MTV: Thirty Years of Rotting Your Skull, Part 4

Yo! MTV laughs...

By , Contributor

Part 4: In Which MTV Laughs

The Young Ones

This would never happen today, but somehow MTV picked up a brilliant show from England and littered it through their late night rotations. Anyone who could stay up that late would soon rejoice.

The Young Ones told the tale of four college roommates, hippie Neil, anarchist Rick, punk Vyvyan, and ladies man (though I never saw him with any) Mike. Wimpy Rick wasn't really much of an anarchist, but the show was a pure and 100 proof example of it.

These four young morons (all MTV comedy really owes itself to the accurate portrayal of morons) lived in the sloppiest house in existence and more than likely woke up each day to some measure of random chaos like discovering a still-alive Buddy Holly in a back room or that a nuclear weapon had landed in their living room. Essentially, anything could happen at any time other than one of the four attending class or, God forbid, getting a job.

The show had the attention span of a gnat and bounced around like a hobo on crystal meth. One second Vyvyan could be putting Rick's head through the wall and the next second there would be a touching puppet show depicting leftover vegetables romantically ice dancing.

Each episode had an appearance by a cutting edge UK artist (somehow even four years later) that always eclipsed the stuff MTV was actually playing in prime time. A partial list includes Madness, Motorhead, The Damned, and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Said band was usually playing in the boys' bathroom for some unknown but never explained reason. From day one, MTV could rot your teeth instantly, but time after time great stuff would explode out at you from some random place and your life would be changed forever.

Dexy's Midnight Runners - "Jackie Wilson Said"

Beavis and Butt-head

MTV and Mike Judge are bringing this back, and my expectations can't be any higher. It's clearly both the stupidest and most brilliant thing ever to air on MTV. What other television network ever chose to skewer and annihilate their own audience?

I remember how controversial the whole Bart Simpson "proud to be an underachiever" thing was, and then all of sudden there was Beavis and Butt-head and no one ever mentioned it again. Bart Simpson was sort of mischievously wily, happily under-read, and benign. The B-twins were willfully and gleefully stupid, barely literate, and dangerous to themselves and others.

Perhaps that's why the Simpsons eventually de-emphasized Bart in favor of the even less aware Homer. Beavis and Butt-head made Bart look like Pat Boone to their Elvis.

They also potentially saved my life. I had been viciously tossed aside by someone I was convinced to be my true love. I was miserable all of the time. Luckily for me at the time, Beavis and Butt-head were on MTV even more often than SportsCenter was on ESPN. That show and maybe even just the inane sound of their constant laughing became one of the three things guaranteed to raise my spirits along with the sounds of John Lennon's voice and all-girl rock bands.

Beavis and Butt-head were a needed substitute for my usual diet of angry, damaged, and sullen misery.

I considered myself to be in exile for as long as we were no longer together. I even retreated to my grandparents' for a while, and there was a time when my grandmother would watch the show with me every night. God knows what she thought she was watching. She called them Beavis and Buckhead (I don't think she could conceive of the possibility that a character could really be called Butt-head), but she did notice that it was the only time I ever smiled.

I had a friend once who really didn't care much what he was doing as long as there was beer involved. Beavis and Butt-head would have worshiped that guy. All they need are nachos, a television set, and a couch. Somehow they find everything they come into contact with endlessly amusing and hilarious.

The boys' impulses are always wrong, they say all the wrong things to women, and love to hurl out semi-obscenities, especially Beavis. Hear the pure orgasmic joy he shows every time he hears or says the word "bunghole." The animation was beyond crude but so were all those old Charlie Brown specials we all dug. It was hard at the time to conceive of anything cruder in terms of both attitude or animation, but pretty soon South Park tapes were being passed around by George Clooney and the boys struggled to hold on.

Parents went ape shit over the moron twins, eventually forcing Beavis to stop smoking and constantly yelling the word "fire." Of course, none of them watched the show enough to know that their creator was doing a better job articulating the decay of modern society then they were. No parents, nothing but MTV, this is what you get.

Then again, who knew being stupid could be so much fun? Kids around the world looked at the horrors of being brain dead, and felt envious. Hell, who can blame them - being smart sucks. My cat is happier than me and all he does is eat and sleep. If he watched television and broke things, he could hang with B&B.

My favorite part: Butt-head had the IQ of a house plant yet he was Albert Einstein compared to Beavis.

Remote Control

Another way for MTV to openly mock its audience. Contestants of this "game show' were strapped into La-Z-Boy recliners and given a snack break where goodies would fall from the sky and turn them into a human bowl of cereal. Eventually someone got to try to identify a bunch of MTV music videos in a short period of time for God only knows what kind of prize and the losers were ejected, seat and all, in an ever-increasing series of human cannonball impressions. Complete joyful chaos.

It also featured the early work of a comedian named Adam Sandler who went on to some measure of fame and fortune.

Oh, and those aren't costumes. People actually dressed that way back then.

Tomorrow Part 5: MTV Gets Real (Sort Of)

Check out MTV: Thirty Years of Rotting Your Skull, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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