Directed and Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone
At the turn of the century, a form of entertainment hit the United States unlike any other form… Vaudeville. Vaudeville consisted of people from all walks of life doing all forms of entertainment from Irish jugglers, to Yiddish comedians, to Minstrel singers. EVERYONE was covered. Everyone was made fun of… and if you weren’t made fun of, THAT was considered racist. And THAT is how it should be. No one should be immune from ridicule. Comedy is the best way to ensure that our society remains well balanced. Which is why I think South Park is one of the most important programs on television. Written, directed by, and starring the Tony Award Winning and Academy Award Winning Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are so amazingly awesome that acclaimed Broadway composer, Stephen Sondheim has accoladed them, saying, “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut is the best musical of the past 15 years.” Let’s see if their series has withstood the sands of time.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, let me give you South Park in a nutshell. This cutout/stop animation series (or at least it started as such but now uses computers) takes place in South Park, CO, and focuses around the lives of four little boys. We have the two leaders ,Stan and Kyle (Stan has the crazy, mid-life crisis dad and Kyle has the crazy overprotective, Jewish mother), white trash Kenny (who’s voice is muffled by an orange hoodie and dies nearly every episode), and the delightfully racist, bigoted, etc, etc, fatass Cartman. There is a grand bevy of other characters in South Park as well, both young and old… and sometimes celebrity. The show is built like a sitcom, where there is a bit of a through story, BUT if you’ve not seen South Park since Season 1, you can pick right back up with this season and not be lost at all.
While this season might not be the most controversial, crazy, or trendsetting, it does not disappoint. My favorite three are “Cartman Finds Love,” “A Scause for Applause,” and the oh so delightful and topical “Raising the Bar.” “Cartman Finds Love” starts with a new girl moving to South Park. She immediately joins the cheerleading team, and all of the boys immediately start fighting over her. BUT just as the boys all lay eyes on her Cartman says “Awwww, Token, I’m so happy for you!” And why is Cartman so happy for Token (yes, the “token” black kid in South Park)? Oh, that’s right, because the new girl is also African American. Cue “Cupid Me,” a tiny fantasy version of Cartman who likes to make sure that everyone dates within their own race. Cartman succeeds in getting the two together and revels in their highs and lows of their elementary relationship. This episode not only touches on racism but also interracial relationships (which I may or may not know something about). My favorite line comes from the new girl’s father when he finds out that she is dating the only other black kid in school. They are eating a chicken dinner and when the little girl asks for more chicken, the dad says, “Don’t you want some white meat? I know it’s dry, but there’s a lot more of it!” Plus you get to see Cartman at his absolute, delusional best.
Then there’s “A Scause for Applause,” which follows Stan as he keeps his “WWJD” bracelet on after scientists found that Jesus was on steroids when he performed his miracles. This is obviously parodying the whole Lance Armstrong scandal and his “Live Strong” bracelets. Stan then becomes the next bracelet idol, as everyone starts wearing brown “Stan Strong” bracelets. UNTIL, there is a scandal about Stan cutting off his “WWJD” bracelet. You can clearly see where this is going. Stan teams up with Jesus to find the guys who keep “messing up their good names,” and in the process finds a Dr. Seussian character who makes “Scuases.” Yes, a “scause,” which is a cause that can be sold… hence a “scause.” Then this character spends five fanciful minutes describing a “Scause” and the “Scause Factory” in rhyme… complete with made up animals and pink hair. It’s just too good! I’m a HUGE Dr. Seuss fan, and I found this episode brilliant. My snort-worthy moment was, “There are green scauses for recycling, blue scauses for kitties, and pink scauses that focus on nothing but titties.” Sadly, I’ve worn some “scauses.”
Finally, there is “Raising the Bar,” which is the best episode of the entire season. It starts out with the boys shopping in Walmart. An obese customer on a Little Rascal almost runs the boys over and infuriates Cartman. Cartman sees the monstrosity that this man has become and vows that he will change. The boys finally think that Cartman will stop overeating, exercise, and become healthier. But no, Cartman, in true Cartman form, gets fatter and gets a Little Rascal scooter so that he can be like the people in Walmart. The boys then create a documentary about Cartman’s condition, and it turns into the pilot episode for “Here Comes Fatty Poo Poo.” Again… you see where this is going. All the while, people are wondering how in the world we came to this debauchery where we raise up white trash families like Honey Boo Boo’s family. And so, James Cameron decides to go deep sea diving to “Raise the Bar.” He even makes up his own theme song to get down there. The entire episode culminates in a “Sketti Wrastlin” match between Honey Boo Boo and Cartman officiated by first lady Michelle Obama…. need I say more?
I love how you need some experience and education to enjoy South Park, but I also love how it’s humor appeals to us on a bawdier level. I mean… Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo… what’s baser than that? But also, who is clever enough to make an entire episode about rigging the Presidential Election to ensure that the rights to Star Wars doesn’t get into the wrong hands? But I will say that I don’t hold this season’s episodes in as high of regard as the past 15 seasons. Some episodes are fantastical… and some seem to be a BIT of a stretch.
It is crazy how far this series has come as far as visual effects. The series started with cut-out, stop animation… pretty is much like claymation, but with cut outs… which takes forever. Luckily, some genius made up a computer system with allows the animators to do a whole lot more in way less time. Everything looks just as it should- vivid colors, no glitches, and enough visual gags to make the Marx Brothers blush. All in all, pretty darn good for DVDs.
The Audio is pretty great, too. Every single voice can be heard loud and clear… and come on- who doesn’t love Cartman’s voice? The sound comes in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and is just as it should be. There are also English subtitles for the hard of hearing or for those who want to know how to spell “Jewpacabra.”
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is really great. You get three discs in a nice five folded disc holder, with a description of each episode on the outermost flaps. This is all kept in a nice cardboard sleeve, with (who else) but Cartman at his fattest on the back on a Little Rascal.
The special features are decent, but nothing to write home about. You get some deleted scenes… which to be quite honest, weren’t all that great… and so it’s a good thing they weren’t in there. You also get mini-commentaries as the beginning of each episode. They were insightful, and probably the best part of the special features. Pretty decent stuff for a series that has such a high volume of episodes, but I’ve seen better.
Overall (Not an Average)
Before I give my last thoughts, I just want to warn everyone that I tried playing all three discs on my laptop, and each time they made my brand new MacBook Pro crash. They worked fine in the DVD/Blu-Ray player, but computer watchers be wary.
I think that satire is one of the most important things as humans. When we can laugh about something, we no longer fear it. And the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself… that or the Barbara Streisand Monster from earlier South Park days. But seriously, when we learn to laugh at the shortcomings of the human race, it makes life a little easier, and a LOT more fun. And despite the fact that life is hard and we need to work to make it place better, we need to not take it all so seriously. And that is the reason that this show continues to do so well… that and the fact that middle school boys will always sneak watch this series to look like the bad asses at school…