It’s no small feat that after 12 years, South Park remains one of the sharpest and edgiest shows on television today. At times political satire and biting social commentary, the show about four fourth grade boys in South Park, Colorado is consistently funny and, thanks to the quick turnaround time of the episodes, always timely. Season 12 of the hit comedy series, which comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 10, is one of the show’s strongest seasons to date.
There is so much to love about the show’s 2008 run, including an episode where the entire country’s Internet stops working and everyone begins to panic, an episode where Cartman gives Kyle AIDS and an episode involving George Lucas and Steven Spielberg that will permanently scar any fans of the Indiana Jones franchise. In fact, the only real miss of the season is an episode entitled “Britney’s New Look,” which attempts to make a point about the media’s obsession with Britney Spears, but ends up just feeling tasteless and shocking for the sake of being shocking.
Since the season was particularly strong, instead of attempting to break down every single episode, I’ve decided to spotlight the five best episodes.
5. Major Boobage
(Originally aired March 26, 2008)
The kids of South Park discover a new drug craze called cheesing, which causes people to have elaborate Heavy Metal-inspired hallucinations. The animation in this episode is particularly impressive and the South Park crew does a great job parodying several iconic scenes from the 1981 film. There is also a subplot that involves Cartman hiding cats in his attic, a la Anne Frank, which is quite possibly the sweetest thing Cartman has done in the past 12 seasons.
What makes this episode great is the little touches – like the fact that Mr. Broflovski’s fighter plane in his Heavy Metal fantasy sequence is called “The Jewish Princess” and the fact that the climactic battle takes place at the Breastriary in Nippopolis.
4. About Last Night …
(Originally aired November 5, 2008)
As I mentioned above, one of the show’s strong suits is its timeliness, which is especially evident in this episode. “About Last Night …” originally aired the night after Barack Obama won the presidency and the episode focuses on Obama winning the election. The South Park Obama actually gives part of the same election speech that the real Obama gave the night before (and South Park McCain delivers part of the actual concession speech the real McCain delivered).
The episode itself is a parody of the Ocean’s 11 franchise. In it, it’s revealed that Obama and McCain only ran for president so that they could steal the Hope Diamond while the American public was distracted. There are several wonderful subplots in this episode, including Randy Marsh celebrating Obama’s win in the most obnoxious way possible and little Ike attempting to kill himself because he was a McCain supporter.
It’s still amazing that the show was able to put together this episode so quickly. It’s also interesting to note that while Trey Parker and Matt Stone had originally planned to put together two versions of the show to cover all of their bases – one where Obama won and one where McCain won – they actually only made the Obama version and would have been completely screwed if McCain had actually been elected president.
3. Elementary School Musical
(Originally aired November 12, 2008)
When the other students at their school begin singing and dancing in elaborate High School Musical style dance numbers, Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman try to figure out what all the fuss is about. Stan attempts to put an end to all of it by trying to convince the most popular kid at school, Briden Queermo, to abandon the trend and discovers that Briden would prefer to play basketball instead of singing and dancing, but his dad won’t allow his because he thinks that basketball is for sissies.
Like the “Pandemic” episodes earlier in the season, this episode is interesting because it depicts our four favorite students as outcasts who are not as well-liked by their peers as you might think. It also introduces a hilarious new character – Mr. Queermo – and the idea of a parent who would rather see his kid dance than play sports is a fun twist on an old formula.
2. The Ungroundable
(Originally aired November 19, 2008)
The season 12 finale has the children of South Park getting swept up into another trend. In this episode, the kids at school become obsessed with Twilight and begin dressing like vampires. Butters believes that they are actual vampires and is at first terrified by them, but then decides to become one of them. Meanwhile, the Goth kids at school are infuriated that the other children can’t tell the difference between Goths and vampire kids.
Any episode involving Butters is usually hilarious, but the real stars of this episode are the Goth kids. At the end of the episode, one of the Goth kids decides to set the record straight with this memorable explanation: “Let us make it abundantly clear: if you hate life, truly hate the sun, and need to smoke and drink coffee, you are Goth. If, however, you like dressing in black ’cause it’s ‘fun,’ enjoy putting sparkles on your cheeks and following the occult while avoiding things that are bad for your health, then you are most likely a douchebag vampire wannabe boner.” There is also a hilarious Bauhaus parody song in the episode called “Burn Down Hot Topic.”
1. Super Fun Time
(Originally aired April 23, 2008)
The students go on a field trip to Pioneer Village, a “living museum,” where all of the employees pretend to be pioneers and attempt to recreate what life was like in the year 1864. Mr. Garrison tells the students to partner up and to hold hands with their partner at all times. Cartman, who is partnered with Butters, decides to sneak off to a nearby Super Phun Thyme arcade and is forced to drag Butters along with him, since Butters refuses to let go of his hand. Meanwhile, the Pioneer Village is taken hostage by a group of terrorists who are attempting to evade the police after a botched robbery, but even with guns to their heads, the Pioneer Village employees refuse to break character.
As I said, any episode focused on Butters is usually great and this one is particularly strong. Butters insistence on holding on to Cartman’s hand at all costs makes this episode hilarious. There are also some really funny characters working at the Pioneer Village, including Sheriff McLawDog and Murderin’ Murphy. This is not just the best episode of this season, it’s one of the funniest episodes the show has done in its 12-year run.
The box set also includes three bonus features – “Six Days to South Park,” a behind-the-scenes look at the animating of the “Super Fun Time” episode; “Making Boobage,” a look at how they copied the style of Heavy Metal for the Major Boobage episode and “Behind the Scenes,” which shows how they began putting the finishing touches on “About Last Night …” 14 hours before the episode aired on Comedy Central. The featurettes are a little dry, but are worth watching if you are really curious to see how the show is made. There are also Mini-Commentaries by Trey Parker and Matt Stone that introduce each episode. I’m not usually a fan of commentaries, but they keep the commentary brief and manage to keep it interesting.
I was given the Blu-Ray version of the box set to review. It’s seems kind of silly to talk about how a 2D animated show that features simple characters made from basic geometric shapes looks on Blu-Ray, but I will say that the Blu-Ray version looks great. Unlike the regular version, you can really notice the textures they use for each character and it really looks like the characters were built using construction paper (since, although the show is now computer animated, the animation in the pilot episode was actually created using construction paper), which is pretty cool to see.
Overall, I highly recommend picking up South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season. It’s a particularly strong season of a show that has remained consistently funny for 12 years and there are plenty of episodes in this box set that are worth watching over and over again. So grab a friend’s hand and head down to your local video store to pick up a copy today.