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SOUTH PARK
Season Eight

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creators:  Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  Mini-Commentaries, Previews
Length:  308 Minutes
Release Date:  August 29, 2006

“Dad?  How come Wall-Mart can sell everything so super cheap?”

“It’s simple economics, son.  I don’t understand it at all.”

Shows ***1/2

I think South Park and the movies of Kevin Smith have become my comedy catharsis.  Both Smith and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a gift for shuffling off the shackles of political correctness and going straight for the funny bone.  They let you laugh at what society tells you you’re not SUPPOSED to laugh at.  And if we didn’t do that once in awhile, I’m convinced many of us would spontaneously combust.

The seventh season of South Park was quite an apex in my view…was there any way Season Eight could measure up?  Was it even fair to ask?  The answer to both is probably no.  But that doesn’t mean the eighth year couldn’t deliver more taboo belly laughs than just about anything else television had to offer.

It gets off to a hysterical start with “Good Times With Weapons”.  In it, our favorite foul-mouthed fourth graders get their hands on some real traditional martial arts artifacts, and as a result, the whole show turns into an anime episode!  Then in “Up the Down Steroid”, our favorite handi-capable fellow Jimmy tries his hand at ‘juicing’ to get an advantage in the Special Olympics.  And in it, before there was The Ringer, you’ll howl when Cartman decides to play mentally challenged for a chance at winning the grand prize!

I also laughed all the way through “You Got F’ed in the A”, a spoof of “You Got Served”.  Wait til you see our intrepid fourth graders react to being challenged to a dance-off by some kids with some slick moves!  But they’re not the only top dancers in South Park…wait until “The Jeffersons” move in and befriend the boys.  Hmm…doesn’t ‘Mr. Jefferson’ look and act awfully familiar?

But South Park humor is nothing if not topical.  Considering 2004 was an election year, Trey and Matt get their digs in with “Douche and Turd”.  In it, South Park Elementary gets to choose their new school mascot, and the choice is between…well, the title says it all.  Kinda sounds a lot like many of our real life election choices, doesn’t it?  And the whole illegal immigration controversy takes on a new twist in “Goobacks”, when the immigrants aren’t coming across the border, but back through time!

But my two favorite episodes of the year were “Quest for Ratings” and “Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes”.  In the former, our boys find slugging it out for success in the world of TV can be hard, even when you’re talking about an elementary school show.  And in the latter, everyone’s favorite giant retailer gets a bit of a comeuppance when they open up in South Park and have a rather…um, unsettling effect on the people of the town.

No South Park season would be complete without a Christmas episode, and the eighth year delivers one of the most bizarre.  It’s “Woodland Critter Christmas”, a rather twisted take on the old John Denver specials from decades past.  There’s something in it to be an affront to just about every sensibility you can think of, but be patient and wait for the payoff, because it’s a good one.

Really the only miscue of the year was “Passion of the Jew”.  It could have been funny, but Trey and Matt tried to do too much with one concept.  Between Cartman deciding to take Mel Gibson’s film as the launching point for a “final solution” with Jewish people, Kyle’s guilt over the content of the film, and Stan and Kenny trying to get their money back from a daffy Mel Gibson because they hated the movie…well, too much concept, too little execution.

And the only other complaint…does fourteen episodes really a season make?  I was surprised at how fast I was done with the set, commentaries and all.  Granted, there’s more quality and more laughs in a season of South Park than just about any other comedy on television.  But the seasons are starting to feel awfully short.

Still, in all fairness, it was also the year where Trey and Matt were making the hilarious, difficult, and under-appreciated feature film Team America.  They had some long days and longer nights.  They admit many of the episodes of Season Eight came from having no real ideas to work with, but some of those episodes are among the funniest.  Some people just work well under pressure!

And perhaps that’s what the eighth year represents…contents under pressure, ready to explode in mirth and mayhem.  South Park delivers it like no other show…and the hits just keep on coming.

Video ***1/2

These animated shows continue to look darned good on DVD…the computerized approach to cut-out animation has become something of a staple of South Park, and the colors remain bright and vivid and the defining lines sharp and clear.

Audio ***

The stereo soundtracks also continue to impress…it seems like each season the audio mixes and the boys’ use of hilarious songs gets better and better, and the mix delivers it all with good dynamic range and clarity.

Features **

Each episode has a short “mini-commentary” from Trey and Matt, which I’m liking more and more…you can get the goods and move on and complete them all without taking up a lot of time!  There are also some Comedy Central previews.

Summary:

Season Eight is another solid and hysterical entry into the South Park vernacular.  As long as there are topics to kid, sensibilities to offend and barriers of political correctness to break down, there will always be a place for Trey Parker and Matt Stone and their wonderful, wacky cartoon creation.

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