South Park, more than a decade since it debuted, is still a surprisingly popular show and with this eleventh season, the show got more controversial than ever before. Once again, the show 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 eleventh season of the show on DVD to enjoy over and over again without commercial interruptions, and this time without any bleeps, meaning, all the f-bombs and dirty words are completely intact.
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. This time around, the writers manage to turn the screws on video game culture, Bono, lesbian bars and Cartman's homosexual tendencies, pop culture and Islamic fundamentalism, and pretty much everything in between. Appearances from political figures like Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson keep things topical while the constant barrage of toilet humor and profanity keeps them funny.
By this point in the series, Kenny's more or less completely back in action, Butters is playing a much bigger role in the series overall, and Mr. Garrison has had a sex change and is now a very manly looking woman. The Imaginationland Trilogy (which was released on its own earlier this year) stands out as a highlight of an overall rock solid season just for the shear number of pop culture references that the show is able to make during its relatively brief running time. That said, each of the cartoons here is absolutely worth a watch for those who appreciate this style of humor and with so many great bits, it really is hard to pick a favorite.
The fourteen episodes contained in this three disc set are as follows:
With Apologies To Jesse Jackson: When Stan's father, Randy, is on Wheel of Fortune, he inadvertently blurts out the 'N word' on national television. This puts Stan in an awkward spot with his black friend, Token, who keeps telling Stan that he doesn't understand. Meanwhile, Randy has to deal with being discriminated against himself as he finds that everyone starts referring to him as 'that nigger guy.' While all of this is going on, a midget is speaking at the kids' school to teach tolerance, but Cartman can't stop laughing at him long enough to let him get a word in edgewise.
Cartman Sucks: Cartman has Butters' sleep over one night and decides to play a joke on him by taking a picture of his penis in Butters' mouth. When he shows this to the boys, they tell him that what he did was gay. When Butters' is found out, he's sent off to a fundamentalist Christian camp where they 'pray the gay away' and try to turn him straight, not realizing that he has no idea why he's there or what t he term 'bi-curious' really even means. Cartman, meanwhile, devises a plan to stop Kyle from showing the picture in question during tomorrow's show and tell.
Lice Capades: South Park Elementary falls victim to a rash of head lice infestations! Ms. Garrison won't tell the students who the infected student is and the whole class starts to become suspicious of one another, with Cartman acting as the ringleader. While the kids are trying to figure out who has the bugs, one lice survives the shampoo attack and tries to save his maggot daughter and bring her to a new life on a different head.
The Snuke: Hillary Clinton is campaigning in South Park and the entire populace is excited and ready to welcome her to their town. When a Muslim student shows up at the school for his first day of class, Cartman fingers him as a terrorist and alerts the authorities fearing that he's going to plan an attack. Cartman interrogates the kid in his own way, while Hillary Clinton finds out that she has a nuclear bomb hidden in her snatch, nicknamed a snuke!
Fantastic Easter Special: When the Marsh family are coloring Easter Eggs, Stan asks what exactly this tradition has to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Soon he finds himself being tailed by men in bunny costumes. Soon, Stan learns that his father is a member of a secret society sworn to uphold the story of the Easter Bunny and Randy takes his son with him to join the group, eventually winding up in a battle with an anti-bunny Catholic group at the Vatican!
D-Yikes: When Ms. Garrison gets dumped again, she takes out her anger on the class by giving them ridiculous homework assignment. Soon, Garrison has a change of heart, however, as she discovers a bar for women only called Les Bos, where she meets a woman who takes her home and gives her the first lesbian experience of her life. The boys, tired of homework, decide to hire a group of Mexicans to do it for them while a group of Persian's plan to buy Les Bos and turn it into a different kind of bar with much shag carpeting.
Night Of The Living Homeless: When the homeless citizens of South Park start to grow in numbers, Cartman decides to jump over one of them on a skateboard. Meanwhile, the increasing transient population chases many people out of town with their incessant pleas for spare change. A small group of survivors take solace at the local mall while hordes of grubby change seeking homeless people prowl the streets like zombies leaving only the boys, who don't seem in the least bit afraid, to save the day.
Le Petite Tourette: Cartman sees a kid with Tourette's Syndrome blurt out expletives and decides that if he pretends to have it, he can pretty much get away with saying whatever he wants to whoever he wants without any fear or repercussion. Enjoying his new found power, he decides to take his story to a public interest television show to milk it for all it's worth but soon learns that having Tourette's isn't nearly as much fun as he first thought it would be.
More Crap: When Randy Marsh takes a massive crap after eating at P.F. Chang's for three weeks, he saves it to show all of his friends and becomes a bit of a local legend. He calls the Guinness Book of World Records and is referred to a European society tasked with maintaining these things and soon finds he's beaten the previous world record held by U2's obnoxious lead singer, Bono, who isn't going to take this lying down and soon Randy and Bono are competing to claim the record.
Imaginationland, Episodes I, II & III: In this three part episode, Cartman bets Kyle that leprechauns are real and Kyle signs a contract agreeing to suck his balls if he can prove it. When Cartman does manage to find a leprechaun in the woods, the boys wind up on a magical journey into Imaginationland where they witness a horrific attack from some Islamic terrorists who manage to free all of the evils things that people imagine. A war breaks out between the good parts of imagination and the bad parts of the imagination and Butters appears to be the only one who can help good to triumph over evil. Meanwhile, Cartman is insisting that Kyle honor his contract and the American military is considering nuking Imaginationland to stop the terrorists from winning.
Guitar Queer-O: Stan and Kyle decide to chip in together and buy the Guitar Hero video game. They get to be pretty good at it and once they start to rack in the points, they find that they're dreams of being rock stars might actually come true. Soon, however, it becomes obvious that Stan is the better player and management wants him to ditch Kyle, who takes to playing at the local bowling alley until Kyle learns the error of his ways and tries to win him back.
The List: The last episode of the season finds the boys going nuts when they discover that all of the girls in the class have worked together on a list that rates all of the boys from best to worst looking. Cartman and Butters get a hold of the list and the results are fairly surprising. Meanwhile, the girls are working out a truly sinister plan to mess up the boys' heads even more then they already have.
Overall, this season ranks as one of the series' funniest. The writing is merciless in its skewering of social and political taboos and pop culture inanity and the situations are ridiculously funny. The animation hasn't gotten any better and neither has the character development but the show has managed to build an interesting continuity that does come into play now and again (the return of the sinister and rape hungry woodland creatures being a perfect example) which gives the show a little bit more depth. The success of South Park doesn't stem from character development or amazing animation, however, it stems from timely and topical satire and it's fearlessness in terms of tackling sometimes sensitive and potentially offensive material. On that level, Season Eleven is a veritable masterpiece as it aims and fires at many a sacred cow. If that doesn't get you laughing, there's the show's trademark potty humor - giant turds, cartoon rape, blood, gore, and bizarre sex have always played a big part in the show's delivery tactics and thankfully it hasn't been toned down in the least in recent years.
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 bringing 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 and the quality is on par with previous DVD releases from the show.
Each one of the pisodes 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 most 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. Their thoughts on the various political issues and events that inspire the cartoons are genuinely interesting but it's Trey and Matt's collective sense of twisted humor and honest appraisals of their work that makes these as fun as they are. Aside from that, we get menus for each disc and chapter selection options.
South Park - The Complete Eleventh Season is one of the best that the series has to offer. While some episodes work better than others, each of the cartoons contained in this set offer plenty of laughs and even, at times, some interesting food for thought. Paramount/Comedy Central's DVD release looks good and sounds good and while more extras would have been welcome, this set still comes 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.