When MTV and Mike Judge revived the crass, counter-culture animated series 'Beavis and Butt-head' in late 2011, the odds were stacked against them. After about fifteen years of television absentia, the "cutting edge" crudeness that was the show's trademark had been adapted by numerous other boundary-pushing shows, including ones that actually used vulgarity, uncensored, from the mouths of an even younger generation. Their most recognizable supporting cast member is long gone, having received her own show in a new locale, far, far away from the idiocy of her former tormentors. More troubling, a mainstay of the show, the mockery of music videos shown on MTV interspersed in every episode, would be a difficult task to recreate, as the channel is now dominated by a massive assortment of douches: be it the spray tanned and short tempered, the young, stupid and pregnant, or the parents who were once pregnant, but are still young and amazingly stupid. Music is as easy to find on the former "Music Television" channel as is quality programming, let alone hard rock, and the head banging teens, whose shirts are forever emblazoned with the names of AC/DC and Metallica, hardly seem the type who would "dig" what passes for "rock" these days.
Some love the new take on 'Beavis and Butt-head,' and the fact that the more things change in this eighth season, the more they stay the same. Some will say they love the fact that reality television is now the new outlet through which these two troubled Highland youths will release their aggression. I wish I could say the same. Heck, I wish I could say a lot of positive things about this resurrected program...but my conscience refuses to let me praise a show that is best left where the (previous) final episode laid the characters: presumed dead. Of course, even then they re-emerged to grab at a jar full of money...
The intro remains the same, as a blue screen featuring the obnoxious chortled laughter of the two nitwit antiheroes features their profile shots and the same guitar and piano accompaniment, before moving to the awkwardly moving animation for the title of the episode. The characters? Even fifteen years later (though not a day has passed in their universe, aside from the time to get Daria the hell out of there), they're exactly the same: juvenile delinquents, borderline ADHD riddled children left to raise themselves, whose daily goals are nothing short of nachos, television, and the attempts to finally score. The recipe hasn't changed, especially if we squint (and drink) just enough to mistake Snooki for Axl Rose.
In this new batch of twelve episodes (each featuring two stories, though some are prolonged single arcs), Beavis and Butt-head find themselves on familiar missives. Whether they're trying to become undead to get all the girls, a la 'Twilight,' taking over military drones, mistaking their monitors for some new kind of 'Grant Theft Auto' game, or abusing the customers at Burger World, they're still the same perpetually ignorant assholes. It doesn't matter if a religious cult mistakes Beavis (in the midst of a full-on Great Cornholio freak-out) for the second coming of their messiah, or if they think they're going to score at the local free women's clinic, nothing good will ever happen to these two, who mistakenly (and obliviously) ruin anything positive they accidentally stumble upon.
I'm no stick in the mud, and love politically incorrect cartoons. I was a fan of this show on its original run, even with the shaky animation and stilted, often repetitive jokes. It's just, the whole world seems to have passed these characters by, and this newest season of the show is like a time capsule, promising to remind us of what we liked some fifteen years ago. It doesn't even make the effort to try to make us like it today. It's so littered with problems and predictability, it's hard to say if Judge and company even put a half ass's worth of effort into this rush job.
Repetitiveness is perhaps the biggest issue. I repeat, repetitiveness is perhaps the biggest issue. Beavis and Butt-head aren't exactly layered characters, so in the end, sure, there are only so many stories they can tell, and in four years, two hundred were already told. In this one season, we get the same punch-line a number of times. With 'Copy Machine,' Beavis gets his ass stuck in the broken glass of a copier, and when it's all said and done, he repeats the same actions and again injures himself, and but a few episodes later, with 'Going Down,' the duo trap themselves in an elevator by pressing buttons copiously, get rescued, and proceed to trap themselves again before they even egress what may be their tomb. Their employee abuses at Burger World get old in a hurry, even when they're not on the clock, and it's hard to not get mad at episodes like 'Bounty Hunters,' which feature nothing but the same mistaken identity joke over and over again. That isn't even counting the apathy of the show selection for the duo to mock, as 'Jersey Shore' is, in twelve episodes, featured eleven times, and the jokes are hardly innovative, as they do nothing but beg for fights, smush room visits, and worship Snooki like she were some kind of sex goddess. The same characters from 'Teen Mom' and '16 and Pregnant' show up, and we're again treated to the same gags about them that we saw the first time around.
In all of the interruption segments, there are only a few real good laughs. The completely irreverent one-liners are gone, for the most part, as Beavis and Butt-head now are more concerned with idolizing fad musicians. The best mockery of any video (T-Baby's It's so Cold in the D) works just because it doesn't try so hard. It's classic 'Beavis and Butt-head,' in my eyes, as it is missing a major problem with these new features: the powers of observation in these two buffoons and their critiques far outweighs their intelligence. Whether they're mocking music for "being too white," or pondering more intelligent ways to get a point across, it's like suddenly we're the dumbasses, for making these shows or musicians successful in the first place. Perhaps that's the joke, all along, and I missed it due to the poor execution.
There's little new brought to the table in 'Volume 4' of 'Beavis and Butt-head.' One episode interruption brings us "Beavis and Butt-head's Cinema Classics," where the pair review a wonderful and inspiring film, where the participants "learn about cooperation, friendship, and life...and what human butt tastes like"... that's right, they really did review 'The Human Centipede: First Sequence.' They score a hit when discussing combining sequels for this franchise and 'Sex and the City,' to make the greatest movie ever made, but with only one of these segments, it's hard to get excited with the new ideas for the show. Perhaps it's even harder to get excited when almost every single other shot of the characters in the music video or reality programming segments are recycled bits from the previous episodes. It doesn't scream quality or an eye to attention when you recycle fifteen to nineteen year old animation, especially when it looks so amazingly awful in contrast to the new, almost sparkling animation featured for the new episodic content. It just screams lazy, cheap, and rushed...
I may stand alone on this, but I think this is but another instance where a property was best left in the annuls of nostalgia, rather than dredged up and desecrated by the content-starved heads of programming at MTV who are trying to capture their former glory...or at the very least, attract viewers old enough to drink. As is, the show feels like nothing more than an ad for other, lesser MTV properties, and, at this point, we need less glorification of untamed New Jersey gorillas, not more.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Beavis and Butt-head: Volume 4' comes to Blu-ray on a single BD50 disc, with no annoying menu garbage. Straightforward menu navigation, an easy audio/video loop, and basic packaging with no gimmicks are the name of this release.
"Damn it! The porn's all blurry!"
Presented in 1080p, this new set of episodes of 'Beavis and Butt-head' has moments where it's true eye candy. It also has moments that are destined to fail, no matter what format or resolution it will be presented in. The cleanliness of this animation is only rivaled by the film adaptation ('Beavis and Butt-head Do America'), and even then, I'd not ruffle many feathers by saying this may be the best the show has ever looked. Yes, this disc does give the new animation some minor banding (worst in the drone room), and there's still some shakiness in lines, but they are so much less wavy and sporadic, this is a real treat. Colors are super clear and solid, with plenty of power behind them.
Now, this set also has its fair share of problems. Some may not agree with docking the score of the video on this release for something inherent in the show: retooled fifteen some odd year old bits of the duo sitting on their couch. But here's the thing: laziness led to this disc looking really, really bad in these segments, that look like the worst upconvert ever. The noise, the artifacting, the banding, it's awful. The detail is just gone. It's a mess. What's even odder: the new interruption footage that B&B are commenting on also looks like shit. There's plenty of chroma fringing in the new footage, the random MTV shows, that just add to the ugliness when cut away from the macroblocking and aliasing hell that is their foil. I am not docking this show for the sometimes awful animation that causes bruises to float and shift. It's ugly, but it doesn't detract from the visual experience as much as being flashed back to a twenty inch television with a crack down the middle.
"That's not what I said. It's pronounced "butt-plug.""
While this release boasts a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for every episode...well, I'd say it's a bit closer to a 2.0 with about as much flair as a Lifetime movie in the audio department. Rears get so little activity, it doesn't matter where you sit when watching this show; the experience will be the exact same. And that blows. There's some heavy bass in the opening 'Twilight' parody, but not too much after that, aside to some added depth to the occasional backhanded slap or punch. The music segments may very well be replicating what Beavis and Butt-head hear, as there's not really any rear presence to them, either, like the show were emulating the television speakers the pair listen to. The 5.1 label is still a lie, though, damn it.
Look, there are some good bits in this new set of episodes from the long-dead Mike Judge cartoon duo. It's just, in the years that have passed, the bar has been raised. Cutting edge in 1995 may have been Jamiroquai. It sure as heck ain't now, and I'm scared that I spelled that right on the first attempt. This show is dated, even today, and while the revamps are interesting, there are too many swing-and-a-miss moments, too much repetition, and not enough "new" to even give this volume a point. This Blu-ray set is doomed from the start, as well. I like the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and the quality of the new animation, but the fact that MTV reused decade-old animation is so blatant, and so distracting, it's just a waste. This set is for fans only. It's cheap, which is nice, but I don't see too much replay value.