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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » South Park - The Complete Eighth Season
South Park - The Complete Eighth Season
Paramount // Unrated // August 29, 2006
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted August 28, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Product:
According to creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park's eighth season landed smack dab in the middle of what they refer to as 'The Year from Hell'. During the production of the 14 episodes that make up a full run of the classic animated series, the duo had begun production on their puppet epic, Team America: World Police. Realizing rather quickly that the production was going to tax every creative fiber they possessed, the pair proceeded to polish the big screen comedy to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, that left a whole half a season of Park to produce. Completely bereft of ideas, Parker and Stone panicked, then decided to stick it out, using whatever they could as inspiration for their continually clever cartoon classic. The result was the usual SP brilliance, a mixture of brash social satire and loveable lowbrow humor. While Season Eight does have its less than brilliant moments, any show that features a crazed Mel Gibson, a super slutty Paris Hilton, and a political campaign between a douche and a turd sandwich is still in full control of its farcical faculties.

The Plot:
For anyone unfamiliar with the series, South Park centers on the occasionally outrageous adventures of Colorado grade schoolers Kyle Broflovsky, Stan Marsh, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick. Over the several years of the show's narrative, the boys have become more clearly defined as individuals, with Stan showing the most curiosity, Kyle the most control, Kenny the most compunction and Cartman the most crassness. Together they make up a stellar symbol of post-modern American youth, eager to find their way in the world while consistently awash in a sea of media hype, cultural chaos and interpersonal power struggles. Recently, new friends like Timmy, Jimmy, Tweek and Butters have played important roles in their adventures, while celebrities have also stopped by to lend support and/or cause trouble. The result is animated anarchy of the highest level, with everyone from school chef Chef to guidance counselor Mr. Mackey providing fodder for the boy's foolishness. In Season Eight, the gang gets involved in the following hyperactive hi-jinx.

Disc 1:
"Good Times with Weapons"
The boys learn that martial arts weaponry can be a lot of fun – that is, until someone gets hurt…REAL BAD!
"Up the Down Steroid"
As Cartman decides to compete in the Special Olympics, Jimmy starts exploring the performance enhancement capabilities of steroids.
"The Passion of the Jew"
Mel Gibson's Bible epic has a strange effect on the town of South Park – particularly among Carman, Kyle and Stan.
"You Got F'D in the A"
After being "served" the South Park boys have to learn to dance, that is, if Butters can overcome some painful memories from his past.
Disguised as a robot, Cartman tries to learn all of Butters' deepest secrets. Instead, he's mistaken for a weapon.

Disc 2:
"The Jeffersons"
When Michael "Jefferson" moves into South Park, the boys are initially intrigued. But his strange behavior and seemingly sad son concerns them all – except Cartman.
Humans from the future find a way back in time and return to South Park looking for one thing – JOBS!
"Douche and Turd"
When PETA determines that South Park Elementary cannot use animals as their school mascot, the boys are given a rather strange choice of potential candidates.
"Something Wall Mart This Way Comes"
When the famed retailer opens a store in South Park, the citizenry responds with an almost zombie-like devotion. Naturally, this raises the boys' interest.
When their pre-school pal Trent gets released from juvie, the boys get nervous. After all, he took the wrap for something horrible they did while still toddlers.

Disc 3:
"Quest for Ratings"
Desperate to one-up each other, the South Park gang looks for ways of improving the ratings on their school-wide morning show.
"Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset"
Paris Hilton stops off in South Park, and she's got more than shameless self-promotion on her mind. She wants Butters – as her new pet!
"Cartman's Incredible Gift"
After a fall, Cartman discovers that he has rare psychic abilities. Naturally, the police want him to help them with their most difficult cases.
"Woodland Critter Christmas"
As the holiday season approaches, a group of cuddly woodland creatures ask Stan to help them with their celebration. Too bad they worship Satan.

The DVD:
By now, most people have their opinion of South Park pretty well wrapped up. You either love it or loathe it, enjoy its overt outrageousness or can't stand how sophomoric and juvenile it is. Season Eight is a little too late to get into the whole pro or con argument, and when you add in the fact that the season was created under less than stellar conditions, the realization that it still retains its integrity and energy is startling. Indeed, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are some of the most talented satirists working in comedy today, and their animated festival of foul language and razor sharp observations shows no signs of slipping. Actually, several of the episodes featured as part of Season Eight stand side by side with many of the show's best remembered moments ever. In fact, it's safe to say that South Park has managed something other shows of its kind have frequently failed at – it finds consistently inventive ways of keeping its targets and themes crystal clear, while maintaining a uncompromising level of narrative complexity. Even when they fall back into foolish rationales or explanations (crab people, anyone?), the manner in which it is presented seems as solid as the day the show first premiered.

Season Eight does include some marvelous installments, with a trio of terrific narratives starting off the set. "Good Times with Weapons" uses an inventive anime style to demonstrate how Japanese imagery and the influence of manga comics have created a cultural challenge for anyone who's a fan of pen and ink efforts. "Up the Down Steroid" (which was under consideration long before The Ringer arrived in theaters) offers the double delight of seeing Cartman play retarded, and handi-capable stand-up comic Jimmy juiced up with 'roid rage. Even more intriguing is how South Park managed to cull a large amount of laughs out of a premise as prickly as this one. For further proof of such an incredible creative convergence, the impressive "Passion of the Jew" manages to meld the Holocaust, Mel Gibson, and his cinematic look at Christ's last hours into a wicked parody of ego run amuck and ideology gone gratuitous. Rounding out the first disc are "You Got F'D in the A" and "AWESOM – O", two episodes that argue for the show's varying approaches. Mocking You Got Served seems like the perfect South Park fodder, while the adventures of Cartman's cardboard robot argues for the flawless realization of youth's foibles.

Such a personal approach is all but missing from Disc 2. Instead, we get one of the best Michael Jackson spoofs of all time, a look at how evil a discount superstore really can be, and why even the best intentions often provide perplexing, puzzling results. In "The Jeffersons", Parker and Stone focus on the fact that, as a father, a certain 'Wacko Jacko' doesn't deserve to continue on in incredibly creepy manchild mode. "Something Wall Mart This Way Comes" takes the topical concept of the Arkansas-based retailer's destruction of the Mom and Pop business and builds a Poltergeist like horror story out of the situation. "Douche and Turd" uses yet another clamorous current event – the election process – as a means of pointing out the relative ridiculousness in agenda-based decisions and constituency controlled showboating. Even immigrants get a tweak when the "Goobacks" arrive from the future, taking all the horrible, crappy jobs nobody wants. Naturally, Parker and Stone provide lots of angry "Amurikans" who clamor over how these beings have swooped and in taken their potential employment. Yet it's "Pre-School" that remains perhaps the most memorable of the entire selection of Season Eight episodes. Using small child actors to emulate their voices, the SP boys are seen in their toddler stage, stumbling around over an accidental atrocity that will haunt their fragile youth. Riffing on everything from Cape Fear to Star Trek, this is a magnificent outing, and not just for a chance to see – and hear – a baby Cartman.

Our final Disc drops the ball a bit, offering a 50/50 selection of outstanding to average installments. Paris Hilton could probably sue considering the diabolic drubbing at the hands of Parker and Stone during "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset". Too bad then that TRUTH is the ultimate defense to defamation. Similarly, the saga of a group of Devil worshipping forest creatures gives the Season's Yuletide episode, "Woodland Critter Christmas", an especially subversive kick. Even with the slightly silly twist ending, we still have a nice, nasty jab at the Rankin-Bass version of wholesome holiday celebration. On the downside, "Cartman's Incredible Gift" is kind of corny. Instead of being a blistering lampoon of The Dead Zone, it sort of falters, looking for an overall purpose. Similarly, "Quest for Ratings" is only mildly amusing, never quite living up to its initial set-up and overall premise. Happily, they are the exceptions to what is a superior standard operation procedure for the series. Indeed, both of the previously mentioned episodes are far better than anything Family Guy or its dud of a companion piece American Dad have come up with lately. In fact, it is safe to say that South Park continues to rival The Simpsons as the best animated program of all time. Season Eight illustrates once again how imaginative and acerbic this sensational series truly is.

The Video:
As usual, Paramount gives the South Park: The Complete Eighth Season DVD set a wonderful visual package. Each episode is pristine in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with colors and details sharp and clear. Dividing up just 14 installments over three discs means that the image quality is guaranteed and the imagery is almost always dazzling.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 also sounds solid, especially during the musical moments. Dialogue is always easily discernible and the mix doesn't have that typically flat feeling of most television shows.

The Extras:
While it would have been nice to flesh out the extras with something other than brief segments for Comedy Central shows (like trailers, really), we can at least be thankful for the inclusion of some memorable alternate narrative tracks. Indeed, the sole bonus feature here is another installment of those tried-and-true timekillers known as "commentary-minis." Speaking for three to five minutes at a time, this compendium of recollection clips equals about 45 to 70 minutes of solid Parker and Stone substance. More like a season overview than an episode-by-episode breakdown, the commentary-minis can be a hoot. A lot of time is spent on how hurried and eleventh-hour most of the show's decisions are (Parker constantly points to an episode and says "we thought of this literally at the last minute") and the difficulties surrounding Team America: World Police. We also get to learn what Parker REALLY thinks of Paris Hilton, and why Michael Jackson finally fell under the series' satiric eye. While these microscopic conversations will never take the place of full-blown, scene-by-scene deconstructions of the series, they illustrate what wonderfully witty hosts Parker and Stone are – so much so that you really don't want this sole DVD extra to ever end.

Final Thoughts:
Consistently funny, regularly insightful and always outrageous, South Park: The Complete Eighth Season easily earns a Highly Recommended rating. With the premier of the second half of Season 10 just around the corner (the show's usually hit the airwaves in Fall and Spring), there will be even more shake-ups for the South Park gang. Chef is dead, the show has taunted both the Muslims and – perhaps the greatest evil of all – Seth MacFarlane, and Al Gore is still hoping to prove that a creature known as 'Manbearpig' actually exists. And since the Dog Whisperer's attempts to tame him have more or less failed, Cartman will continue his unabashed reign of terror while Stan and Kyle watch on in shock and dismay. In essence, it will be almost business as usual for the comical Colorado town. Truth be told, South Park can last for as long as creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone want it to. It is a genuine reflection of their talent, an aptitude that doesn't appear to be dissipating anytime soon.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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