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BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD: NEW EPISODES
Thursdays at 9 p.m.
It's time to dig your Nirvana t-shirt out of the closet and get that case of OK Soda you've had aging behind the water heater, because "Beavis and Butt-head" is back. Created by Mike Judge, the seminal bonehead cartoon series broke a lot of ground when it first debuted in March 1993, earning legions of fans and howls of protest from parents' groups, who clearly didn't see the humor in the two low-forehead heroes' penchant for lechery, setting stuff on fire and getting stoned on paint thinner fumes. Judge — seeking to focus more time on his more family-friendly series "King of the Hill" — had the dumbass duo ride off into the sunset at the height of the popularity in Nov. 1997 (a feature film, "Beavis and Butt-head Do America," had done big biz at the box office the previous year), but with the cancellation of "King of the Hill" in May 2010, it looks like Judge saw the wisdom of cashing in on Generation X's 1990s nostalgia while the getting was good. I caught the first new 2011 episode last week, and, while the show paved the way for naughty, envelope-shredding fare like "Family Guy," "South Park" and "Adult Swim," it seems positively tame now. That ain't to say it's not still funny as hell though, especially given that the new episodes feature Beavis and Butt-head not only doing their shtick of providing color-commentary for music videos (for everybody under the age of 20: a "music video" is a kind of mini-movie set to a popular song. Look it up on Wikipedia), but also ripping into scenes from the reality-show dreck that has replaced music on MTV in the years since the first incarnation of "Beavis and Butt-head" went off the air, including "Jersey Shore." (Sample: "You're the best grandma ever, Grandma Jwoww... tell us again about the time you got syphilis.") While it's questionable whether the show will manage to catch the attention of the youngsters once again, especially in this world that's full of much edgier cartoon fare, it'll be must-see TV every week for this old fart, and may well win some new converts.
HELL ON WHEELS: SERIES PREMIERE
9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6
If you're old enough to remember the dim days of ten years ago, you know that AMC was once the Old Lady of basic cable, running mothballed flicks from the vaults and hovering only a step or two above Turner Classic Movies in the coolness department ("Welcome back to TCM! Here's another 26-hour marathon of movies starring Fred Murray to help you kill a few more hours until your inevitable death!"). In recent years though, AMC has morphed into a dramatic powerhouse, rolling the dice on some of the edgiest, most genre-busting television around and winning big with fans and critics. As you know well by now if you've watched this space for awhile, I've come to trust AMC almost absolutely when it comes to their dramatic series development. Viewers have as well, with groundbreaking show after show taking off like rockets and scooping up the Emmy Awards — "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead." That's not to say they can't lose (their flopped espionage thriller "Rubicon" comes to mind), but the network's definitely got a hell of a lot better batting average than NBC. Now comes their new foray into the Western genre, "Hell on Wheels." The show features Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannon, a former Confederate Army soldier and all-around Dangerous Sumbitch, who is out for blood after his wife was murdered by a band of Union raiders during the darkest days of the Civil War. With Reconstruction in full swing, Bohannon heads west to Hell on Wheels, the massive tent city of workers, whores, swindlers, cutthroats, robber barons and preachers that moved along with the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad as the rails inched west to the Pacific. Helping out Mount is an ensemble cast, including the rapper Common as freed slave Elam Ferguson. While I haven't snagged a copy of the pilot yet, the trailer (available at AMC.com) looks damn fine, with sprawling vistas, tons of period filth, and Bohannon shooting a priest in the face through the screen of a confessional. If that's what's in the trailer, I can't wait to see what the show comes up with week to week. Definitely one to watch.