Mike Judge certainly has one hell of an impressive career down on paper. He's responsible for bringing the workplace hit Office Space to the masses - which was followed up with sleeper success flicks Idiocracy and Extract - and, of course, providing us with 13 seasons of King of the Hill. To have an animated show last so long on Fox, the network perhaps best known for its frustrating tendency to cancel most of its best programming, is a massive accomplishment in and of itself, but Judge is likely to always be remembered as 'the guy who created Beavis and Butt-head.' Depending on which side of the fence you're on, hearing a name associated with such a program could cause you to foam at the mouth and grab your trusty torch and pitchfork, or it could transport you back to a youth that had undoubtedly been filled with people making the worst 'mm-mm-heh, uh-huh-huh-huh' impersonations you've ever heard while wearing 'frog baseball' memorabilia galore. I fall into the latter category, so I jumped around like a giddy school girl waving pom-poms after hearing that Judge would be reviving his beloved, yet controversial show that skewered 90's pop culture. Of course, this is no longer the 90's and the question that I couldn't shake, was is if Beavis and Butt-head even had a legitimate place amongst the newly 'desensitized' generation.
You'll simply have to excuse me if you're in the age bracket that qualifies as the generation I labeled above. But, a lot has changed since the time I was a teenager, which also happened to be the same time that Beavis and Butt-head were actually a big deal and not just a memory of yesteryear. First and foremost, at least when it comes to the kind of environment that allowed this show to thrive, is that MTV actually played, you know, music videos. This is a foreign concept to the brand today, thus the reason they removed the 'Music Television' wording from their logo back in 2010. This had the potential to be problematic for Beavis and Butt-head's return, as music videos were integral to the show's formula back in the day. Breaks in each of the mini-sodes would feature the dimwitted teens resting lazily on the couch, harpooning each and every video they saw without prejudice. Although AC/DC and Megadeth band shirts were unapologetically worn by the duo in every episode, one easily could have expected Judge to use his show as a platform to oust phony, corporate designed music, but no such bias was ever brought to light as Beavis and Butt-head even flambéed the likes of Pantera and Metallica. As a result, anyone was able to tune in to these two chuckling dolts without fear of having their musical tastes maliciously singled out. Nothing was ever off the table when it came to the show's critical segments, but that was OK because it was obvious it was merely all in good fun. Of course, being that this was such an important part to the show's success, many fans were left wondering how Beavis and Butt-head would be able to survive in the digitized world of 2011 and beyond. After all, the internet has become the new radio and nobody really plays music videos on television anymore. So, where would the show focus its attention now, and how would it be able to tackle a new form of media without making Beavis and Butt-head feel like the relics they had the potential to be?
Apparently, by using irony in the boldest way we've seen on television to date, that's how. No music videos? Fine. Too lazy to change the channel after all these years, Beavis and Butt-head picks apart the programming of the very network they've been allowed to air on... again. And really, there's no other station on television that could be a better candidate, what with those muscle-dummied losers from Jersey Shore filling up MTV's time slots from... well, pretty much around the clock. Oh, and those teen pregnancy shows that do little more than ruin the lives of young families; there's that, too. Music videos were always such a big 'to do' and a large part of pop culture in the 90's. Fast forward over a decade after the fact, and now it's the cheap to produce 'reality television' shows that are all the rage because today's society is too bored, lazy and stupid to get up and change the channel themselves... and that's exactly where Beavis and Butt-head come in this time around. Representing the lost and hopeless faction of viewers at home that feed enough ratings to these horrendous shows to keep them afloat, they just do what they do best and rip all of that 'quality' programming to shreds. For those of you that are really bummed out that the guys have switched their focus a bit, don't be. They still pick apart musical acts from time to time, including Katy Perry and her song 'Fireworks', but as far as their newfound dedication to trashing reality programming, it doesn't make the show feel like it's changed one bit.
And that's really the best thing anyone can say about this new season of Beavis and Butt-head (which is the eight season, for the record) - Despite some minor changes to ensure it remains relevant to today's audience, this show feels like it hasn't aged a day. It's almost as if Mike Judge never worked on King of the Hill for Fox or went to create feature films at all. The animation hasn't changed, their personalities haven't changed, nor has the characters or the town around them changed. All your favorites are still here - Coach Buzzcut, Principal McVicker, Stewart, Van Driessen, and of course Tom Anderson (although it's hard to hear that voice as anything other than Hank Hill anymore). Well, Daria's out, but she really doesn't have much of a place in Highland anymore (if you followed the Daria series). Other than that, this truly is the Beavis and Butt-head you remember, and impressively enough, they're still just as cutting edge as they ever were. The humor might be basic, or again depending on what side of the fence you fall on, perhaps idiotic, but the short quips lobbed out there by the horrific hairdo team are to the point, cut deep and say more about our culture than an entire monologue by Leno or Letterman. I know it might sound blasphemous to some, but this could be the smartest, most hilarious batch of episodes in the series to date.
The episodes included are:
Episode 1: Werewolves of Highland / Crying
Episode 2: Daughter's Hand / Tech Support
Episode 3: Drones
Episode 4: Holy Cornholio
Episode 5: Supersize Me / Bathroom Break
Episode 6: The Rat / Spill
Episode 7: Doomsday / Dumb Design
Episode 8: Copy Machine / Holding
Episode 9: Used Car / Bounty Hunter
Episode 10: Time Machine / Massage
Episode 11: School Test / Snitches
Episode 12: Whorehouse / Going Down
If there's one other reason that makes the fourth volume of Beavis and Butt-head on home video a real treat, it's the fact that the episodes included are 100% complete. If you're already familiar with the previous three volumes on DVD, you know that licensing issues prevented all the music bits from being included with each animated mini-sode. But, now that Beavis and Butt-head are using programming from their parent company to get some laughs, that's no longer an issue and each episode on this set can finally be seen as was intended.
Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-head - Volume 4 makes its way to Blu-ray with a very clean looking 1080p AVC encode (1.33:1). At least most of the time, but let's talk about the good stuff first. As far as all the new animation is concerned, Beavis and Butt-head has never looked better. Lines are bold, colors pop and contrast really helps the image shine thanks to inky black levels, and there's no edge enhancement to try and make a show with what's probably perceived by today's youth as outdated animation look 'better'. Yep, the technical presentation on this release isn't only faithful to the original broadcast, but it bests it in every perceivable way. However, although I'm usually all for artistic intent or obtaining the most faithful representation of the source, I have a bad taste left in my mouth by what was done with the video mocking bits.
In what can probably be best described as a way for the animators to get the episodes wrapped up and ready for air as quickly as possible, the scenes where B&B sit on the couch and rip music and reality stars a new a-hole are nothing more than recycled standard def animation pulled straight out of the 90's. I can understand the pressure to get the episodes done, but when you're watching 1080p animation one minute and upconverted 480p the next, the difference is startling, and not in a good way. There are some standard def upconverts on Blu-ray that look really good, like The Simpsons in their 13th and 14th seasons... but this just looks baaaaad.
That aside, this is how the show was also aired on television, so I can't fault the video transfer here too much for the look of those brief moments throughout each episode. With that one caveat aside, I was impressed with just how good the newly animated segments looked. It would have been nice if they had done it in widescreen, sure, but the end result is still amazing nonetheless. Between this and the DVD, don't even hesitate and pick up the Blu-ray.
*EDIT - After doing a little research on the internet, I stumbled across an interview with Mike Judge in the mid 90's. In said interview, he stated animators were just recycling old footage for the couch bits even then. He would improv the entire bit, and the animators would merely sync the animation to whatever he said. So, it seems that the recycled footage in B&B's couch bits is nothing new, and is in fact, par for the course. Still though, the change is still pretty dramatic and Judge and Co. should probably consider reanimating some HD footage for the couch bits, even if they ARE to be recycled.
This release is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but I'm not really sure why anyone felt like the show needed it. Beavis and Butt-head is mostly comprised of front and center dialogue, and the music videos hardly ever get attention in the rear channels to boot. The quality of the lossless track is certainly quite a bit better than what you would have heard over the air, but some people might be a little disappointed when they see '5.1 lossless' on the box and not get a full surround experience. For fans of the show that don't have unrealistic expectations however, you're in for a treat.
There's really not much in the way of supplemental material, but it's still an entertaining batch nonetheless. The Comic-Con panel is lengthy, funny and informative (and also hosted by Johnny Knoxville, for that matter), and the mini-clips listed in the sections below are still worth some additional laughs:
-2011 San Diego Comic-Con Panel
-Beavis and Butt-head Interruptions - Gym. Tan. Butt-head / Settle Down Snooki / Beavis and Juice-Head / Vinny Reloaded
-Silence Your Cell Phone
Beavis and Butt-head haven't really evolved since their departure from television in 1997... and that's OK. With some adjustment that are so minor you'll still feel like you're watching the exact same show, the humor is just as sharp (and dumb) as it ever was. Mike Judge has learned a lot from his numerous other projects over the years, and he's put that to good use for the return of his flagship series without overcomplicating things. For me personally, and I've taken the time to re-view the three previous volumes on DVD within the last year or so, this is the best that Beavis and Butt-head's had to offer yet. Hopefully MTV keeps this show going for a long, long time. The only caveat I have about this release comes in the way of artistic intent, or artistic time crunch if that's what it ended up being, and that comes from the critiquing bits recycling old standard def animation. It's a harsh transition to be sure, but it's not enough to keep me from highly recommending this batch of episodes.