South Park, more than a decade since it debuted, is still a surprisingly popular show and with this twelfth season (it's hard to believe it's that old!), the show continues to push the envelope in terms of content and the skewering of American culture and politics. As always, 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 twelfth season of the show on DVD to enjoy over and over again without commercial interruptions, and once again without any bleeps, meaning, all the f-bombs and dirty words are completely intact.
It remains impressive that the series creator's, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, haven't run 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 resulting in a series that often 'rips its ideas from the headlines.' 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.
By this point in the series Butters continues to play a much bigger role in the series overall, and Mr. Garrison has started to question whether or not the sex change she had was the right thing to do. On top of that, the boys have run-in's with Britney Spears, President Obama, and have to deal with the after effects of the 2008 Olympics and a rash of Peruvian Flute bands which seems to be sweeping the nation, all while dealing with AIDS, angry Canadians, a random drug craze, and the lose of the internet. Truly, these are trying times for the citizens of the small town of South Park!
The fourteen episodes contained in this three disc set are as follows:
Tonsil Trouble: Cartman goes to the hospital because he needs to have his tonsils taken out, a standard and common operation that goes about as wrong as it possibly could when he leaves the hospital with AIDS. Cartman is made fun of by Kyle and in turn decides to pay him back in kind by infecting him with HIV as well. The two boys, not wanting to die, decide to find the one man who seems to have been able to beat AIDS... Magic Johnson!
Britney's New Look: The good people of South Park freak out when Britney Spears shows up in their town. The boys, wanting to make some money, decide to get some pictures of her to sell to the tabloids but when they trick her, she freaks out and tries to kill herself... unsuccessfully. Now with only half a face, the boys feel horrible and decide to find somewhere that she can live peacefully without media interference.
Major Boobage: There's a new drug craze sweeping around the middle school scene in Colorado, and Kenny is hooked. He's also having awesome trips on this new drug, causing him to hallucinate that he's actually living out life as it would be in the 1981 animated sci-fi movie, Heavy Metal. Elaborating any further on this episode would completely ruin it for anyone who hasn't had the joy of seeing one of the series' funniest stories.
Canada On Strike: Canada wants more money... internet money... so the leader of the World Canada League puts the entire country on strike figuring that the members of the United Nations will have to pay up. Unfortunately, the strike goes on a lot longer than they figured and the people of Canada start dying. When the Danish move in as scabs to take the place of Canadian workers, things look bad, but the boys want new episodes of Terrance & Phillip so they're bound and determined to get some internet money for Canada by pimping out Butters on the web.
Eek, A Penis!: Ms. Garrison has a break down because she realizes her sex-change was a mistake - if it weren't, why would she still feel like a man? While she goes off to sort out her life, Cartman is left in charge of the class. When his work at South Park helps the students do better on their tests, he's sent to an inner-city school in the worst part of Denver to help out some of the less privileged students who are in dire need of his help.
Over Logging: The town of South Park is shocked to wake up one day and find that the entire internet is gone, vanished without a trace. Randy hears talk that California still has the internet, so he and his family pack up and move out of town to find the internet once again, eventually winding up at a refugee camp where the internet is rationed out to them a little bit at a time.
Super Fun Time: The kids are going on a school trip to a museum when Cartman decides to take Butters and sneak away from the group so that they can split from the museum and hit up the arcade/amusement center next door. While Butters and Cartman are living it up, the rest of the class winds up being held hostage by a group of gunmen who break into the museum.
The China Proberm: The kids are impressed by the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics but Cartman suspects that this is just a cover up and that the Chinese are bent on invading the United States. He tries to warn people but nobody will listen to him except Butters. Together, Butters and Cartman are all that stand between American and certain doom at the hands of the Chinese.
Breast Cancer Show Ever: Wendy gets mad at Cartman and wants to fight him after he makes fun of breast cancer. As the kids in the school start hearing of the big event to take place after school, people start speculating on the outcome and while most people figure Cartman can easily take down a girl, Wendy is pretty pissed off and Cartman wants to try and weasel his way out of the fight rather than risk losing to a girl in front of everyone.
Pandemic: When Peruvian Pan Flute bands start popping up all over the country, the boys decide they can get in on this trend and make some quick money by starting their own flute band. Things start off well and the boys make a few bucks but soon the government puts all of the flute bands around the country in a big internment camp!
Pandemic 2: The Startling: Cities across the globe are living in fear after a rash of giant guinea pig attacks leave many nations crippled. The boys of South Park, oddly enough, figure out how to stop this crisis but are, unfortunately, trapped in the mountains of Peru leaving only Randy to figure out how to stop this madness.
About Last Night...: When Barack Obama becomes President of the United States, South Park becomes a town divided with half of the town celebrating the victory and the other half seeing his election as a sign of the coming end times. While South Park erupts into chaos, Obama and McCain assemble a team of masterminds to pull off history's greatest jewel heist.
Elementary School Musical: Stan, worried that Wendy will dump him, decides to join the rest of the kids in their love of song and dance. Cartman, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with it. This new trend, however, has resulted in Butters' increasing popularity among the other students, so Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny join forces to stop Butters from becoming cooler than they are in the eyes of their fellow students.
The Ungroundable: In the season finale, Butters thinks that the other kids at South Park believe him to be a vampire. He joins up with a group of other students who pretend to be vampires while the goth kids lament their culture being co-opted by a bunch of conformists, particularly when no one seems to realize that being a goth kid is not the same as being a vampire kid.
All in all, this is another fantastic season from a series that seems to never really lag in quality. While not every episode is an instant classic, each one offers enough laughs and hilarious gags to give it plenty of replay value. The writing remains sharp as a tack and the show's fearlessness, it's penchant for attacking all that is wrong with the world, really gives it a lot more staying power than similarly 'grown up' animated series like those that air on Adult Swim. By creating a cast of characters who are able to adapt to pretty much any current event, pop culture trend of political catastrophe Parker and Stone have managed to somehow turn a completely retarded series of ideas into one of the funniest series to ever air on television.
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 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.
Once again, the biggest supplement in this set is the selection of mini-commentary tracks from the series creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone that appear for each and every episode in the collection. While most of these run for no longer than four or five 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 and what they were going for when writing a particular bit. 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.
This time, however, there are more than just the mini-commentaries to enjoy, there are some featurettes as well. First up is Making Boobage: Behind The Scenes Of "Major Boobage" which is a thirteen minute piece that shows us how the major Heavy Metal style sequences from that episode were constructed. It takes us through the animation process and shows us how storyboards were used, how live-action models were used and how computers were used to create the episode. Behind The Scenes: "About Last Night" is an interesting look at how 'last minute' the series really is. We get to go behind the scenes the day before the episode was to air to see what hasn't been finished yet and why. The last featurette is Six Days To South Park: A Day-by-Day Making Of South Park. This is an eighty-two minute documentary that shows how the Super Fun Time episode started off as an idea that turned into a finished cartoon. We see the entire creative process laid out from start to finish and get to check out how the animation was done, how the voice work was done, and how the episode was finished up. Narrated by some of the animators who work on the series, this is a pretty in-depth examination of the how this series works and it's fairly interesting even if it is way too clip happy for its own good.
Aside from that, we get a trailer for the Cult Of Cartman DVD, menus for each disc and chapter selection options. Inside the packaging we find an insert/advertisement for the Season Twelve Blu-ray release and a coupon explaining how to get your own digital copy of Season Twelve.
South Park - The Complete Twelfth Season is another excellent selection of episodes. As always, some episodes work better than others, but each one 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 improves on the lack of extras that hampered previous releases by adding a few fun featurettes in with the trademark mini-commentaries. 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.