Beavis and Butt-head: Volume One review, Beavis & Butt-head: Volume One DVD
Starring
Mike Judge, Tracy Grandstaff,
Adam Welsh
Director
Mike Judge
Beavis & Butt-head:
Volume One

Reviewed by David Medsker

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I
t is with a heavy heart that we assign “Beavis & Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection, Volume I” such a poor rating. After all, this show was huge in our collective upbringing, not to mention it single-handedly saved MTV’s ass in the early ‘90s. Anyone from Bob Pittman on down will tell you as much in so many words. This three-disc set has creator Mike Judge’s all time favorite episodes, plus the long-awaited music video breaks, not to mention nearly every extra appearance the duo made on MTV during their run. So what’s wrong with it?

It’s not funny anymore, that’s what’s wrong with it. It had its place in time, in the in-retrospect terribly naïve early ‘90s, but pop culture has since moved on at such a lightning quick pace that there is no room for forty, count ‘em, forty episodes of “Heh heh, whoa! That’s cool.” “Yeah, yeah, ummmmmm, heh, heh.” This stuff gets old, and in a hurry.

Disc 1 contains 20 episodes, and of those 20, only the first and last ones are truly entertaining. The first one, “No Laughing,” has our heroes getting sent to the principal’s office in each of their first four classes, because they can’t stop laughing. Principal McVicker is about to suspend them for a week, but then comes up with a much better plan. He keeps them in school, but on probation; if they laugh at all in class over the next week, they’re expelled. Of course, their hardass teacher Bradley Buzzcut is teaching sex ed in their very first class, and watching the boys stifle the laughs, then letting them all out after school, is sublime.

The last, and only other decent episode on Disc 1, is “Figure Drawing,” where the boys stumble upon a furthering-education class where students draw naked models. The jokes write themselves from that point. The problem is that there are 18 decent to redundant episodes in between these two moments of joy. Disc 2 has one notable episode, where the teachers are finally fed up with how colossally stupid they are, and send them back a grade. This continues until they wind up in kindergarten, and they even fail that grade. It was a story line that was begging to be done, and they made the most of it. The last scene of the two principals shoving the boys back and forth to each other is priceless. Still, that is three good videos. Out of forty.

All of these episodes, we are led to believe, are Mike Judge’s favorites. And yet, not once in this entire set does the word “Fire!” escape Beavis’ lips. Are they still under that self-imposed gag order after that kid burned his trailer to the ground? Nearly every episode has a “Director’s Cut” asterisk next to it, yet none of the “Fire!” episodes are included? Nonsense. There are surely better episodes than this out there that Judge did not, or could not, include.

But that’s okay, because Disc 3 has the long awaited video commentaries, which were frequently the highlight of the shows! Yes, well, that section sucks too, for a couple of reasons. For starters, it doesn’t include any of the signature video moments, like Radiohead’s “Creep,” Beloved’s “Sweet Harmony” (it’s nothing but naked women, prompting Butt-Head to say, “This is the coolest video I’ve ever seen”), or King Missile’s “Detachable Penis,” where the boys practically hyperventilate from laughing so hard. The wordless channel changing on “Ice Ice Baby” would have been a nice addition, too, but they clearly had licensing issues in securing any song where they say anything derogatory about the band in question. (Props to Grim Reaper, though, for allowing use of the god-awful “Fear No Evil” clip.) In their place, we get vids from Deus, Moist, Catherine Wheel, Wilco (“Box Full of Letters,” yawn), and Hum. What, you don’t remember Hum? The other thing that sucks about the music videos there isn’t even a “Play all” option, so you have to select the songs one by one. Morons.

Even worse are the clips where they forced people to “interact” with Beavis & Butt-Head. The bit with David Letterman at the 1994 Video Music Awards is still funny, but the Thanksgiving special with Kurt Loder is just painful to watch. That poor bastard better have gotten hazard pay for that one.

Maybe “South Park” is to blame for how flat “Beavis & Butt-Head” looks today. After all, “South Park” has cruddy animation too, but it’s held up so much more because it actually challenges the intellect of its audience. B&B, meanwhile, were a one-note joke from the very beginning. The fact that it lasted as long as it did, and even spun off a movie, seems like a miracle now. If MTV would like to impress the world with its stellar programming from the ‘90s, how about issuing full seasons of “Daria,” “Sifl & Olly,” and freakin’ “The State,” for crying out loud?

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