I’ve been a fan of South Park ever since a friend introduced me to the internet Christmas card that started it all. It was Santa versus Jesus and these short potty-mouthed kids that somehow wormed their way under your skin. Pretty soon I was downloading the episodes and watching them on my computer. For some reason I can’t quite explain, I’ve very rarely watched an episode on Comedy Central. By the time things were getting tighter and riskier downloading the shorts, the single disc, 4-episode DVDs began to arrive in stores. So my South Park viewing moved from the PC to the DVD player. In a short time season sets began to arrive, and I looked forward to them with much anticipation, still watching it infrequently on television. After all, who needs the commercials and those silly network bugs that distract you on the screen? The series itself evolved in that time. The show was once achieved through a stop-motion process using construction paper cutouts. The animation was crude. After the Christmas card, the characters were significantly redesigned. They had a very evil look on that short. The first couple of episodes brought us an evolution toward the characters we know and love today. After a while the animation went to a computer process. The look remained the same, but gone were the paper cuts and stop-motion photography. As the show progressed there were less and less bleeps. It’s not that the language got any tamer. Standards got a little looser. Finally the bleeps would disappear from at least the DVD releases. And now South Park has crossed another milestone. Welcome to Blu-ray and high definition, South Park.
I often have trouble believing that South Park has been around for as long as it has. It’s not just the passing of 14 years, but the sheer brilliance in the face of an increasingly politically correct society. It’s like watching old episodes of All In The Family. Who believes that Archie Bunker would have any chance of survival in the 21st century? It’s no wonder that Norman Lear has become involved in the series. It’s the last remaining vestige of a once great freedom to be ridiculous and offend. Eric Cartman’s a lot worse than Archie ever was. We always knew that, in his heart, Archie had a soul. Cartman’s a psychopath without a conscience, and in a civilized society we would be terrified of the existence of such a demon spawn…except he’s just so dang funny. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been walking a tightrope for over 13 years now, and it just doesn’t get old. One of the reasons the show doesn’t grow stale is their ability to make such a quick turnaround on current events. Because the show takes literally days to write and produce, they are quite often always the first to address an issue. They had an election-night episode on literally the next day in last season. That means the ideas stay as fresh as the headlines. Finally, you have to credit the expanding universe of good characters. The core group of Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny were great for a lot of years. But, watching this 14th season you have to admire how much Butters has infused himself into that core. We also have such great semi-regulars as Timmy, Jimmy, and Token. These characters allow the stories to expand in ways the core group could not. I’ve honestly come to think of Butters as one of the core now.
So what about the episodes themselves? Let’s play a little game called: The Good The Bad, and The Ugly, shall we?
Medicinal Fried Chicken: This is pretty funny because I can actually see this happening. Colorado bans KFC because it’s bad for you, all the while allowing the sale of medicinal pot. Cartman ends up joining a KFC cartel to smuggle KFC into South Park, while the adult men give themselves cancer so they can legally buy pot.
You Have 0 Friends: We’ve all been solicited to get sucked into Facebook. This is a great look at just how ridiculous that whole situation can get. Cartman runs a stock report-style podcast on who is up or down in the friends market. There’s also a great Tron angle when Stan tries to delete his profile.
Crippled Summer: This is a great rip on the old Warner cartoons. It’s the Summer Camp competitions and Nathan, the leader of the team opposing Jimmy, wants to rub him out. There’s also a great B story where Towlie is on one of those reality shows covering his addiction.
Insheeption: This is both a rip on the hoarding shows and the film Inception. We get to see Mr. Mackey as a kid.
The Coon Trilogy: I loved the 13th season episode The Coon, but it seems that whenever Stone and Parker try too hard it ends up being a bad show. While there are great graphics on this episode with comic panels and monsters for the HD set, the story just gets too convoluted and full of itself. In the commentary they mention it was going to be a single episode. They should have stuck with that idea.
200: This 2 part celebration of the show’s 200th episode had a great idea. All of the celebrities that the show ripped in the past file a class action suite against the city. It really was a clever way to celebrate, but again the guys worked too hard on it and messed it all up. Then there is the whole Comedy Central controversy of bleeping many of the Mohammed references out of fear.
Poor And Stupid: This was a big Cartman episode, so it should have been better.
The Tale Of Scotie McBoogerballs: Another clever idea, just ugly.
Crème Fraiche: Randy is addicted to cooking shows, and it causes him to act rather inappropriately while watching. I’ll never be able to watch another cooking show in my life now. Then there’s the suggestive exercise equipment. It’s just all too ugly to even think about.
Each episode of South Park is presented in an interesting center-expanded 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I’m still not sure what exactly I was looking at. When I compared it to the standard DVD there didn’t seem to be that much more on the screen. Colors are fantastically bright in this 1080i image. Brought to you by a solid AVC/MPEG-4 codec, the picture certainly looks as good as it ever did. You can really appreciate those special things like the comic frames. This is starting to look better with each year.
The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track is perfect. There’s some high-flying music and wonderfully immersive ambient sounds. Otherwise, the audio differs mostly in the greater range of dynamics to the sound. It certainly felt much fuller than the standard DVD.
Stone and Parker are back with their “commentary minis”. The boys do address the controversy in the mini’s but turn it into a joke; when they say they’re about to explain, you get two minutes of beep and are returned to them saying that was basically the story.
Deleted Scenes: (7:14) HD.
Bonus Episode: The Coon from season 13.
I have to say that the boys must have renewed themselves a little this last year. Whatever they did, I hope they keep it up. This was the most solid season of South Park in years. If you’ve recently left the fold this is the release that will bring you back in. If I’ve returned even one lost sheep back to the boys, then “my work is done here”.
Check out this video montage of the 14th season. Bang it here for the Montage