The Pitch: Our favorite idiots are back on the couch, more or less in the 21st century, and they still haven’t scored. But now they watch TikToks!
In an era when, on one hand, cerebral shows dominate prestige TV, and on the other, every hit on the planet eventually becomes the victim of a lazy, cash-grabbing reboot, it’d be reasonable to be hesitant about a third iteration of Beavis and Butt-Head, which centers on the shenanigans of two senseless, sexist, animated teenage boys. And yet, the first two critic-ready episodes of the new season, which begins streaming on Paramount+ on August 4th, make a strong case for the show’s central argument: Times change, but the fool always gets a laugh.
Mike Judge’s titular characters have always walked a fine line between ignorance and wholesomeness. Beavis and Butt-Head are idiots, and their desire to “score” with hot chicks draws from an adolescent sexism that, in recent years, has mutated into a deadly incel culture. Still, the point was always that their stupidity made them harmless — they were too dumb to hurt anyone but themselves, and their jokes were, for the most part, so childish that you felt okay laughing along with them.
Miraculously, Judge manages to bring these characters into a cultural climate much more attuned to how ignorance breeds violence without offending, tiptoeing around hot topics, or taking cheap shots at “cancel culture” in the process. He pulls this trick by, for the most part, presenting Beavis and Butt-head in a vacuum.
The new film Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe brought the characters explicitly into the 21st century, complete with the existence of smartphones and a college campus discussion about white privilege. But in the series, the boys don’t so much discuss the year they’re in as they hint at it by watching YouTube and TikTok alongside their go-to music videos. And even then, they’re still watching the clips on TV, not scrolling on an iPhone.
With more episodes to go (including one in which the boys are middle-aged men), it’s possible that Beavis and Butt-Head will more obviously tackle the problems presented by the modern age, but it’d probably be better if it didn’t. Lord knows we don’t need another comedian attempting Capital-C Commentary about how Times Have Changed (and likely alienating his audience in the process), and Beavis and Butt-Head’s simplicity offers a welcome escape from our ever-darkening reality.
You Guys Are Smart, Right?: In that vein, the first episode of the new series, “Escape Room,” sees Beavis and Butt-Head join two girls in (you guessed it) an escape room after the girls learn the business requires at least four people to participate in the challenge. Naturally, Butt-Head, ever the thoughtful schemer, assumes the girls’ request that they split the escape room’s cost “four ways” means they want to have a foursome, so he declares, “We will solve the escape room, and then we will solve the greatest mystery of them all: Scoring.”
Spoiler alert: Beavis and Butt-Head don’t score with the girls; instead, they make a wrong turn on the way into the escape room and get stuck in the bathroom, where they remain for the rest of the episode. “Escape Room,” then, offers a pretty run-of-the-mill introduction back into the series, though one girl’s quip that the weirdos “must be in tech or something” offers a hilariously unexpected jab at a different brand of annoying guy, and a quick reminder that we really are witnessing Beavis and Butt-Head in 2022.