1 9 9 3 – 1 9 9 7 (USA)
186 x 10/30 minute episodes
1 x 60 minute episode
Beavis and Butt-head were two ugly, pubescent cartoon males variously regarded as “the first truly modern attempt at TV” (Time Magazine) or “the latest link in the Darwinian descent of the American adolescent” (New York Times).
Moronically stupid, sexist, self-destructive and anally and genitally fixated, Beavis (Metallica T-shirt, extended lower jaw) and Butt-head (AC/DC T-shirt, short upper lip) spent half of their 30-minute show critiquing pop videos with a philosophy of aesthetics that was disarmingly simple – Thrash metal, “chicks” with “thingies” and death were cool. Everything else sucked.
They were particularly remorseless about the manhood of high-voiced heavy metal hopefuls (“wusses”) and cruelly pricked pop pretensions, once memorably claiming that singer Edie Brickell looked like she was “pinching a loaf”.
The vaguest double-entendre (“he said come . . .”) would set off a breathy stuttering chorus of “huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh”.
Away from the couch, the glue-sniffing duo wandered a parentless suburban wasteland of shopping malls and monster truck rallies, embarking on sordid adventures that sometimes proved controversial.
Among other outrages, they deep-fried a rat, killed a grasshopper with a chainsaw, put a vomit-coated poodle in a washing machine, and sprayed ‘Megadeth’ on the side of a teacher’s house.
In one episode they shot down an aircraft but failed to call the emergency services after becoming distracted by a bout of flatulence.
To no great surprise, the duo were soon targeted by morally concerned parents, whose campaign – led by Americans for responsible Television – against Beavis & Butt-head peaked in 1993 when the activities of a five-year-old Ohio pyromaniac – who torched the family trailer park home and killed his two-year-old sister – were blamed on Beavis and Butt-head’s pronouncement that “fire is cool”.
Beavis & Butt-head was the creation of Mike Judge, an American born in Ecuador in 1963. A sometime musician and physics student at the University of California at San Diego, Judge based the characters of Beavis and Butt-head on “people I knew in junior high school and kids I just see everywhere”, developing them for the small screen with the help of a $300 animation kit.
The humour of the show – which was written mostly by Judge and National Lampoon alumni Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil – had a subversive as well as puerile bent.
In one episode the metalheads did a school report on the Challenger disaster, destroying a toy rocket in science class, an act which tastelessly but effectively burlesqued government and NASA propaganda.
Notable guest stars over the show’s run included David Letterman, in the spoof segment Late Night with Butt-head.
Although Beavis & Butt-head sent up the MTV generation of ‘blank heads’ the show ironically debuted on MTV’s Liquid Television series in September 1992 with Frog Baseball (in which – as the title suggests – the boys used an amphibian instead of a ball).
B&B got their own show just three months later, with MTV rushing 65 episodes into production. The show became the station’s most popular offering, earning over $15 million in advertising revenue in 1994 alone.
The show graduated to the big screen in Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996), followed by Beavis and Butt-head 2: Another Movie (1998).
There was also a TV spin-off called Daria, which featured B&B’s sardonic classmate of the same name. Mike Judge went on to King Of The Hill.