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Beavis and Butt-Head: Vol. 1: The Mike Judge Collection

There may be no more accurate fictional portrayal of adolescent malehood than MTV's mid-1990s animated series Beavis and Butt-head. As such, this collection's 40 Season One episodes "that didn't suck," as picked by creator Mike Judge, are occasionally amusing but overwhelmingly erratic and juvenile, and best taken in small doses. Nevertheless, the cultural relevance of Judge's breakthrough creation far exceeds the modest ambition evident in its sloppy production or the mild stimulation provided by its slight social parody and lower-than-low humor. The show — a loose series of five-to-seven-minute episodes about the misadventures of two crude, sociopathic, sub-intelligent teenagers with aggressive ADD, debilitating hormones, filthy mouths, and an obsession with things scatological — was an instant pop-culture phenomenon, making immediate fans of the network's Generation X&Y demographic while drawing a media frenzy of outrage from self-appointed moral guardians. But arguably more important to the series' success than its more conventional narrative sequences were the irony-ready tidbits of meta-programming that filled in the rest of the show's half-hour time-slot: unrelated scenes of Beavis and Butt-head watching MTV and offering irreverent and profane couch potato commentaries during clips of current music videos — which was a bracing, directly self-deprecating reflection of the very audience watching Beavis and Butt-head. It made for brilliant post-modern pop-culture. Finally, in Paramount's Beavis and Butt-Head: Vol. 1: The Mike Judge Collection, some of these segments make it to home video, but only 11, each running about one-and-a-half minutes and relegated to the bonus features disc. The other two parts of this three-disc set are loaded with the less impressive "episodes," as Beavis and Butt-head engage in conscience-free mayhem and mischief. For the most part, these narratives are unremarkable, save for Beavis' occasional spastic outbursts, which culminate in the classic episode "The Great Cornholio." But these moments are few, and while the rest makes for genial stupidity in its originally intended five-minute blocks, the show doesn't really hold-up to the type of marathon viewing facilitated by DVD sets such as this. However, even during the its most uninspired moments, one can't help but marvel at Judge's prescience. Not only did Beavis and Butt-head pave the way for the more sophisticated gross humor of "South Park," but it predicted by a full decade the substantively identical reality TV stars Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. Paramount's Beavis and Butt-Head: Vol. 1: The Mike Judge Collection features 40 Season One episodes, including 23 in uncut and uncensored "Director's Cuts." A third disc features 11 excerpted music videos with Beavis and Butt-head commentary, the featurette "Taint of Greatness: The Journey of Beavis and Butt-head, Part 1," MTV Thanksgiving Special appearances, Video Music Awards appearances, show promos, and the short montages "Terms of Endearment" and "Greatest Hits." Three slimline keep-cases in a paperboard sleeve.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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