I remember kids in my elementary school who weren’t allowed to watch The Simpsons; people just couldn’t help but find Bart Simpson’s rebellious attitude too much for young children to handle. I’m pretty sure those same parents lost their shit on March 8, 1993 when Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead hit the airwaves.
MTV’s gruesome twosome spawned from an animated short Judge crafted in 1992. MTV immediately signed him to create a TV series which would depict our beloved braindead menaces to society as MTV’s key demographic.
The show was composed of short animated films involving our favorite dangers to everyone (including themselves) intercut with clips of them watching MTV and mocking music videos. When I was a kid, I recall only caring about the music videos, as I found the animated shorts rather stupid and repetitive. Now at 27, I think that they are an achievement of comedic gold that to this day are painfully underrated.
MTV’s decision to air the show was clearly a smart one, as it’s likely one of the most defining aspects of the station in the 1990′s. While the 80’s were very music video heavy, Beavis and Butthead kicked off the new direction of the station. In the early 1990’s there were shows like Idiot Box and Liquid Television, but Beavis and Butthead (along with The State and The Real World) really exploded the station into the realm of programmed, story driven shows and full 30 minute blocks of time not dedicated to music videos.
Beavis and Butthead spawned a widely profitable feature film as well as a spin-off series (Daria), and multiple video games. However, while finically successful, with it came much controversy; the franchise was blamed for fires, animal cruelty, and various cases of property damage. Most of these accusations were cleverly mocked by the writers in future episodes. The most popular incident was in an episode called Lightning Strikes; after watching a documentary on Ben Franklin, the two decide to fly a kite during a thunderstorm. Their reckless behaviour then draws media attention that immediately blames Beavis and Butthead’s actions on the influence of Howard Stern and Rock Music.
The music video segments are still some of the biggest highlights in the show’s history. For whatever reason, these otherwise idiotic characters have strangely brilliant observations when it comes to critiquing music videos. At one point commenting “It’s like in all these videos now – they just get a couple of weird dudes, shake the camera and just do a bunch of crap” (this was while watching Archers of Loaf’s Web in Front). One of my favorite lines in the entire series came from a segment critiquing Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, simply stating “Sit your ass down Lars and play the drums like your supposed to”. I’m fairly confident the plenty of other Metallica fans were saying similar things in 2000.
After 5 years of lambasting music videos, a wrap sheet of controversy, and a feature length film, they ended their run with their 200th episode, ‘Beavis and Butthead are Dead’ on November 28th 1997. Since the series, Mike Judge has enjoyed a successful career writing King of the Hill and directing three box offices bombs that all became cult classics on home video. Last year the series came back to its home and the duo got right to work, this time destroying UFC fights, Jersey Shore and amateur YouTube videos. I know I’m more than happy to welcome these two lovable idiots back to the airwaves!