Mike Judge Still Sees Beavis And Butt-Head As His Career's Magnum Opus

Mike Judge belongs to that cohort of late-era baby boomers who captured the Gen X zeitgeist. Much like Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater, Judge had a head start on the next-gen filmmakers. He turned 10 in 1972 and came of age during the advent of the couch-potato age. Reruns of network shows had been syndicated since the late 1950s, but it took a decade or so for the boob tube to wear down parents' defenses. By the early '70s, television had become an after-school babysitter. "Leave It to Beaver," "Mr. Ed," and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" were in heavy daily rotation. Better to have your kids held captive by the cathode ray glow than out cavorting with pot-smoking burnouts.

When Judge's "Beavis and Butt-Head" debuted on MTV via the short "Frog Baseball," it was a crudely animated goof on garden variety juvenile delinquency. You probably grew up with kids who viewed the discovery of a frog in the backyard as an opportunity for animal cruelty. They might've strapped a bottle rocket to the creature's back or blew them to bits with a cherry bomb. Or, if they were low on ordnance, they treated them as an improvised baseball and beat them to death. This was savage and cruel and so very American in the basest sense. If Judge had kept his sights aimed this low, we wouldn't be watching "Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe" in 2022. But we are, and this is because he got his mouth-breathing teenagers out of the backyard and onto the couch, in front of the television, where they belonged. In doing so, he made his own television history.

Mike Judge's favorite, dopey sons

Although Mike Judge went on to make the cubicle-dweller masterpiece "Office Space" and the depressingly prophetic "Idiocracy," his heart resides with Beavis and Butt-Head. As he told Vulture:

"It's still probably my favorite thing I've ever done. I mean, not all of it is good. We did some of them so quickly. But the stuff that's good I look back fondly on and really like it. I got my foot in the door because of it, so it led to everything. For that reason alone, I'm still fond of it."

For years, younger viewers might've been baffled by Gen Xers' affection for the addled lads, but maybe they'll get it now that Paramount+ has cleared the rights to all the music videos the duo commented on during their '90s heyday. From their headbanging love for The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" to their sly slam of Ted Nugent's "Heads Will Roll" ("Hey, it's that dude from Damn Yankees"), Beavis and Butt-Head spoke truth to their network's star-making power. They played favorites, and shredded posers.

And almost no one will remember that they debuted as frog-killing monsters. It's the MTV age's equivalent to Jack Benny realizing Rochester was the master (à la Wodehouse's Jeeves) and not the servant.