Perhaps more significant than last night’s news of the Beavis and Butt-Head reprise on MTV is the nature of the announcement itself. The cast of Skins told the audience at MTV’s upfronts; that audience included boy-of-the-moment Justin Bieber, who Tweeted the news. MTV seems, finally, to have fully committed to the abandonment of their sunny, happy slate of programming that included Made, The Hills (you too can be a magazine intern!), and career-centered seasons of The Real World. The word MTV executives used in 2008 was “aspirational.”
In the intervening years, after much of the aspirational slate fell apart and even The Hills eroded, MTV began experimenting with their formula, and two of its reality shows became sensations: Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, both of whose viewers, to varying degrees, watched to mock. (This was harder to do with The Hills; remember, they expelled Heidi Montag for interfering with the story. On Jersey Shore, she wouldn’t even seem outrageous.)
In the 1990s, Beavis and Butt-Head lived in a media-dominated world; they lounged on a grubby couch, mocking everything they watched. Though the average Jersey Shore watcher is maybe a bit more credulous, the style is the same. Beavis and Butt-Head reinforces MTV’s new message — aspirations having contradicted the ability to watch TV. Don’t get off the couch, kids! Skins, designed to get your attention with its 1990s-culture-war-style libertinism, is on next — and you may want to make fun of it to your friends, but you’ll want to watch it all the same.
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