Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 3, 2009)
After more than a decade, the South Park juggernaut continues with Season 12. In this four-disc package, we locate all 14 episodes from 2008. 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.
Tonsil Trouble (aired 3/12/08): “After going in for a routine tonsillectomy, a botched transfusion leaves Cartman afflicted with an incurable disease. When he finds no comfort in his friends and family, how far will he go to find a cure?”
Like Season 11’s “Le Petit Tourette”, “Tonsil” makes attempts to raise awareness of an issue, specifically the way that society seems to have forgotten about AIDS. It doesn’t do a ton in that vein, though, and it mostly just kind of rambles. It scores a few laughs, but it’s not one of the better episodes.
Britney’s New Look (aired 3/19/08): “When news breaks that Britney Spears is in South Park, the boys devise a plan to take her picture and sell it to the media. The stales change when she tries to kill herself after she discovers they have tricked her. Britney is left horribly disfigured after the suicide attempt, and Kyle and Stan feel responsible. They set out to take her to the one place where she can finally live in peace and on the way discover the shocking secret behind her popularity.”
No one ever accused South Park of subtlety, and “Look” beats us over the head with its commentary on the national obsession with Britney. It actually makes her seem sympathetic to a degree, a trend that somewhat ignores Britney’s own complicity in her downfall. With or without the social comments, it’s simply not an entertaining episode. A few laughs emerge in the show’s early moments, but it proves tedious much of the time.
Major Boobage (aired 3/26/08): “In a South Park homage to the film Heavy Metal, the boys try to get Kenny off the latest drug craze that’s captured the junior high and under set.”
I already thought Heavy Metal felt like self-parody, so it becomes a challenge for anyone to successfully spoof it. “Boobage” succeeds mostly because it doesn’t offer much material based on Heavy Metal. Instead, it mostly mocks the overreaction that accompanies allegations of kiddie drug use.
The Heavy Metal elements add humor to a potentially flat show, as does the goofiness of “cheesing”, the addiction portrayed here. In an unusual move, “Boobage” actually turns Cartman into a force of good, as it parodies the Anne Frank situation. It’s not a great show, but it has more than a few good moments.
Canada on Strike (aired 4/2/08): “After the citizens of the world fail to acknowledge ‘Canada Appreciation Day’, Canadians everywhere go on strike. As a result, people from Denmark flock to the US to take the place of the striking Canadians. Ike pickets in solidarity with his countrymen and the boys fear for his life, so they step in to broker a settlement with the head of the World Canadian Bureau.”
Cartman still amuses me after more than 10 years, and the series’ goofy depiction of Canadians also continues to delight me. They’re played as such perky hicks that they always delight. “Strike” doesn’t have much of a plot, but it doesn’t matter; the Canadian content is more than enough to create an enjoyable program.
Eek, A Penis! (aired 4/9/08): “With Ms. Garrison out of the school in search of a way to be the man he was always intended to be, Cartman is given authoritah over the classroom. After doing an exemplary job as substitute, Cartman is sent to help inner-city youth.”
I wouldn’t call “Eek” a one-joke episode. No – it’s a two-joke episode. Half of its attempted laughs come from the sight of a mouse with a penis growing from its back as it scampers through town, while the other half derive from Cartman’s take on Edward James Olmos from <>Stand and Deliver. Neither side succeeds. Add to that some heavy-handed moralizing and “Eek” doesn’t soar.
Over Logging (aired 4/16/08): “One day the citizens of South Park wake up to find the Internet is gone. When Randy hears there may still be some Internet out in California, he packs up the family and heads west in search of a signal. Shortly after crossing the California border, the Marshes arrive at a refugee camp where they are rationed to only seconds of Internet a day. Randy doesn’t know how much longer he can last without unlimited access to the World Wide Web.”
When I come into an episode that uses Randy in a major way, I assume it won’t be very good. Maybe we’ve gotten some good Randy shows, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. Does “Logging” deviate from this trend? Yeah, pretty much, as it offers a clever look at our dependence on the Internet. It casts events in a Grapes of Wrath spirit and proves amusing. This turns into one of the season’s better efforts.
Super Fun Time (aired 4/23/08): “Ms. Garrison takes the kids on an educational field trip to a living museum, Pioneer Village, where all the workers remain dedicated to staying in character. While there, Cartman makes Butters sneak away from the class to go to the amusement center located next door.”
As someone who grew up in shouting distance of Colonial Williamsburg, I always maintained a healthy disdain for those annoying “in-character” presentations. I guess the South Park dudes feel the same way, so they take out their irritation with a darned funny episode. The insane dedication of the Pioneer Village employees is hilarious and produces consistent laughs. The Cartman parts aren’t quite as good, but they have their moments in this solid episode.
The China Probrem (aired 10/8/08): “After watching the opening ceremonies of the recent Olympic games, Cartman is sure that the Chinese are just days away from invading America, but he can’t get anyone to listen to him because the entire country is haunted by the tragic rape of someone near and dear to them. Only Butters will stand with Cartman as he confronts the Chinese.”
“Probrem” boasts the kernels of a good episode, but neither of its subplots really excels. Most of the Cartman story amuse due to his idiotically racist antics, but those aren’t enough to sustain the show. The “rape” side of things is funny for a few minutes, and it clearly shows us how the South Park folks feel about one of 2008’s blockbusters. That theme doesn’t really go anywhere either, so it falls flat. This becomes a mediocre episode.
Breast Cancer Show Ever (aired 10/15/08): “After Cartman makes fun of breast cancer, Wendy challenges him to a fight. Word quickly spreads throughout South Park Elementary and all bets are on Cartman. But Wendy is really angry this time, and Cartman, afraid of losing to a girl, is desperate to find a way to get out of the fight without looking like a chicken.”
As much as I usually love Cartman episodes, I can’t say “Ever” does a lot for me. It tends to be a pretty one-note show, and it fails to use Cartman to his best advantage. The program tosses out some good moments – like Cartman eating his own underwear – but overall, it feels average.
Pandemic (aired 10/22/08): “Peruvian flute bands are invading cities around the globe, but this pandemic doesn’t stop the boys from seizing an opportunity to make some money. They start up their own pan flute band and begin raking in the cash. Their success is short-lived, however, when the government rounds up all the flute bands and places them in an internment camp.”
When a two-part episode appears, I defer my comments until I discuss the second show. So look down there for my remarks!
Pandemic 2: The Startling (aired 10/29/08): “Giant guinea pigs are attacking cities all over the world. The boys have the key that will save everyone from the onslaught, but they’re stranded in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Meanwhile, Randy bravely documents the destruction while trying to save his family.”
Sometimes I don’t think the South Park folks quite know when to quit. They shoot for epic episodes like these even though the shows might be more entertaining if they concentrated on a smaller scale. The notion of the pan flute bands might’ve worked better if we stayed with that side of things; when we jump into the government conspiracy/ Cloverfield parody, matters suffer. Sure, we still get some funny bits – I do enjoy the self-commentary found in Craig’s remarks – but the two-part program gives me a “more is less” vibe.
About Last Night… (aired 11/5/08): “The results are in and Barack Obama has been elected the 44th President of the United States! Half of the citizens of South Park take to the streets to celebrate while the other half prepare for the end of the world. Meanwhile, Obama and McCain disclose their real post-election plans as they assemble their team and attempt one of the biggest jewelry heists of all-time.”
“Night” offers another combination of a big plot – the Obama/McCain heist – and a smaller scale commentary. I prefer the latter side of things, as the show neatly spoofs the absurd overreactions shown by both sides of the political coin. The Obama/McCain part gets a bit ridiculous, but it’s more amusing than expected, as it gives us a clever Ocean’s 11 take. Both portions connect well enough to make this a fun episode.
Elementary School Musical (aired 11/12/08): “Stan realizes he could lose Wendy if he doesn’t get on board with the latest fad to hit South Park Elementary. Cartman would rather kill himself than sing and dance in the halls and classrooms of the school. But when Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman all realize that Butters is now more popular than they are, they have no choice but to give in to peer pressure.”
Like so many South Park shows, “Musical” comes with a kernel of a good episode. The musical numbers delight, and when the boys struggle with the way the singing and dancing trend impacts their popularity, the program works. However, the parts with the new boy’s gay dad flop, and those make this an erratic episode.
The Ungroundable (aired 11/19/08): “Butters is convinced he’s seen a vampire at the school. Tired of being picked on by his parents and his friends, he is tempted to give himself over to the dark side. Meanwhile, the Goth kids are angry and frustrated when the other kids can’t tell the difference between a Goth and a vampire.”
After an inconsistent run, Season 12 ends well with the goofy “Ungroundable”. In an unusual move, it barely features the usual four boys; it spreads its time pretty evenly between Butters and the Goth kids. I like the Butters bits best, as his attempt to become a vampire amuses. This ends up as a good show and a nice finish to S12.