“Oh, what are people afraid of? That AI is gonna replace real writers? That Hollywood is gonna become just a bland recycling of old ideas? It already is!”
I suspect that when we are all dead and gone there will be two things we can count on continuing beyond the end of human civilization. The cockroaches will inherit the world, and they will all be watching South Park, the only television show still running. It’s already been 22 years, and doesn’t it feel like 50? I don’t mean that in a mean way. I love South Park, but I’m starting to find it hard to remember what life was like without it. I’m convinced it will survive us all, and AI versions of Parker and Stone will be producing it until the planet is finally vaporized … and I’m not sure even that will stop this show.
After 20 years or more, they really do feel like friends. I’ve known Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny longer than most real people in my life. Only the Simpsons have been around longer these days. Over those years South Park has always been a series of stories that rarely connect with each other in any significant way. There have been multi-part episodes, and certain experiences have come back up over the years. Still, we’re talking about a universe where killing Kenny had become a running joke and happened pretty much in every episode. Those days are gone, and it’s been a while since Kenny met his demise, and now South Park has joined the ranks of the continuing story season. I do believe that’s one of the signs of the Apocalypse. I’m just sayin’. Of course, I’m talking about these “specials” that have been running since COVID came and kind of went. Now it’s back to a season of somewhat standalone episodes, and all might soon be right with the world and our video collections. South Park The Complete 26th Season is now out and available to own on Blu-ray.
The first observation is the quantity, not the quality of the shows. We only get six episodes instead of the 10 I got pretty used to. That’s what the world looks like. Candy bars are half the size they were and cost 10 times as much. Cereal boxes have gotten smaller and cost … well … you know where I’m going with this. Now South Park is 40% smaller but still costs the same, so there is that. OK. Off my chest. On to the episodes.
The first episode is quite clever, but Cupid Ye has the unfortunate distinction of really bad timing here. The episode starts with Stan being jealous that Kyle is spending a lot of time with Token, and they’re doing internet videos and having a blast. Cartman actually wants to help his friend, and with some coaxing from his Cupid Me “angel” decides to spread crap about Kyle so Token will lose interest. Cupid Ye turns into a rapper/gangsta character, and it spirals out of control with some tough anti-Jewish ideas, particularly that Kyle must run Hollywood since he’s Jewish. Now everyone is shopping their movie and television ideas to Kyle because they believe he runs Hollywood. Look. The stuff here is clever, and it’s as anti-Semitic as hell. I give them the pass, because South Park makes fun of EVERYBODY. The problem is that with recent global events, this isn’t going to be the best time for this to be out there. You have to understand the episode was written and aired long before the October 6th terrorist attack on Israel. If you just don’t think this is the thing to relate to right now, I respect that, and you might want to skip this release.
Worldwide Privacy Tour is another example of what Parker and Stone do best. When the Queen of Canada dies, all eyes are on the royal family. The Prince pushes back on the attention along with his wife, and they look remarkably like a certain ex-royal couple now living in L.A. They continue to shout out about respecting their privacy, while they go on a world tour calling attention to themselves. When they move to South Park, they create a stir; all while Butters takes Stan to a company that can help him create and market his “brand”. The ridiculousness of that certain royal couple is spoofed here for real laughs, and a nice touch brings in sights and sounds from The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.
Japanese Toilets has some moments but a big letdown. Randy is the central character again and gets himself involved in a little conspicuous consumption. He buys a fancy toilet that plays music and wipes your behind with soothing warm water. Soon all of South Park wants in one the craze, and Randy gets targeted by the toilet paper industry. They try to kill him to keep his message out of the public.
Deep Learning is another winner. They tackle the ChatGBT and AI fears here. Stan is overwhelmed with his girlfriend’s constant texting and plea for more communication. He discovers there is an app that will answer her texts so he doesn’t have to. The ladies are all glowing over their new romantic boyfriends, and the Cyrano aspect gets reinforced with a song from the recent film version of the story. But Cartman and some other guys are upset that the secret is out. They’ve been using it to do their homework, while Mr. Garrison has been using it to grade their homework. You gotta love the complex crutch they create here, and it ranks up there as a best episode for the series.
DikinBaus Hot Dogs is a bit over-the-top for me. Butters gets a job, and when Cartman realizes he’s getting paid for the job, he wants a job. Of course, he doesn’t actually want to do anything, so he gets fired pretty quickly. Then he gets the idea of using Butters’ money to fix up the hot dog stand where he’s living and thinks it’ll be easy money. It’s not, but it does put an end to the Cartman’s living there. It’s all predictable, but the only thing it has going for it is that it’s all classic Cartman.
Spring Breakers is the weakest of the bunch. We get to see two different versions of Spring Break. Garrison takes his guy to Myrtle Beach but gets caught up with his old MAGA groupies and almost loses his relationship, while Randy lets his girls go on vacation by themselves so he can have a bit of man time with Stan. All Stan and Token want to do is play Warhammer 40K. Of course, Randy goes overboard, and it spirals out of control. Nothing really to see here, so just move along.
Each episode of South Park is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Colors are fantastically bright in this 1080p 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. This is starting to look better with each year. Not bad for what started out as construction-paper cutouts. The look remains, but there’s no question that the boys are using the latest in technology to look so old-school.
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 to the DVD or broadcasts.
I hope it’s a sign that things are returning to normal. Between COVID and the recent strikes, entertainment has taken a hit. Can South Park save the day? “I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.”