotten a quality stamp of approval from the show's creator. Also, with all the music videos, presenting the original episodes would be a licensing nightmare.
The animation on the show was always low tech, so it's no surprise the transfers seem charmingly crude. Colors are washed out, but that was the style of Beavis and Butt-head from day one. They were as faded as their concert tees, and it all looks appropriately grungy for a '90s series. The sound mix is in simple stereo, which is true to how the show ran originally. Most of the cartoons are in good shape, and digital problems only pop up with thin lines, which is common for animation of this sort on DVD. The episodes are on par with the first season of Family Guy or South Park in that respect.
MTV provides a healthy set of extras. We get an insightful "making of" featurette that traces the beginnings of the show. There is a wealth of supplemental material and DVD-ROM features. The packaging is similar to The Simpsons first season collection—a silver slip case with a window shows the characters in profile. Inside you will find three discs in ultra-thin keep cases. The first two discs contain the forty episodes; all the supplemental material is found on the third. Menus are animated, and quite cute once you get past the forced promos. Easter eggs are easy to find by exploring the main menu using the remote (look for the lightning bolt to pop up under the main choices).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The real bitch of the release is we get none of the episodes that started the whole controversy back in 1993. If you don't remember, Beavis used to have an obsession with fire in the early episodes. Then two kids burned down a trailer home and claimed they were imitating an episode called "Comedians." MTV came under great pressure to edit the episodes with inflammatory remarks like "Fire! Fire!" from Beavis. It went even further, with the standards and practices department of MTV looking at the series and demanding alterations to the kids' actions and sayings. The show was watered down, and we get none of the episodes from the pre-censor days in this collection. Judge claims in the feature many of the original cuts of those episodes were lost, so that may be the reason. Whatever the case, the edgiest material is not here.
Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection—Volume One presents the short cartoons, but not the entire episode. Missing are the video commentaries, which were often the funniest part of the show. They do include 11 videos in this format on the third disc, but it seems short. I'd like to see more of these on future sets, but seems rights issues make it cost prohibitive. Also included on the third disc are guest appearances the guys made on live television shows on MTV. These are fun, but not quite of the same quality as the series. They were done quickly and cheaply with severe technical limitations. Kurt Loder seems a little baffled interacting with the duo for the Thanksgiving Parade. It comes off as stiff and uncomfortable. I could do without seeing these.
Beavis and Butt-head passed the teenage gross-out torch to South Park in 1997, and Mike Judge graduated to produce the more conventional King of the Hill. The fun thing about Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection—Volume One is finding all the beginnings of that series in his first show. Tom Anderson is the prototype for Hank Hill, and many other characters pop up that are obviously rough drafts for characters in the later Judge show.
This is a great piece of nostalgia from the '90s. The main audience should be the people who grew up with Beavis and Butt-head. Chances are if you're twenty-four to thirty-five you'll have fond memories of it; this set is a golden chance to relive your misspent youth in front of the television. It seems quaint now that South Park has gone so far past the line drawn by the boys, but Beavis and Butt-head were the originals. They made light of bad behavior first, and set the tone for a decade of miscreants who were celebrated for their misdeeds. They were a large part of slacker culture, and became poster boys for Generation X. They have a lot of historical significance, but they're also a gas to watch. There's a joy to watching them get in trouble, and it's still funny. I couldn't help but giggle when they hit a sewage line and became covered in raw excrement. Beavis and Butt-head were convinced it was oil, and stood there covered in poop exclaiming "Black gold! Texas Tea!" That summed up the entire series for me—the sheer joy of being covered in shit, and still being able to laugh about it. They were lovable losers convinced everything sucked. Yep, those were the '90s.
Any last statements from the accused?
"I am the Great Cornholio! I need T.P. for my bunghole. Do you have T.P. for my bunghole? I would hate for my holio to get polio. Where I come from my people have no bungholes."
"Uh…huh huh huh…huh huh."
I demand a mistrial until the sugar high wears off. Case dismissed.
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