There’s still nothing plain funnier airing on TV right now than Beavis And Butt-Head. It’s amazing that it’s back, and it will be sad when it goes. That’s not a damnation of newer comedies. In fact, most superlative contemporary sitcoms (Parks And Rec, Modern Family et al) deserve praise for pushing the genre’s buttons and messing with formula. The above assessment means exactly what it suggests: Mike Judge and his writers offer more guaranteed guffaws per half hour than anything else currently producing new material. And sometimes, that’s the best, purest way to critique a show designed to make the widest possible cross-section of people break a smile or bust a gut.
This week’s follow-up to the terrific series premiere does adhere to one familiar structure. A la “Werewolves of Highland” and “Crying,” tonight’s vignettes—“Daughter’s Hand” and “Tech Support”—first go for rapid-fire punchlines, then cool down somewhat for a skit that hammers in on one recurring joke from myriad angles.
If the boys themselves convey a reliable dichotomy, it’s the way Beavis’ persistent attempts at aping civilized discourse contrast with Butt-Head’s subtext-free brain farts. Yet, oddly and beautifully, their intellects tend to crest at the same hysterical level of oblivious insight. That unlikely symbiosis is the crux of what makes “Tech Support” so enjoyable, even if it’s a bit one-note and elicits chuckles more than whooping laughter. After accidentally being staffed by a company’s tech-support hotline, Beavis grumbles his way through various tangential courtesies (“It’s tough being a single mom, ya know?”) with angry customers, while Butt-Head’s too busy poking away for porn access to even bother feigning professionalism. Yet, both of them manage to inadvertently set off a chain of events that leads to a massive Highland power outage and looting of the office building.
Contrarily, “Daughter’s Hand” features both our loveable morons in equally de-evolutionary form. After watching what Judge presumably animated as a parody of Masterpiece Theatre, the boys mistake a British film’s dated courtship-speak for an intimation that asking for one’s “daughter’s hand” is all that’s required for receiving manual pleasure. And, as in last week’s “Werewolves,” they eschew second opinions and run with their literal interpretation.
In this instance, that leads to a search for the nearest neighborhood dad who will grant permission for them to use his "daughter’s hand." An escalating confrontation with the father of their new crush, Victoria, aptly mocks the righteous cluelessness of suburban parents in classic B and B style. But as is so often the case, Beavis is funniest after getting rejected and tossing off an aside about how, “Some things are worth waiting for,” and Butt-Head scores his biggest laugh of the episode when Beavis remarks, “She’s hot. She has a dad,” and Butt-Head simply mutters, “Dads.” Their own harmlessness, and the outrage it so easily provokes, is what's always made them such clear, likeable protagonists. It also doesn’t hurt that Mr. Anderson shows up and unwittingly gets into a patented tussle on behalf of his frequent nemeses.
Another week has also made Judge's incorporating of reality-show clips less disorienting. And chances are, for younger and first-time viewers, the snippets fit their sensibilities better than music videos to begin with. The guys are on fire, so to speak, while riffing over a scene from 16 & Pregnant, mimicking the characters’ adolescent slack jaws and suggesting producers tweak the concept to, as Beavis puts it in his best lothario affectation, “show ‘em makin’ looooove.” Later, in “Tech Support,” they take in some True Life: I Have a Paranormal Ability. When the token slacker boyfriend, Squatch, makes an appearance to have lunch with extra-sensory girlfriend Sammie Jo, Butt-Head deadpans, “I also predict that you’re broke, and I’m gonna pay for this meal.” Not to be outdone, Beavis stammers, “I also predict that you look like a dumbass. Oh, wait, that already happened.” Classic.
It’s frankly pretty incredible that MTV lets Judge get away with this stuff, but that’s all the more reason why it’s an epiphany to have him and B And B return. Only so many creative minds have come through the network’s pipe over the past couple decades with such timeless ideas, and then moved on to an ensuing career that didn’t swallowed any chance of them coming back to where it started. (It ain’t like we’re gonna see The Jon Stewart Show again anytime soon.) Granted, some disappointments in the Nielsen ratings and at the box office stimulated Judge's decision, and Beavis and Butt-Head 2.0 still has even funnier places it can go, but so far, it’s been a hugely sharp and rewarding comeback.
- I think it goes without saying that at least one thread per week should just be people rattling off their favorite quotes and one-liners from the episode.
- Oh, mine, you ask? It’s a four-way tie between, “Jesus said she could do better,” "This guy might be stupider than us," "Maybe they moved the abandoned drive-in somewhere else," and “I understand your frustration.” The latter might even enter all-time B And B lore.
- I do think upcoming episodes could strive to be even more consistently uproarious. Not that I’m complaining.
- Now that the slightest tweaks to its format are more familiar, it’s becoming easier to see analogs to skits and episodes from its original run. Would you guys be interested in seeing more of those connections made, or would you rather discuss the new eps on their own merit?
- I didn’t love the music-video stuff this week (excepting Butt-Head's, "She's talking about that Dove model by the pool" crack during "Firework," which was amazing). The reality segments felt stronger. But feel free to voice your dissent on that matter.
- Thanks for reading, guys. Good times.