South Park, more than a decade since it debuted, is still a surprisingly popular show and with this tenth season, the show once again got more controversial than ever before. South Park is crass and offensive to a whole lot of people, and of course the animation remains primitive. But you know what? It's still funny as Hell and it has obviously found a loyal enough audience to keep it going despite those factors. Comedy Central has now given us the complete ninth season of the show on DVD to enjoy over and over again without commercial interruptions.
You'd think by this point in time (hard to believe that the show has been on the air over a decade now!) that series creator's Trey Parker and Matt Stone would have started running out of ideas but the fact that the show is so easy to make and so quick to produce in terms of how it is animated allows them to keep the show topical. South Park, more than any other comedy series save for something like The Daily Show or Saturday Night Live, is able to tackle modern events and as such, you'll sometimes see subjects in the show ranging from political debates to celebrity gossip nonsense (the obvious ones this time around being the Return Of Chef and Cartoon Wars episodes which take on Scientology and Muslim issues respectively). It's all taken on with a no holds barred attitude and what's beautiful about the series is that the creative team behind it simply does not care who they offend. As such, it's a gutsy and crass series, but just try not to laugh at some of the episodes in this set.
The fourteen episodes contained in this three disc set are as follows:
The Return Of Chef: One of the funniest episodes in the history of the series finds Chef returning to South Park after spending time abroad with the Super Adventure Club. The boys couldn't be happier that he's returned until he starts telling them that he wants to make love to him. The boys take it upon themselves to find out why Chef is acting the way he is and they find out he's been brainwashed. Using old voice clips of Isaac Hayes after he'd left the show to give his character a big send off was an act of genius.
Smug Alert: The Broslofski family buys a hybrid car and moves to San Francisco where the people are more tolerant. Stan gets wind of this and talks the entire town of South Park into switching to hybrid cars, in hopes that it'll convince the Broslofski's to move back to South Park. This doesn't work, and instead everyone in town becomes so smug that it causes a massive cloud of smug to form over the area which looks like it's going to collide with an equally massive cloud of smug formed by George Clooney's Oscar speech!
Cartoon Wars Part 1: The boys are big fans of Family Guy and so when it turns out that Fox is going to air an episode in which the cartoon portrays the prophet Mohammed they're upset that many in town want to boycott the show. Cartman in particular takes great offense to the idea and starts lecturing his friends on why it's offensive and wrong to do this.
Cartoon Wars Part 2: In the second part of the story, the good citizens of South Park decide to literally bury their heads in the sand so that they won't have to see the episode of Family Guy in question and so that they'll be spared when Al-Qaeda retaliates. The rest of the country agrees that this is a good idea, but this doesn't stop Cartman from setting his plan into motion nor does it stop Al-Qaeda from launching their cartoon counter attack.
A Million Little Fibers: Towelie gets baked and decides to write an inspirational book but the publishers just won't take a towel seriously so he poses as a human and lands himself a deal. Oprah Winfrey picks up on the book and makes it her selection in the Book of the Month Club, but soon when Towelie is found out, controversy arises. Meanwhile, Oprah's midge and arse are revolting, complaining that because she's a workaholic they don't get the attention that they need from her.
Manbearpig: Al Gore, with no real political career left to keep himself busy with, has taken it upon himself to travel around the country and warn schoolchildren about Manbearpig, a horrendous creature that is part man, part bear and part pig. He convinces Stan, Kyle, Eric and Kenny to help him track the creature to a cave where he blows everything up, trapping the boys inside. Meanwhile, Cartman has discovered what he believes to be buried treasure and has devised an ingenious way to smuggle it out without being caught.
Tsst!: Cartman's mom is at the end of her rope. Eric has been out of control for years now and she doesn't know what to do. She goes on a few 'nanny' reality shows but these sturdy English ladies cannot tame Eric. Finally, The Dog Whisperer takes on Eric's case and is able to teach Ms. Cartman how to train her son to be submissive and obedient.
Make Love, Not Warcraft: The boys all find themselves hooker on the latest and greatest online role playing game, World Of Warcraft. As their obsession with the game grows, they find themselves turning into stereotypically fat and lazy slobs more interested in taking down the one character who seemingly can't be killed than in doing normal, every day activities.
Mystery Of The Urinal Deuce: Mr. Mackie goes nuts when he finds out that someone pooped in the urinal in the boys restroom at school. He takes it upon himself to find the culprit and bring him to justice. Meanwhile, the boys wind up involved in a conspiracy that may or may not prove that the Bush administration was behind the attacks of 9/11.
Miss Teacher Bangs A Boy: Cartman is appointed hall monitor at school and starts to take his job very seriously, dressing and acting like Dog The Bounty Hunter. While Cartman is keeping the halls safe, kindergarten student Ike Broslofski begins having a torrid affair with his teacher, Ms. Teacher.
Hell On Earth 2006: Satan himself returns to the show with the intent of throwing a huge party on Halloween night. He dresses up like Brittany Spears and invites all the cool people to his bash but what he doesn't prepare for is some interference from a religious organization and a group of notorious serial killers. Add to that a cameo from Biggie Smalls and you can see how Satan's plans have been thrown for a loop.
Go God Go: Now that the kids are in forth grade it's time for them to learn about evolution. While Ms. Garrison isn't in favor of teaching this to the students, she does fall in love with the new teacher who has been brought in to teach it. Meanwhile, Cartman cannot wait for the Nintendo Wii any longer and so he attempts to freeze himself, set to wake up on launch day.
Go God God XII: Cartman's plans get all screwed up and he wakes up five hundred years in the future where otters have run amok and the world is at war. Cartman doesn't care about this much at all, he simply wants a Wii but is devastated to find that they are no more.
Stanley's Cup: Stan decides to coach South Park's pee-wee hockey team and he decides that to help the kids out, he's going to groom them into a force to be reckoned with. While all of this is going on, both Stan and his father have to come to terms with Stan's own time spent in the pee-wee league and the deep reaching ramifications that it has had on the both of them.
Overall, Season Ten definitely stands out as one of the strongest batches of episodes out of the show's entire run. The topical humor works really well and the writing is barbed and clever. Not every episode is a winner - A Million Little Fibers is a good example - but the majority of them are and the ones that work happen to work so well that it more than makes up for a few weaker moments here and there. While some of the political bits might age the series in a few years, there are still enough moments of pure comic genius and flat out absurdity that the show should retain plenty of replay value for some time to come.
Well, we all know that the series' animation is pretty primitive so that does limit how good the series can ever really look but these DVDs do a fine job of brining the episodes to your home theater. The colors look nice and bright, the reds are solid and don't bleed and the black levels are pretty strong. There are no problems at all with print damage or grain issues (no surprise there) and edge enhancement and line shimmering is kept to a minimum. Mpeg compression artifacts aren't a problem at all, and the level of detail present throughout playback is as good as one can really expect given the style in which the series is animated. All in all, these transfers are quite nice.
Each one of the fifteen episodes in the set is presented in an English language Dolby Digital Stereo mix with optional English closed captions provided for the hearing impaired. There are no alternate language dubs or subtitles present on this set. As far as the quality of the audio goes, there's really very little to complain about aside from a few moments here and there where the levels seem to drop just a tad in the mix. While a surround mix might have been fun for a few of the more active scenes, there's plenty of directional effects spread out across the front of the soundstage and the dialogue is always clean, clear and easy to understand. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and no shrillness in the high end. As far as stereo mixes go, this one is tops.
Aside from a few previews for other Comedy Central DVD releases, the only extra features on this release come in the form of mini-commentary tracks from the series creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. While many of these run for no longer than four minutes, they are pretty funny, most of them providing simply their quick take on the episode, usually informing us where some of the ideas came from. They also talk about much of the publicity that the first few episodes of the season earned them and the stress that as incurred from that. Aside from that, we get menus for each disc and chapter selection options. Also included inside the packaging is a World Of Warcraft demo CD!
South Park - The Complete Tenth Season is a fantastic collection of hilarious episodes. The mini-commentaries are fun and interesting and while it would have been nice to see more effort put into the supplements, this is one of those cases where the content is just so good that it really doesn't matter that much. Highly recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.