fter 14 years off the air, MTV's cult cartoon series Beavis and Butt-head returns Thursday night with new episodes. Not much about Mike Judge's animated series has changed. The crude deadbeats still sport their respective AC/DC and Metallica tees, their IQs are still negligible, and they still deliver snarky commentary about MTV programming from their couch. What has evolved is the channel they're lampooning. Instead of bad '90s music videos, the targets of the boys' cracks are reality TV series like Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. At a time when shows like Family Guy and South Park have taken over TV's snark slot, is Beavis and Butt-head still relevant — or funny?
It's a welcome comeback: In 2011, Beavis and Butt-Head seem "almost quaint, and certainly more harmless" than they did in their edgy '90s heyday, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. But the duo and the show still "remain very funny." It happens that their blunt, dry, and sarcastic sense of humor "translates just as well to trashy reality shows as it did to trashy hair metal videos." Beavis and Butt-Head are mercifully unchanged, "for ill or (comedically) for good," and "I'm glad to have them back."
"Review: Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-Head returns, 14 years later"
But the show is dated: It's odd that shows like Beavis and Butt-Head and VH1's Pop-Up Video are making '90s-nostalgia comebacks when the disappearance of music videos from TV has rendered their original pop-culture functions somewhat obsolete, says Troy Patterson at Slate. Though Beavis and Butt-Head is still humorous, it's more than "superfluous" for the boys to make "couch-potato mockery" of Jersey Shore. Most confusing, however, is why Mike Judge, who has graduated to adult concerns with Office Space and Idiocracy, would devote his talents to this dated rehash.
"Beavis and Butt-Head"
Reality TV doesn't need mocking: In its new incarnation, Beavis and Butt-Head "doesn't have any subversive bite," says Matthew Gilbert at The Boston Globe. These days, we have South Park, which puts Butt-Head "to shame in the snark department," and countless pop culture-skewering websites. But the real problem is that reality TV is already "a largely self-ironic genre." The Real Housewives and Jersey Shore have parody built into their DNA; there's no need for two dopes to crack wise about them.
"Beavis and Butt-Head make a comeback"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
- Why is it so expensive to build a bridge in America?
- 10 things you need to know today: March 11, 2014
- Watch Zach Galifianakis get annoyed at President Obama on Between Two Ferns
- Why I'm sick and tired of seeing naked women on HBO
- Why Ted Cruz is the real-life Frank Underwood
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
Subscribe to the Week