Sunday, 25 January 2015

South Park Season 16

Image Source: Wikipedia
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 702 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Released: October 7 2013

The sixteenth season of the adult-orientated animated comedy South Park is now available on DVD. After so many years, some may think that the show would be out of ideas or that its long-running blend of mature (or immature, if you prefer) humour would be stale; but the 2012 series proves otherwise and, based on the episodes here, actually ranks as one of the show’s strongest seasons to date.

The first disc begins with Reverse Cowgirl, which looks at toilet humour (a criticism of the show in its earliest years) from another angle whilst also lampooning increased and at times unnecessarily high security of certain places. The highlights here are a ridiculous yet hilarious scene involving Gerald Broslovski (Kyle’s dad) and a strange belief by Butters being proven to be true. Cash For Gold is a little less funny, but it’s hard not to laugh at Marvin Marsh (Stan’s grandad) heavily criticising a studded bolo that he bought him, and arguably the series’ daftest yet insanely funny background song yet. Faith Hilling, whilst not the strongest episode of the season, has its moments and perfectly sends up the concept of how Internet memes grow in popularity only to suddenly fade away.

Jewpacabra is an Easter special but, unlike its hilarious predecessor in 2007 (imaginatively titled Fantastic Easter Special), this episode doesn’t deliver many laughs and too often causes confusion, resulting in a weak show. Fortunately, the series rebounds with Butterballs, which covers bullying in a way that only South Park could: by somehow making scenes featuring such a negative subject hilarious. Butters getting revenge on his bullying grandmother ensures it has a happy ending, although the actual conclusion is a music video that, again, only South Park could conjure up, whereby Stan ends up “Jackin’ it in San Diego”. For long-time series fans, this sums up the ridiculousness of the show and will no doubt go down as one of the programme’s funniest and most memorable musical numbers.

The second disc opens with I Should Never Have Gone Ziplining, which combines a parody of reality shows with real-life footage of the programme’s four central characters; it is a slow starter but evolves into a hilarious episode, and the use of actual people to portray the boys is unexpected and results in some visuals which, had they been animated, may actually have been less funny. Cartman Finds Love is a misleading title in that he actually tries to play Cupid (literally) for two classmates. His attempts to have the two black kids in the class become a couple because he feels it should be that way involves numerous twists and turns, including an attempt to convince others that he and Kyle are a gay couple. It could easily be an episode that causes controversy but, told as it is, it is perfectly acceptable and is one big comedic gem, and a series highlight for many fans.

Sarcastaball delivers laughs but the running joke perhaps lasts too long and overall is slightly disappointing for an episode based around Randy Marsh (Stan’s dad, once a background player but arguably the funniest character on the show nowadays). The next two episodes, however, are both truly hilarious and are my personal favourites of season 16. Raising The Bar lampoons Honey Boo Boo, provides plenty of classic Cartman one-liners and includes a short yet comical and catchy tune about James Cameron. Insecurity, meanwhile, focuses on paranoid fears leading to increased security which, at one point, actually lives “inside you!” This is a truly classic episode, with highlights including an old man’s head-turning and hilariously graphic ‘old wives tales’, advertisements for Insecurity that sound awful on paper but are tear-inducingly funny on-screen, and the South Park men’s belief that a UPS man must be having sex with Kyle’s mom because “what kind of sane, normal person would have sex with Kyle’s mom?” Oh, and there are Bane parodies and daft exchanges when security fails to help Cartman. Truly hilarious, and one of my favourite South Park episodes ever.

The third and final disc starts with Going Native which sees Butters attempt to embrace his Hawaiian roots. This is another episode which has its moments but overall isn’t exactly a series highlight. Nightmare On Face Time, another Randy show set this time at Halloween, is better as he purchases Blockbuster Video at a time when nobody whatsoever in South Park rents DVDs the old-fashioned way, resulting in funny exchanges between Randy and almost everyone he encounters, and also harms an attempt to prevent a store robbery as Stan can only participate in Halloween adventures via FaceTime on his iPad.

The penultimate show, A Scause For Applause, is a spot-on parody of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal whilst also referring to Dr. Seuss and Pussy Riot, all involving Jesus and Stan. This is definitely worth watching, and provides a lot of laughs, but it may not be to everyone’s tastes (although chances are that the average South Park fan is not easily offended by the show’s content). The season-ending episode is Obama Wins!, which ties the 2012 Presidential election with the sale of Lucasfilm (including Star Wars) to Walt Disney, and includes interludes by Morgan Freeman which, he explains, allow him to grow extra freckles. I felt this episode was slightly overrated, but it’s still a great end to the series, and the way in which the two seemingly unrelated key plot-lines suddenly become interlinked is done expertly. The DVD extras consist of short audio commentaries about all 14 episodes, as well as six deleted scenes from across the season.

Considering that South Park’s popularity peaked in its earliest seasons, and that some say the mid-2000s was its golden age in terms of quality output, season 16 is a strong entry in the show’s legacy. Some episodes are classics, several others are in the ‘highly recommended’ category and even the weaker shows still have their moments and are not by any means terrible. Overall, then, season 16 is one of the top five in South Park history and, thus, the DVD release (with a small number of extras, admittedly) is one that all fans of the show should purchase.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent

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