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SOUTH PARK: SEASON ONE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creators and Voices:  Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Audio:  Dolby Surround
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  310 Minutes
Release Date:  November 12, 2002

"Cartoons KICK ASS!"

Shows ****

Five years for South Park?  In some ways it doesn't seem that long...in others, it seems like it's always been with us; that's how ingrained into our popular culture it's become. 

When Comedy Central first aired our favorite foul-mouthed 4th graders, it was an unusual sight and sound.  Different to look at because of the obscenely (and admittedly deceptively) simple cut-out construction paper animation style.  Different to listen to, because these kids were saying things we weren't used to hearing on television outside of pay movie channels!

Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny made a modest television debut by all considerations.  In fact, co-creators, writers and voice talents Trey Parker and Matt Stone animated the entire first episode by themselves, and were so certain that their creation wouldn't last, they agreed to star in the movie BASEketball just to have something to fall back on!

But word of mouth spread as ferociously as one of Cartman's flaming farts.  Those original episodes aired, then re-aired, and re-aired again as the country began paying more and more attention.  Soon, Comedy Central commissioned a Halloween special, and later a Thanksgiving and a Christmas special, then even MORE episodes to round out a full first season, ending with a hilarious cliffhanger!

South Park was raw in language and subject matter, but more importantly, it was also smart.  In fact, it probably offered the most scintillating satire on television this side of Michael Moore!  Everything from body image to homosexuality to euthanasia was kidded out of the gate, and by the time the season was up, Barbara Streisand, Judaism, Christianity and more fell by the wayside as Parker and Stone considered no topic too taboo to tackle.

And, of course, the weekly untimely demise of one of the four boys led to a national rallying cry:  "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!"  As an added bonus, each of the three discs in this set even has artwork depicting some of Kenny's deaths...as Cartman would say, "Sweet!".  Rounding out the fun are the parents, the teacher Mr. Garrison and his "sidekick" Mr. Hat, and of course, Chef (Isaac Hayes), the show's soul and sense of reason.

All thirteen episodes of Season One are here, including all three original holiday specials.  It seems most fans, despite the longevity of the series, still pick the premiere episode, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", as their favorite...I guess nothing beats the experience of seeing South Park for the first time!  But if I had to select a top pick, at least out of Season One, I'd have to go with "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo".  It has to be seen to be believed, and includes a pair of the show's best original songs:  "I'm a Jew" and "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch".  And keep an eye out for that "commercial" as well...it'll floor you!

The one complaint SP fans used to have was the scattered way the episodes were released on disc.  Warner Bros. has answered, finally opting to release the shows a full season at a time for better collectability.   Apart from the packaging, though, there's no real difference in the presentation...the episodes all still contain Trey and Matt's introductions, and there are still no chapter stops within the individual shows.  But subtitles are here, at least...that's an improvement.

I'm looking forward to the continued collection of the South Park seasons (particularly Season Two, so I can see the continuation of "Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut" again!).  This is the way the shows should have been offered in the first place, and fans should be placated at last.

Video ***

As before, the video releases are perfectly fine...good strong colors with minimal bleeding, clean prints and no noticeable grain or distortion.  Animation normally looks good on DVD, even when it's primitive, and these shows are no exception.  

Audio **1/2

Though mostly dialogue oriented, the 2 channel audio mix is clean and clear, and bring out a nice tone in Trey Parker's music as well.  Dynamic range is fairly good...no complaints.

Features ***

What the set lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality...a number of South Park rarities are included that may not be known to the general public, but embraced by the die-hard fans.  You'll laugh yourself silly watching Cartman's hapless rendition of "O Holy Night", or Ned's take on "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (yep, it sounds just the way you imagine).  Plus there's the short that aired on The Tonight Show for Thanksgiving, featuring Jay Leno as himself, the boys' appearance on the 1997 Cable ACE awards, and some of the original TV promos for SP, along with ads for other Comedy Central shows.

Summary:

All good things must come to an end, though, and sadly, South Park is said to be winding down after this season.  But all good things have a beginning, too.  Now, thanks to this DVD set, fans can enjoy the premiere season of one of television's most daring and funny concoctions ever.