When Trey Parker and Matt Stone were given some cash and asked to create a special
Christmas card, they had no idea their short animated video entitled The Spirit
of Christmas would be the genesis for the long-running animated series South Park
that debuted on Comedy Central in the fall of 1997. The Christmas card featured
four foul-mouthed kids for South Park, Colorado named Kyle, Stan, Cartman and
Kenny. The gang interacted and watched as Jesus and Santa Clause battled over
who would control Christmas. After circulating Hollywood on bootlegs, it garnered
the two a deal at Comedy Central where the continuing adventures of the kids continue
to push the boundaries on what can and cannot be done on regular animated television.
Cartman and the other kids first appeared on Comedy Central in August of 1997
with an initial order of 13 episodes. Now finishing up its sixth season, the
show is still as innovative—if not more so—than when it first appeared.
The simple animation style, which is done on computers, allow for quick turnaround
on the episodes meant it could deal with very timely subjects and topics. Previously
only available as themed or single disc sets, Comedy Central and Warner Brothers
have finally given the fans what they wanted with a great three-disc set of
the entire first season.
Episode 1 – Cartman Gets an Anal Probe: Cartman believes
that he is being visited by aliens in the middle of the night. Much to his dismay,
the gang does nothing to change his mind and only the cows in the episode seem
to know what he’s talking about. After Chef explains to the boys about
aliens and warns them to keep an eye on Cartman, strange things begin to emerge
from Cartman’s rear. The best scene in the episode (aside from the cow-alien
conversation) has to be the 100-foot satellite dish emerging from Cartman’s
Episode 2 – Weight Gain 4000: Cartman inexplicably wins
an essay contest and Mr. Garrison is more than thrilled to learn that his old
nemesis Kathy Lee Gifford will be presenting the award. It seems that Garrison
holds a grudge against her involving a talent show incident form their past.
His plans to kill her pale in comparison to the startling transformation that
Cartman takes on when he becomes fascinated with the television product Weight
Gain 4000 and its “BEEFCAKE” screaming pitchman. This episode features
one of the best Kenny deaths of the series.
Episode 3 – Volcano: Stan’s Uncle Jimbo and friend
Ned decide to take the boys on a hunting trip in the woods. Jimbo does a hilarious
bit where he teaches the kids how to shoot endangered animals legally; it involves
shouting, “They’re coming right for us” before firing. While
in the mountains, they are unaware of the impending volcano eruption. After
being stranded in the woods, Cartman attempts to scare the gang with his stories
of Skuzzle-Butt and his leg made from Patrick Duffy. Things get out of control
when the media and government arrive to check the volcano and see Cartman disguised
as Skuzzle-Butt. In the end it’s up to the real Skuzzle-Butt to save the
Episode 4 – Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride: The
kids fear that Stan’s new dog Sparky (voiced by George Clooney) is gay
and Stan is pressured as the star quarterback of the football team into doing
whatever necessary to win the big game against Middle Park. Jimbo and Ned devise
a plan that involves John Stamos’ brother, who is going to sing “Loving
You” at the half-time show. Stan learns about being gay from Big Gay Al
and his Gay Animal Sanctuary. Happy with the fate of his dog, he returns to
the football game in time to witness the explosive finally to Ned and Jimbo’s
Episode 5 – An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig: Kyle gets
a pet elephant, Cartman gets a pot-bellied pig, and Stand gets continual beatings
from his older sister Shelly (“Are you making fun of my head-gear?”).
Kyle intends to breed his elephant with Cartman’s pig and fellow student
Terrence believes he can clone a human before mates the two animals. Chef explains
about making sweet love and the boys have a plan. Terrence and his father Dr.
Mephisto have created a clone of Stan with a giant head that rampages through
the city. When the science fair projects are turned in, the elephant-pig combination
bears a striking resemblance to a South Park person.
Episode 6 – Death: Stan’s grandfather arrives
for his 102nd birthday party and continually tries to get the boys to kill him
as he only wants to die. The boys parents are appalled by the TV show Terrence
and Phillip and a terrible case of explosive diarrhea has overtaken the town
with hilarious results. Kyle’s parents start a protest against the network
that airs Terrence and Phillip and the town follows along and brings their diarrhea
with them. Will the boys save Terrence and Phillip and find a way to avoid the
grandfather’s death wish?
Episode 7 – Pink Eye: It’s Halloween at South
Park and everyone has their costume picked out. All Hell breaks lose when Kenny
is killed at the beginning and his body is taken to the morgue. Instead of embalming
fluid he gets filled with Worcestershire sauce, which turns him into a zombie.
He still makes the bus to school the next morning and makes it to school where
Cartman causes quite a ruckus when everyone sees he’s dressed as Hitler.
After the town is overrun with Zombies, Chef tells them about Zombies only to
become one himself and he even looks like Michael Jackson. The kids find out
that killing the head zombie will return everyone to normal, but do they know
it’s Kenny and can they do it.
Episode 8 – Starvin’ Marvin: The boys decide to
sponsor a starving Ethiopian after seeing a Sally Struthers commercial, mostly
because of the promise of a sports watch. They are stunned a few days later
when a real Ethiopian child arrives at the door. They name him Marvin. The government
arrives a few days later to take Marvin back, but the apprehend Cartman instead.
He’s taken to Ethiopia just as the town is about to face of against a
horde of mutant turkeys. Marvin eventually gets tiered of the ways of South
Park and returns to Ethiopia with a load of dead mutant turkeys.
Episode 9 – Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo: Kyle is ridiculed
at school because he doesn’t celebrate Christmas and is further ridiculed
when he sings the Christmas Poo song. Kyle’s mom protests the celebration
of Christmas in the school and Kyle is distraught until Mr. Hanky appears to
him in the bathroom. The town continues to think Kyle is crazy until the other
children start to believe that Mr. Hanky is real.
Episode 10 – Damien: A new student named Damien has
arrived at school and claims to be the true son of Satan. He proceeds to turn
Kenny into a duck billed platypus and the rest of the school is threatened unless
Jesus appears. After arranging a fight, the pay-per-view battle of the century
Satan vs. Jesus is about to begin. The kids help Jesus train for the fight,
because Satan is 3 times the size of Jesus. At the end of the show, the fight
turns out to be rigged and of course Satan is behind it.
Episode 11 – Tom’s Rhinoplasty: Mr. Garrison takes
some time off to have a little cosmetic surgery and Wendy feels threatened by
the new substitute teacher Ms. Ellen. Wendy tells Ms. Ellen not to “mess”
with her and when chef fails to woo her, he tells the boys that she must be
a lesbian. The boys start to train to be lesbians by ordering Birkenstocks and
practicing a few moves on the carpet. When Ms. Ellen’s affections continues,
Wendy proves not to mess with her by having Ms. Ellen exported as a terrorist.
Meanwhile, Garrison continues to enjoy his newfound looks (his head is now a
cutout of David Hasselhoff).
Episode 12 – Mecha-Streisand: While on a school archeological
dig, Cartman discovers a magic triangle that Barbara Streisand is looking for.
It’s a strange turn of events that involves Leonard Maltin, Sidney Poitier
and Robert Smith from the Cure when Streisand completes the Diamond of Pantios
and is transformed into a Godzilla-like Mecha-beast. Poitier and Smith transform
into creatures as well and defeat her and save the town.
Episode 13 – Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut (1): The
mystery of Cartman’s father is set to be revealed in this episode of South
Park and Cartman switches identities several times in anticipation of his new
heritage. He goes from Indian to Home Boy to several other appearances in hopes
finding a father figure. As his Mom relates the experience of moving to South
Park, he slowly starts to realize that what his friends have always said may
actually be true. Cartman’s only chance is to have his DNA tested, which
Dr. Mephisto offers to do for $3000. The gang tries to win a home video contest
in order to get the prize money and Cartman hopes to use it for his test. The
show ends as a cliffhanger and asks the question, “Who is Eric Cartman’s
father?” Fans would have to wait until the second season to have that
question answered and many did not like it.
Video: Being animation, there’s not much to say about
the quality on this disc. There is a slight improvement in contrast and color
as the season progresses, but there’s nothing noticeably bad about the
transfer provided on this set.
Audio: The Dolby Digital Surround track sounds bright and
clear on these discs, but there’s not any actual show-off material, nor
would there be.
Extras: The few extras included are top-notch. There are two
holiday skits with Cartman and Ned each singing a Christmas song and it’s
hard to decide which is funnier. Also available on this set is the Thanksgiving
short that aired only on the Tonight Show. Perhaps the one feature missing is
the audio commentary Parker and Stone recorded. This has been left off for unknown
reasons (perhaps about some Contact – Jodie Foster comments) but it can
be ordered from the Comedy Central website as separate audio CDs.
Overall: Parker and Stone have created an irreverent show
that pushes boundaries and yet manages to convey some sort of meaningful message
in every episode. Though other sets exist with various episodes, it would be
a shame not to have the entire first year of this groundbreaking show.