Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 9, 2007)
Now that we have Season 10 on DVD, South Park is almost up to date. I doubt they’ll ever catch up totally unless/until the show ends, so since Season 10’s DVD set emerges in the middle of 2007’s Season 11, this is close enough!
This DVD release gives us all 14 episodes from 2006. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which also is the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come straight from the DVD’s liner notes.
The Return of Chef (aired 3/22/06): “Chef returns to South Park after spending time away with a group called ‘The Super Adventure Club’. While Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman are thrilled to have their old friend back, they notice that he’s saying some really ‘trippy’ things. When Chef’s strange behavior starts getting him in trouble, the boys risk everything to save him.”
Some episodes of South Park work best when you know about the series’ outside drama. That’s definitely the case with “Return”, since if you don’t know about the controversy related to Isaac Hayes’ departure from the show, it loses much of its appeal. It acts as an attempt to poke fun at Hayes and his devotion to Scientology.
In that regard, it only sporadically succeeds. The funniest moments come during the first few minutes just because the Chef dialogue is cobbled together in such an intentionally clumsy way that it really amuses – and I mean really, as I laughed harder at that than anything I’ve seen in a while.
Unfortunately, once we get Chef’s kiddie-molesting lines and the pedophiles of the Super Adventure Club, the show loses steam. The perverted gags are predictable and not very good, so they sap the episode of the energy it boasted at the start. A few more laughs emerge, but the thinly veiled slam on the Scientologists – which South Park already did – causes “Return” to falter. At least the ending almost redeems this otherwise disappointing episode.
Smug Alert! (aired 3/29/06): “Kyle and his family are moving away. The only way Stan can get his best friend back is to convince everyone to start driving hybrid cars. Just as everyone starts to feel really good about what they’re doing for the environment, scientists discover a dark, stormy mass accumulating over the town.”
Funny – recently the Washington Post has featured a debate on “Prius politics”, and “Smug” highlights that issue. This is the kind of thing South Park does best, as it pokes holes in the self-righteous among us. The best moments come when Kyle’s family goes to San Francisco, a bastion of pious behavior. Other aspects of the program offer a delightfully nasty take on self-appointed do-gooders. There’s some hypocrisy on display, as South Park often likes to smell its own farts, too, but I still like the program.
Cartoon Wars Part I (aired 4/5/06): “Cartman and Kyle are at war over the popular cartoon Family Guy. When the creators of the show announce that they will show the image of the prophet Mohammed, the network threatens to ban the episode. Cartman sees this as his chance to get Family Guy off the air for good. The two boys embark upon a mad chase across the country, and the fate of Family Guy lies with whichever boy reaches Hollywood first.”
When a series runs a two-part episode, I prefer to save my comments until I get to its conclusion. So look for my thoughts down there!
Cartoon Wars Part II (aired 4/12/06): “After leaving Kyle injured on the side of the road, Cartman races to the headquarters of Family Guy, determined to put an end to the show once and for all.”
“Wars” pokes fun at itself to a degree, but – more importantly – it slams Family Guy. How that show has earned an audience escapes me, as it features mostly cheap, obvious gags or nonsensical pop culture references that exist for no reason other than to seem clever. Cartman usually follows wrong-headed paths, but in his single-minded hatred for Family Guy, he’s right on the money for once. It also lampoons the idiocy that surrounded the whole Mohammed cartoon hubbub a few years ago. “Wars” probably belabors its points – which the series often does – but still gets in enough laughs to succeed.
A Million Little Fibers (aired 4/19/06): “Towelie gets over his drug addiction and writes his memoirs. With Oprah’s support, his book becomes a bestseller, and his story inspires millions to turn their lives around. When it’s revealed that Towelie fabricated the key premise of his book, Oprah retaliates. The grand dame of daytime television won’t stand for being lied to.”
I always thought Towelie was a borderline character, but his use here works really well. The concept of a towel’s autobiography – and his impersonation of a human to make this fly – is damned goofy, and the side plot that involves talking parts of Oprah’s anatomy proves surprisingly successful. It’s an odd episode, as the South Park residents don’t pop up at any point; it’s all Towelie, all the time. It becomes weird even for South Park, but it’s pretty good.
Manbearpig (aired 4/26/06): “Former Vice President Al Gore speaks to the students of South Park Elementary about a serious threat to the planet: Manbearpig. Gore enlists the boys’ help to search for the elusive creature and gets them all trapped in a cave-in. While searching for a way out, Cartman finds hidden treasure. He quickly figures out a way to escape with the treasure without having to share it.”
I don’t think series head honchos Matt Parker and Trey Stone don’t like to openly state their political affiliations, but theories that they’re pretty conservative receive a lot of support from this season. First “Cartoon Wars” makes George Bush look like a reasonable, intelligent person, and then this one paints Al Gore as a moronic, sensationalistic Chicken Little. Look, Gore can be a self-aggrandizing blowhard, but I think this episode lashes out at his cause without much logic. And it’s just not a funny one, which is the bigger problem; I might’ve chuckled a couple times, but I don’t think much amusement pops up here.
TSST (aired 5/3/06): “When Cartman’s mom realizes she can’t control her son anymore, she gets help from an expert. The ‘Dog Whisperer’ may have what it takes, but Eric Cartman’s not going down without a fight.”
Cartman-centered shows usually work well, and this one has a number of good moments. Anytime we get to see Cartman’s worst behavior, the program becomes more amusing. “TSST” portrays Cartman in a funny light, especially when he plots to kill his mother. (It’s funnier than that sounds.) The show actually scores some surprisingly subtle – for South Park - points about how parents create bad kids.
Make Love, Not Warcraft (aired 10/4/06): “There’s trouble in the online gaming world when a mad gamer won’t play by the rules. The boys dedicate their lives to defeating the renegade and saving the World of Warcraft.”
Am I the only one who thinks “Love” feels more like a commercial for World of Warcraft than an actual episode? The series already had fun with the kids portrayed as anime characters, so this one comes across as a rehash of that. Some funny moments result anyway, but the show’s a disappointment.
Mystery of the Urinal Deuce (aired 10/11/06): “The world’s biggest conspiracy of all-time is finally uncovered when Cartman exposes the true culprit behind the September 11th attacks. Stan and Kyle come face to face with the masterminds who pulled off the most elaborate, intricate and flawlessly executed operation in American history.”
Only South Park could connect someone pooping in an elementary school urinal with 9/11. The parts with “The Hardly Boys” fall flat, mostly because they do little more than shoot for some lame, obvious gay jokes. Still, I like the way the show mocks conspiracy nuts, so it manages to succeed overall.
Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy (aired 10/18/06): “Cartman is appointed to the post of School Hallway Monitor at South Park Elementary. In his new role, Cartman takes it personally when an infraction is committed in his jurisdiction. When Kyle discovers that a teacher is having sex with a student, he and Cartman team up to put a stop to the inappropriate behavior.”
I kept waiting for “Boy” to really go somewhere, but it never did. Cartman’s take on the whole bounty hunter thing was surprisingly ineffective, and the that parts with Ike were pretty lame. I know the show wanted to make a point with the double standard whereby adult man/young girl is sick but adult woman/young boy is admirable, but things never percolated.
Hell On Earth 2006 (aired 10/25/06): “Satan is throwing the biggest Halloween costume party ever, and no one will be admitted without a wristband. Just like a girl getting ready for her Sweet Sixteen, Satan is busy checking the RSVP list and deciding what costume to wear to the big event. Every detail must be perfect for the Prince of Darkness. But even Satan can’t foresee everything. The antics of the most notorious serial killers of all-time threaten his fun.”
Season 10 limps on with another mediocre episode. Like so many of its brethren, this one displays the superficial qualities that make the series work, but the gags just don’t register much of the time. “Hell” usually becomes pretty predictable and stale, though attempts to get the ghost of Biggie Smalls to LA for the party entertain.
Go God Go (aired 11/1/06): “South Park Elementary faces strong opposition to the topic of evolution being taught to the 4th graders. Cartman can’t be bothered with what’s going on in class. He’s busy with his plan to propel himself into the future where he will arrive on the precise release date of the newest, hottest game.”
If nothing else, “Go” amuses due to Garrison’s hilarious “explanation” of evolution. Cartman’s desperate attempt to survive the wait for the Wii also entertained. I like the fact that when Cartman finds himself stuck 500 years in the future, he doesn’t care that everyone he knows is dead; he’s only upset that he still can’t get a Wii. Some downs emerge, but overall this turns into a good program.
God God Go XII (aired 11/8/06): “In the previous episode, Cartman froze himself in an attempt to make his three-week wait for a Nintendo Wii pass quickly. A freak accident landed him over 500 years in the future, and he’s now stuck there. The future is a godless place with warring factions, angry sea otters and no Nintendo.”
I’ll give the folks at South Park this: they took the simple concept of an impatient kid and turned it into something radically different. We began with Cartman’s desire for a Wii and ended up in a future society of warring atheists. I do like the fact that even faced with all the advances achieved over 500 years, all Cartman cares about is playing with the Wii. We get a pretty good parody of cheesy sci-fi TV shows in this goofy but good show.
Stanley’s Cup (aired 11/15/06): “Stan Marsh has hit rock bottom. He’s got no job, no bicycle and his only way out of a bad situation is to coach the local peewee hockey team. Once a hotshot peewee hockey player himself, Marsh is still living with the memory of how he let his team down when he missed the winning shot in the big game. Now he’s about to find out that being a coach means facing your past. He’s determined to show his kids what it’s like to be winners!”
Season 10 ends on a good note with “Cup”. The program embraces a mix of clichés to become entertaining as it parodies sports movies. While it doesn’t fully redeem Season 10, it’s one of the year’s better shows – with an ending that seems super-dark even for this series.
South Park has always been an up and down series, but Season 10 seems more “down” than usual. While prior seasons manage to produce at least three or four great episodes, I can’t find anything here that qualifies as better than “pretty good”.