Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 12, 2012)
After more than a decade, the South Park juggernaut continued with Season 13. In this two-disc package, we locate all 14 episodes from 2009. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the discs, which also is the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come from the show’s official website.
The Ring (aired 3/11/09): “Kenny takes his new girlfriend to a Jonas Brothers concert where they each get purity rings.”
Season 13 starts with a thud. “Ring” takes on some easy targets and beats us over the head with its ideas. While South Park is often pretty over the top, “Ring” lacks even the most remote sense of subtlety. It has a couple of minor laughs but is far too heavy-handed to succeed.
The Coon (aired 3/18/09): “’The Coon’ rises from the trash and takes his place as a lone vigilante who wipes out crime in the town of South Park.”
The superhero genre takes a poke here, with a particular emphasis on Watchmen. Not much of this seems especially funny; we get a smattering of chuckles, but the show never becomes particularly gut-busting. Nonetheless, the show entertains; it’s certainly a step up over “Ring”.
Margaritaville (aired 3/25/09): “Randy steps forward with a solution to fix the desperate state of the economy.”
This one goes down two opposite paths: a Biblical tale that eventually casts Kyle as Jesus, and a more complicated economic story in which Stan tries to return a margarita blender. The latter works better, as it’s amusing to see Stan’s bizarrely complicated quest to perform a simple task. The former seems less satisfying; it takes some clever twists, but it’s a little too forced.
Eat, Pray, Queef (aired 4/1/09): “Someone plays an April Fool’s joke on the boys and it doesn’t go over well.”
Women think it’s hypocritical that men get so grossed out by various functions related to their particular anatomy – and they’re probably right. Be that as it may, I’m in that camp, so I’m firmly on the side of the guys here. I’m happy for any excuse to develop Terrance and Philip anyway, and their part of the show provides the most amusement.
Fishsticks (aired 4/8/09): “Cartman and Jimmy come up with the funniest joke of all time.”
Parts of this one poke fun at Kanye West, but they don’t really go anywhere. Kanye’s already such an extreme character that it’s pretty tough to really mock him effectively. The development of the lame “fishsticks” joke and Cartman’s attempts to cash in are easily the best parts of the episode; they make it worthwhile.
Pinewood Derby (aired 4/15/09): “Randy has a plan that will assure Stan a first place trophy in this year's Pinewood Derby.”
This episode takes a pretty basic concept – the idea of cheating at Pinewood Derby races – and develops it in nutty ways. While the episode becomes outlandish, it goes down amusing paths, especially as Randy works harder and harder to obscure his lies. This turns into a reasonably solid program.
Fatbeard (aired 4/22/09): “Cartman's dream of living the life of a pirate will come true if he can just get to Somalia.”
While not a bad episode, “Fatbeard” suffers from its one-joke nature. Obviously real pirates are a lot different than pop culture pirates – that’s the theme that attempts to milk the laughs. A few emerge, but not enough to really redeem this pretty flat program.
Dead Celebrities (aired 10/7/09): “Ike is being tormented by paranormal forces. Kyle brings in professional ghost hunters to help save his little brother.”
If nothing else, “Celebrities” gets points for scope, as it parodies a broad range of targets like Poltergeist, Little Miss Sunshine and Sixth Sense. It’s not the funniest episode ever, but it’s clever and entertaining. I’m not quite sure what Chipotle did to merit the slander they receive here, though; I’ve had hundreds of Chipotle burritos and I’ve never crapped blood!
Butters’ Bottom Bitch (aired 10/14/09): “Butters is determined to get his first kiss so his friends won’t make fun of him anymore.”
“Bottom” is a one-joke show, but it’s a pretty good joke. Of all the various characters, Butters is the most naïve, which makes it the most amusing to watch him “sell kisses”. The subplot with the undercover cop doesn’t work as well, but this is still a decent episode.
WTF (aired 10/21/09): “After attending their first WWE match, all the boys want to be professional wrestlers.”
As satire, “WTF” seems out of date; mocking pro wrestling as fake/theatrical got old years ago. Still, the kids’ performances are amusing, and I never tire of the “they took his job!” gag. It’s another entertaining but not great program.
Whale Whores (aired 10/28/09): “Stan takes action to stop the Japanese from killing the world's whales and dolphins.”
Once again, South Park aims at an easy target: reality TV. As usual, it manages to score some barbed laughs, especially when it attacks the Japanese slaughter of whales and dolphins. Overall, though, the show lacks much bite.
The F Word (aired 11/4/09): “The boys fight back against the loud and obnoxious Motorcycle Riders that are disrupting everyone in South Park.”
I’m with the South Park guys when it comes to the negative attitude toward obnoxious bikers. The show’s dissection of “fag” walks shakier ground, though, as it tries hard to convince us the term’s fine for general consumption and not as anti-gay slander. Yeah, the word has evolved, but it’s not quite as simple as the episode wants to make it seem.
Dances with Smurfs (aired 11/11/09): “Cartman is chosen to do the morning announcements at South Park Elementary.”
“Dances” mocks both conservative talk radio and Avatar, a fact made more surprising by the fact that the latter movie came out a month after the episode aired. That’s a minor – and very amusing – aspect of the program, though. Most of the show focuses on Cartman’s megalomania, and that material works. Spoofing crazy radio hosts like Glenn Beck isn’t exactly high art, but Cartman-based episodes are usually good, and this one’s consistently entertaining.
Pee (aired 11/18/09): “The boys' fun-filled day at the water park is about to turn deadly.”
Season 13 ends on a goofy but mediocre note. Half of the show deals with Cartman’s fear of a “minority-majority” society, and the other half focuses on peeing in public water. Neither works especially well; a few laughs emerge, but not much.