Beavis, Butthead and satire return to MTV

Forget Screenwipe - if you want to see TV eat itself, look no further than Mike Judge's revived animated show, says Tom Cole

Good news for slackers, cynics and disaffected TV viewers across this sceptred isle as Beavis and Butthead are (uh huh, huh) coming back to MTV tonight (10:00pm).

Advertisement

Yes, after a break of more than a decade, the not-so-dynamic animated duo have returned from limbo to wreak havoc, giggle compulsively and mercilessly rip the Michael out of today’s music videos.

Though this time round it’s not just music promos that’ll be facing B ‘n’ B’s unique brand of criticism but MTV’s current slew of reality shows, too, which is great news for anyone keen to see such offerings dissected with honesty, objectivity and humour.

See, while Beavis and Butthead’s animated antics were always pretty funny, the best bits of their TV show were invariably the parts where they’d sit down in front of a music video and offer up biting critiques couched in their uniquely moronic vernacular.

In fact, Beavis and Butthead’s dissection of MTV’s 90s output was, at its best, some of the most subversive television ever broadcast. The real joke of these music video interludes was that B ‘n’ B accurately reflected the contempt held for these daffy videos by much of MTV’s audience but expressed it “in character”, meaning that the network was effectively paying Mike Judge to air its viewers’ criticisms as part of the show.

And, better still, Beavis and Butthead knew absolutely no sacred cows. Sure, you expected them to trash any pop stuff they came across, but the lads also got big laughs out of the absurd trappings of the counterculture, too (see them sending up various death metal bands here – it’s funny).

They pointed out the ridiculous, the contrived and the downright silly, and ended up sneering at almost everything MTV broadcast. When they decided something sucked, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree. And if something “ruled”, to use their terminology, it was damned by association: after all, who wanted to share cultural values with these two bozos?

But things have changed at MTV since the boys bade us farewell in 1997. Back when Beavis and Butthead were first on air MTV was a station that aired music videos around the clock, but in the intervening decade and a half the network’s virtually abandoned music in favour of Cribs, Pimp My Ride, Jackass and worse.

Which is, honestly, an ideal situation for Beavis and Butthead. As dung beetles rely on, well, dung, for their survival, so our boys depend on cultural effluent for theirs and the schlock they’ll be sitting through this time round is ideal for their sniggering appraisals.

So during the new series when they’re tuned in to Jersey Shore, the boys make quite a meal of “The Concept” behind structured reality shows, which they rip apart with a few consummate poop jokes; and while they’re looking at 16 and Pregnant, even our favourite idiots feel superior and entitled to mock the show’s mouth-breathing participants’ “smart faces”.

Indeed, it’s almost a statement about modern culture that Beavis and Butthead are no longer the least intelligent people to star in their own TV series…

And thinking about it, Beavis and Butthead’s revival on British TV couldn’t have come at a better time. Now that Charlie Brooker’s abandoned Screenwipe and Harry Hill’s rumoured to be winding down TV Burp, B ‘n’ B is (perhaps) the last show on the telly which razzes, mocks and satirises popular TV shows. Which is, to quote our heroes, pretty cool.

Advertisement

But if all that sounds a bit high-minded, fret not: they’ll still be getting into scrapes, chasing girls and winding up Mr Anderson. Welcome back, boys – you’ve been missed.