..

SOUTH PARK: SEASON FOUR

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creators and Voices:  Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  "Mini" Commentaries with Trey and Matt
Length:  380 Minutes
Release Date:  June 29, 2004

"Oh, what a gay time we shall have!...and I do mean gay as in 'festive', not 'penetration of the bum'."

Shows ***

TIMMY!!! 

Yes, if nothing else, the fourth season of South Park introduced us to our new favorite handicapped character, and legions of fans who once reveled in imitating the laughs of Beavis and Butt-Head were now shouting Timmy's name far and wide.  Only in America, friends!

But creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had plenty more in mind for their fourth year of hijinks in that quiet little Podunk mountain town called South Park.  It was a year that started off strong, then kind of faltered at the finish line, but the best episodes of the year actually do rank as some of the series' funniest and most memorable.

Disc One is a true treasure trove, starting with the scheming Cartman convincing pals Kyle, Stan and Kenny to scam the neighborhood kids out of their tooth money in "The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000"...a plan that ends up getting them in trouble with a kid mafia!

After that, the fellows turned their creative and satirical energies on all sorts of political topics.  When Cartman throws a rock at South Park's only black kid (named "Token"...wonder why?), he gets charged and sent to prison in "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000".  Then Timmy gets his first starring role in "Timmy 2000", where he fronts a rock band called Lords of the Underworld while all the other South Park kids get diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and put on Ritalin!

But the funniest and possibly most disturbing turn is when "Cartman Joins NAMBLA".  In it, Cartman decides he needs some more 'mature' friends to play with, and ends up bringing the ACLU's favorite pedophile organization into South Park...yikes!!

Disc Two keeps up the good stuff with "Chef Goes Nanners", where Chef protests that the South Park flag is racist, because it depicts...well, no...you should see that for yourself.  It's followed by one of the all time fan favorite episodes "Something You Can Do With Your Finger", where Cartman dreams of turning himself and his friends into the ultimate boy band named...nope.  Again, you need to see it for yourself.

A two part episode begs the question "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?" and answers it with "Probably".  In them, we get to catch up on the misadventures of Satan and Saddam Hussein, whom we hadn't seen since the South Park movie, while on earth, children frightened of going to hell take matters into their own hands and start a church.  You haven't lived until you've heard Cartman preaching!

And finally, after three long years, our boys graduate to "Fourth Grade", which means among other things an upgrade in the opening title sequence and song. 

Disc Three is when the year starts to run out of steam.  Two new holiday specials in "Helen Keller the Musical" and "A Very Crappy Christmas" don't live up to the great ones of the past...the latter even uses footage from the original short "The Spirit of Christmas", but of course, without the language that made it so hysterical.  Actor Malcolm McDowell hosts "Pip", which tries to re-tell the story of Great Expectations with minimal success.  The only highlight is "The Wacky Molestation Adventure", in which the parents all go away and the town of South Park turns into a Village of the Damned type of nightmare.

Along the way, Mr. Garrison finally admits that he's gay, we learn that our favorite Christmas poo Mr. Hankey has a family (including a kid with an unusual disorder), and of course, Kenny dies. 

It's all in good fun, of course, but not for children.  South Park managed to push the envelope a little further year after year, making us squirm, gasp, and of course, laugh louder and harder than ever.  When it works, it's one of the smartest and funniest shows on television.  When it doesn't, it can get a little trying. 

Fortunately for season four, the pendulum swings much further into success than failure.  Fans can add this one to their collection with no qualms.

Video ***

As usual, the animation looks pretty good for what it is, which is mostly primitive, but with a few surprises along the way as the boys got a little bolder with their computer tools!  Colors are bright and well represented, and images are sharp and clear throughout with no bleedings or distortions.

Audio ***

As the animation got a little bolder from time to time, so did the audio.  This season boasted a little more dynamic range and sound effects than previous ones, so it gets a little bump up in the ratings department.

Features **

Each episode features a "mini" commentary by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, meaning they say everything they have to say up front and then stop, rather than talk over the entire length of the shows.  They always tell you when they're done, so you can move right along if you like.

Summary:

South Park got raunchier and more taboo in their fourth season, with plenty of topics to tackle and political incorrectness to wallow in.  A few episodes fizzle, but most of them sizzle.  Don't be surprised if you walk around singing Cartman's boy band song for a long time afterwards.  Just be careful who you do it in front of.