Prior to the big announcement in 2011, I never thought I’d see the day that Beavis & Butt-head would return to television in all its moronic glory. Thanks to Mike Judge, who created the show in the early 1990s, we have a potent shot of nostalgia – and still-vital humor – with these brand new episodes. Beavis & Butt-head – Volume 4 seems like an unusual title, considering volumes one through three are multi-disc compilations covering episodes from the show’s original run. But in a way it makes sense, considering that the new Beavis & Butt-head is basically the same as the old. It’s not a reboot in any way. The animation is still primitive (though it looks much brighter and cleaner on the newly released Blu-ray, the show’s first high definition release). The same supporting cast including Van Driessen, Buzzcut, Anderson, and McVicker are back (sadly no Daria however). And the plots for each of the dozen included episodes are gloriously simple.
Most of the episodes are divided into two short stories. Of course, the word “story” is used very loosely in the world of Beavis and Butt-head, as the hijinks they get up to are usually not carefully developed narratives. The fun of the series has always been seeing the two friends reacting dim-wittedly to the world around them, unfazed by the chaos they often seem to have a hand in creating. While the return of Beavis’ alter-ego The Great Cornholio – who becomes an unlikely cult leader – is given a full episode, Beavis & Butt-head is at its best when it keeps things as simple as the characters’ mentality. Still working at Burger World, it dawns on the boys in one episode that they are still on the clock while taking the occasional bathroom break. Taking full advantage of this, they leave a restaurant full of unserved customers while simply hanging out in the restroom.
To those familiar with Beavis & Butt-head, that probably sounds like a classic set-up for a funny episode – and it is. But for the uninitiated, it’s far better to just watch these episodes than to try and explain them. Despite slightly more ambitious plots like the Cornholio episode and one that finds Beavis and Butt-head unwittingly starting a war in the Middle East (“Drones”), the show meditates on much more basic concepts. Beavis gets stuck in a copier after trying to Xerox his rear end (recalling the ’90s classic “The Pipe of Doom”). Beavis and Butt-head mistakenly think that a tweaking meth-head wants to “score” with them. In another episode, after adopting a rat, Beavis’ germ-ridden new pet wreaks havoc at Burger World. Any of these could’ve fit right into the ’90s series. While I had to wonder how Judge might’ve reimagined the characters as young adults, the new Beavis & Butt-head is ultimately so winning simply for following the previously established formula.
The only real difference is that instead of excluisively mocking music videos throughout each episode, Beavis and Butt-head have expanded their satirical lampooning to include reality shows such as MTV’s Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. These segments are all included on this release, which marks the first time that the entire, uncut episodes of Beavis & Butt-head have been issued on home video. All the compilations of ’90s episodes had the music video segments edited out due to clearance issues. While Beavis and Butt-head were arguably the dumbest characters on TV back in the ’90s, some participants on these reality shows have given them a run for their money. The subtle point in hearing the duo mock such reality TV staples seems to be that popular culture, in some ways at least, has dumbed down even further during Beavis and Butt-head’s prolonged absence.
Presented in the original broadcast format of 1.33:1, Beavis & Butt-head – Volume 4 looks as good as it probably can on Blu-ray. The 1080p transfer offers a very sharp picture. The colors are bolder and brighter than they ever were during the original ’90s series. The look of the series is deliberately flat and basic, so there isn’t much to show off in high definition, but all things considered it looks fine. The music video and reality TV segments are intercut with old ’90s stock footage of Beavis and Butt-head sitting on their couch. These segments really highlight the marked improvement of the new episodes versus the look of the original series. There’s less to say about the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which sounds completely acceptable. The dialogue is crisp and clear. The overall simple sound design, with very subtle ambiant effects, isn’t demo-worthy but serves its purpose.
While light on supplemental features, there are a few extras included. A twenty minute San Diego Comic-Con panel hosted by Johnny Knoxville gives Mike Judge the chance to talk about the history of the series. This is a fun piece for fans of the show. A few short “Beavis & Butt-head Interruptions” are basically promotional pieces in which the boys make phone calls to “talk” to cast members of Jersey Shore. The lack of anything substantial, outside of the Comic-Con panel, is a little disappointing considering how long the show has been dormant. But the twelve episodes themselves are more than enough reason to celebrate this Blu-ray release.