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SOUTH PARK:  SEASON THREE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creators and Voices:  Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  Trey & Matt's "Mini" Commentaries, Previews
Length:  374 Minutes
Release Date:  December 16, 2003

"You must be Eric Cartman.  I've heard about you...you don't respect nature or other people's customs!"

"Yeah, pretty much."

Shows ***1/2

Season Three of South Park began with a roar but ended with a tear.  In their third year on the air, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone delivered some of television's most daring comedy, yet had to struggle to complete the last three episodes after the heartbreaking loss of the great Mary Kay Bergman.  Ms. Bergman had been the star voice behind most of the show's female characters.  But despite her talent and success, she was suffering from a depression no one around her was aware of, and she ended her life on November 11, 2001.

Fans still miss her indelible spunk, but for the sake of this review, I'd rather celebrate her life than mourn her loss.  Her comedic spark helped make South Park a hit, and fans got to share in that one last time in Season Three.

Trey and Matt always plunged into their Comedy Central staple with the belief that nothing was off limits and anything and anybody could be ridiculed, and their third year got off to a brilliant start with the shining satire "Rainforest Shmainforest".  By taking a deliberately non-PC approach to an endearing environmental cause, fans who got the joke were left with jaws in laps and tears of laughter in their eyes.  Those who didn't were probably ticked off as hell.  And I'm sure that's exactly the way the boys wanted it.

Perhaps the highlight of season three was the ‘trilogy'...a series of episodes that all took place in the same night but focusing on different characters, with some glimpses of overlapping for those who paid attention.  During the night of a big meteor shower, the adults of South Park all gathered for a night of partying at school counselor Mr. Mackey's house.  Meanwhile, in "Cat Orgy", Cartman is left alone with Shelly, the babysitter from hell, and her rock pretender boyfriend.  Will this be the end of our favorite big-boned cowboy from the Wild Wild West?

At the same time, "Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub" takes us to the wild party, where Stan is forced to stay in the basement and play with the school nerds.  Upstairs, his father and Kyle's father share an...er, intimate moment in a hot tub, while the ATF is gathering outside because they think the party is actually a religious cult who plans to commit ritualistic suicide when the meteors fall!

Lastly, Kenny follows Kyle and his little brother Ike to "Jewbilee", where Moses makes an appearance (and he looks a lot like the central computer from Tron), while the non-Jewish Kenny finds himself saving the Hebrew faith from an anti-Semetic sect that wants to bring back Haman as their ruler!

Other highlights include the return of our favorite Ethiopian in "Starvin' Marvin in Space", where the boys try to save Marvin and his people from...gasp...Pat Robertson!  "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" brings back the show's holiday icon for a romp through some hysterical songs and a clever spoof of the famed but awful Star Wars holiday special.  "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery" has the popular rock band show up for Halloween in a Scooby-Doo styled episode, and Chef narrowly avoids a hellish marriage in "Succubus". 

But if I had to pick a single favorite show for year three, it would be "Chinpoko Mon", a hysterical spoof of the Pokemon craze that suggests something diabolical was behind it all.  Yikes!  And for an even bigger ‘yikes', listen to the commentary if you don't know what ‘chinpoko' means in Japanese!

As always, the series remained crude, lewd, and surprisingly smart.  The fans who got it continued to eat it up and celebrate every laugh.  Those who didn't remained steadfast in their protests.  Those with delicate constitutions probably shouldn't watch, but I'd still wager if they actually did, and paid attention, they would see just how much great stuff is at play here.

Season three is a shining example...and Mary Kay, we'll always miss you.

Video ***

Using computerized animation to simulate construction paper cut outs, these shows look pretty good on DVD.  They're colorful and clean, with no evidence of bleeding or distortions and good crisp lines and renderings.

Audio **1/2

The stereo soundtracks for these episodes continue to be above average, with clear dialogue, a fair amount of dynamic range, and of course, some great music and songs to add to the listening pleasure.

Features **

At long last, Trey and Matt have their commentaries recorded directly on the DVD (after being on separate CDs for the first year, and nothing for the second).  They are, as they describe them, "mini" commentaries.  They talk for about the first four or five minutes of each episode, and then it's on to the next.  Their point being that they don't enjoy commentaries that ramble to fill up space, so they say what they want to say and move on.  The most amusing aspect may be the boys' admission that they hated season two of their own show!

There are also some Comedy Central previews on Disc Three, starting with a classic upcoming bit of South Park as Cartman dreams of boy band success!

Oh, by the way...at long last and by popular demand, there are now chapter stops WITHIN the episodes.  Bravo, Paramount!

Summary:

From triumph to tragedy, South Park Season Three covered all the bases and always managed to come up laughing.  This set is a hit, and a must-have for the SP fans.