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SOUTH PARK: SEASON NINE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creators:  Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  “Mini”-Commentaries
Length:  308 Minutes
Release Date:  March 6, 2007

“Save the whales, motherf**ker!”

Shows ***

Season 9 was an Emmy award winning season for South Park.  Does it sound strange to say that?

It probably did to creators and stars Trey Parker and Matt Stone, too.  But the badge of respectability hangs nobly on their ninth year, for their “Best Friends Forever” episode that was a sharp spoof of the then-current Terry Schiavo incident.  In it, Kenny ends up in a persistent vegetative state, and Cartman lobbies to have his feeding tube removed, mainly because Kenny had left Cartman his video game in his will (“in the likely event of my death…”)

South Park was nothing if not up-to-date and topical, and in the ninth year, I began to wonder something…will these episodes stand the test of time?  What if ten years from now few people remember the Schiavo controversy?  Will the Emmy award winning episode still ring out as funny?  Or how about “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow”, that spoofed the media’s horrid exaggeration of death and rampant crime following Hurricane Katrina?  Well, at least that episode also kids the ridiculous global warming faux crisis…there are enough Chicken Littles to keep that in the news for a long time to come.

There were hysterical shows in the ninth year, and some that were a little odd.  One of the funniest and most controversial was “Trapped in the Closet”, which took a biting look at Scientology and those who practice it, like Tom Cruise and John Travolta (“Is L. Ron here?  Oh my GAWD!!”).  That was the show that reportedly cost Trey and Matt their longtime cast mate Isaac Hayes, who apparently didn’t like the kidding of his faith.  But Trey and Matt are nothing if not equal opportunity offenders…check out yet another twisted dig on my own faith of Catholicism in “Bloody Mary”…an idea that the boys claim originated with a devoted Catholic woman on their writing staff!

But as mentioned, some of the entries were a bit strange.  “Free Willzyx” has the boys, led by Stan and Kyle, thinking that a killer whale at a sea park came from the moon and needed to be returned there.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe at the final shot, but the highlight was a police sketch of the boys, showing what they might look like in real life.  I laughed so hard I had to back it up and freeze the image!

“Ginger Kids” showed Cartman at his most manic…leading a charge of prejudice against children with red hair and freckles, the tables are turned on him when his buddies turn him into a ‘ginger’, leading him to a drastic change of heart.  Can you say “final solution”, boys and girls?  And Cartman’s best episode of the year was “The Death of Eric Cartman”, in which all of his friends start ignoring him, leading him to believe he met an early demise…loved it!

“Wing” was another strange one, in which the boys become talent agents to an Asian woman who warbles classic FM tunes.  And Mr. Garrison has a couple of outrageous turns:  in the opening “Mr. Garrison’s Fancy New Vagina”, he gets the sex change operation he always wanted, and later in “Follow That Egg”, he decides to lead a crusade against gay marriage when he learns his old lover Mr. Slave is betrothed to…ah, I’ll let you see that for yourself.

Overall, at least three of the episodes from this season rank amongst the funniest ever.  And several of them are puzzling, but still manage to produce genuine belly laughs.  So overall, the ninth year was still a prime year for Trey and Matt; just not as prime as some of their best years.  Considering there are only fourteen episodes for year nine, one might wonder if the idea tank is starting to run low.  But we’ll throw Kenny off that bridge when we get to it.

Video ***

The animated series continues to shine on DVD, with bright colors and crisp detail, despite the deliberate crudeness of the renderings.

Audio ***

The stereo audio tracks are as good or better than they need to be, with a fair amount of dynamic range and clean, clear dialogue throughout. 

Features **

More of Trey and Matt’s famed “mini”-commentaries, which I actually enjoy…sweet and to the point, and when reviewing a DVD, not taking too much time to get through.

Summary:

South Park Season 9 brought glory and recognition to Trey Parker and Matt Stone…how long before they completely squander it?  Only one thing to say…bring on Season 10.

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