The Daily Stream: Mike Judge's Beavis And Butt-Head Is Lewd, Crude And Just As Relevant As Ever

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-Head" (2022)

Where You Can Stream It: Paramount+

The Pitch: Like it or hate it, we live in an era driven by nostalgia and that means a dependable stream of older IP being remade, rebooted, and legacy-sequeled. It's really tough for an older brand to be cleanly resurrected. You have to bring out the thing original fans liked without making it feel like its time has passed, and that's harder to pull off than it sounds. The new "Beavis and Butt-Head" series on Paramount+ is pulling it off, though, and that's worth examining.

Why It's Essential Viewing

We're only two episodes into the reboot of "Beavis and Butt-Head," but so far the show seems to have pulled off the miraculous: it's just like what I remember from my childhood but doesn't feel stale.

So often with these long-in-the-works reboots or sequels, they'll either prove that something only worked in that specific moment (looking at you, all of Mike Myer's zany character output over the last few years) or the creatives involved are so focused on modernizing their new version into something completely unrecognizable ("Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" jumps to mind).

So, how did "Beavis and Butt-Head" sidestep the challenges of being rebooted nearly 30 years after first debuting? There are a lot of little things that add up to this working, but I think the foundation is that for all the technology and world difference between my generation and the current one, we all did pretty much the same dumb stuff. So, when these two dummies act a fool, it's still relevant.

The structure of the original "Beavis and Butt-Head" series is also a crucial component. Basically, it was what can only be described as smart dumb humor as the two oblivious leads went off on some adventure in their small town and took periodic breaks to watch MTV music videos. Sometimes they'd roast the video, sometimes they'd worship it, and sometimes they just use them as an excuse to go off on a low-brow tangent.

Smooth transition from 1993 to 2022

That format worked so well in the early '90s because it wasn't too far off from what the youth at the time was actually doing. We did watch a lot of TV, especially music videos. Frog baseball? Not so much, but MTV was a cornerstone of discussion in school hallways.

Music videos still exist, but they're not nearly as common or in the broader discussion as they used to be, but that doesn't stop Mike Judge from being able to pivot to another modern addiction. Now, Beavis and Butt-Head watch YouTube videos and TikToks. If you're wondering, it's a hell of a smooth transition, too. Beavis getting turned on by an ASMR video is so in line with that character that it doesn't feel like Judge has missed a beat.

It's bizarre to me how cleanly and effortlessly Beavis and Butt-Head fit into today's world. Episode 1 of the new show has them trying to navigate an escape room, which is very much a modern-day thing that is a perfect backdrop for these two knuckleheads. Of course, they end up in the bathroom, not the actual escape room, and hilarity ensues.

The show does still incorporate music videos. It seems to be an equal split between music videos and some YouTube/TikTok stuff. In episode 2, they watch a BTS video and things get wildly out of control, as you'd expect. Lots of smacking, lots of talk about wood, many declarations of "fire!"

Always ahead of the curve

Mike Judge has always been good at either being with the current times or ahead of them. Both "Office Space" and "Idiocracy" were ahead of the curve and had to be discovered by the masses later, but he's always been great at making "high-brow" observations with "low-brow" material. That's what I meant when I called Beavis and Butt-Head "smart dumb humor" earlier.

Beavis and Butt-Head are reflections of the zeitgeist. They're clueless dorks. Not entirely malicious, mind you, but destructive and horny and enthusiastically dumb all at once and if there's a better reflection of the world around us right now I don't know what that it is. The fact that those particular characters can transition so fluidly to modern times without missing a beat is a little sad for American society but makes for some damn fine viewing.

I'll admit to my own nostalgia being ignited by this new series as "Beavis and Butt-Head" was a formative show for me, debuting when I was 12 years old, which is the perfect age to become obsessed with something as lewd and crude as "Beavis and Butt-Head." But I really do think Judge beat the odds here and was able to keep Beavis and Butt-Head relevant while not losing their very specific charm. I think back to how hard it is for comedies, in particular, to pull off these legacy sequels (or any sequels for that matter) and it's a minor miracle that Judge can slip right back into the thick of things with these characters and turn out something that feels both nostalgic and contemporary.

We've only got two episodes so far. Here's hoping the rest of the season keeps up this pace!