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Why BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD’s Incomplete “Complete Collection” May Be the Closest We’ll Come (Review)

Why BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD’s Incomplete “Complete Collection” May Be the Closest We’ll Come (Review)

Much like Star Wars fans, Beavis and Butt-head die hards are all still waiting for the original, unedited, complete version of what we liked when we were younger to be made available in any home entertainment format. In our case, however, there are more factors standing in our way than the changing tastes of George Lucas and a deal with Fox.

And so the most important thing to know about Beavis and Butt-head‘s new “The Complete Collection,” which comes out today just in time to buy for your Valentine, is that it does not contain any previously unreleased material. Its 12 discs include all three “Mike Judge Collection” sets (3 discs each), the recent revival season 4 (2 discs), and the Beavis and Butt-head Do America second-release DVD with special features. Trailers for things like the special-edition DVD of Tommy Boy and South Park season six serve as amusing giveaways that these are repacks.

Of course, there are some legal difficulties in bringing parts of Beavis and Butt-head to home release, given that the series was made without any kind of assumption that people would one day want to own all of it. While segments in which the dunder-headed boys comment over music videos were covered for broadcast based on the fact that MTV had the right to play those videos, no deals were made for home entertainment. MTV managed to get some of that footage cleared for the last release, but getting the rights from every artist ever featured, including those whom the boys brutally mocked for sucking, would likely be too expensive and laborious a process to be worth anybody’s time. (At the very least, producers made sure to clear everything in advance re: the recent season four).

And music isn’t the only issue–sometimes the TV shows the boys would watch featured actual audio, like in the David Letterman spoof episode “Late Night with Butt-head.” Home video versions lack the opening segment in which the boys actually check out some Letterman, a.k.a. “that old guy who’s on TV.”

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The bigger issue is one of self-censorship. MTV at one time banned all references to fire on the show, after a kid (who may not have ever actually watched Beavis and Butt-head) tried to burn his house down. These references have mostly been restored, but many episodes that included them have not.

The reasons for this seem twofold: one, Mike Judge actively dislikes many of the earlier episodes, and referred to the previously released collections as the two thirds of the series that doesn’t suck. He’s not wrong about some of the second season episodes being less-than-usual quality. After the first season was a hit, MTV clearly wanted more, and made the animation look a little too clean at first, along with some scripts that felt rushed (seriously, the sausage-eating contest was just weird rather than funny).

The other reason, and that for which nearly the entire first run of episodes has been missing from every collection, is this: while the Beavis and Butt-head we remember are generally just doofuses who mostly only hurt themselves with their own stupidity, in those first episodes they were actively bad people. They blew up and abused animals, stole credit cards, sniffed stove gas to get high, went to Sea World in hopes of making the dolphins choke to death on balloons, and in the notorious two-parter “Way Down Mexico Way,” beat and robbed a Mexican kid before swallowing condoms full of drugs to smuggle across the border. Beavis even smoked regularly, a trait that gradually disappeared. The original humor of the show came from the fact that it was all so wrong–these were the delinquent bullies you remembered from high school.

If you want those episodes restored, keep waiting. Who knows whether MTV or Judge will ever relent. Still, they taunt us–one of the extras on the Mike Judge Collection discs is a preview for the episode “Citizen Butt-head,” in which Bill Clinton visits the local high school. Alas, that episode in full has also been memory-holed, and presumably not because it mocks Clinton, who appears in animated form in the movie.

Having seen a test-screening of the movie back in the day, I know there are also deleted scenes that ought to one day see the light of day. The Rob Zombie hallucination sequence used to be longer, and a scene that involves Beavis at the National Archives using the Declaration of Independence as toilet paper was undoubtedly deemed beyond the pale. But it exists, and deserves to be seen.

That said, if you’re looking to collect all the Beavis and Butt-head DVD material that’s out there, this set is a great deal at $24.99. The Mike Judge sets now go for $10 apiece, so even if you already have the Blu-ray of season four and nothing else, it’s still a worthwhile buy. It would be nice to see a Blu remaster, as season four really did look great in hi-def, but maybe this is one final double-dip before they go back and go Blu. One can hope.

As for the cartoons themselves, some play very differently today. Coming out as they initially did in the era of Lollapalooza, Beavis, Butt-head, and their world seemed like relics of a dumber past, as the Cold War was ending and an optimistic future of tolerance beckoned. Well… things didn’t quite work out as expected. So while it’s still funny to see the boys misunderstand their way into peril and to laugh constantly at every possible double entendre, episodes like the one in which they harass a female classmate, and then sue her for sexual harassment because they got aroused, don’t go down so well any more. And maybe they never should have.

Or maybe the context of some of those older episodes, making it clear that they’re definitely not meant to be seen as heroes or winners or even decent people, might make those incidences play better.

Regardless, for the Beavis and Butt-head fan, this set is as complete a chronicle as you can own at the moment. Yes, it’s DVD rather than Blu-ray, so to be a completist you might need season four on Blu as well. At their best, the two chuckleheads remain huh-huh-hilarious, and if we’re “never gonna score” the lost episodes, you won’t regret having this package around. Giving it a rating is a challenge, but as long as you don’t already own this material, or you simply want it all in one place, I’d say…

4 out of 5 burritos. And you know what the missing burrito is for.

4-burritos

Images: MTV/Viacom


Luke Y. Thompson has been told, many times, that he looks and sounds like Butt-head. And he does think nachos rule. Tweet him about nachos @LYTrules

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