South Park: Season 12
There have been literally thousands of series on television over the decades that device has been a central part of our living rooms. Most have come and go in brief time relegated to a foot note in the annals of the media. A series reaching past the decade mark is akin to a person having their centennial birthday announced on the ‘Today’ show. This milestone is even more remarkable when it is an animated series. While the ‘Simpsons’ are now past twenty years there is another prime time cartoon that is breaking longevity records of its own; ‘South Park’. Yes, the rowdy boys of that quite little town in Colorado have pasted a dozen years and are still going strong. The twelfth season is out on DVD and for the first time in high definition on Blu-ray. This animated show has little to do with the cartoons of our youth. When we were growing up cartoons were silly little things that occupied our afternoons after school and Saturday mornings while our parents tried to grab an extra hour of sleep. This series owes more of its heritage to the witty politically and socially cartoons in urbane magazines and newspapers. There is a level of social satire that has reset the bar for all the series that followed but could never match this one. ‘South Park’ had the most humble of origins starting as a little animation distributed on the net. The animation was crude; bits of construction paper glued together and moved in a type of stop action animation. While the behind the scenes technology has improved the creators, Matt Parker and Trey Stone have maintained their strange and twisted view of the world we live in. Since the style of animation is so simplistic the turn around time fro creating an episode is amazingly quick. This permits their team to come up with a ready to air episode a week or so after its topics was in the news. The series has become famous with methods that would usually spell doom for a show. The impersonations of celebrities and world leaders are awful. The actions of the children that are the focus of the series are deplorable. The adults are show as completely idiotic and useless. Yet, the series is still going strong and has maintained its fresh and cutting edge presentation. The show remains the flagship series of Comedy Central there has been an announcement that season thirteen will be broadcast in high definition. The home theater releases are once again through Paramount and millions of fans will be lining up for this one.
Nothing has really changed in the dozen years that the series has been on the air. Most of the voices for the characters are still performed by Stone and Parker. Of the four boys at the center of all the action is Eric Cartman. He is a lad destined for the FBI’s most wanted list or at least an appearance on ‘To Catch a Predator’ or perhaps ‘Cops’. From his vantage point the universe exists to serve his slightest whims. Cartman is abrasive and abusive and not even his closest friends can stand him for long. Cartman is prone to being anti-Semitic and bigoted a trait that is often aimed at the little Jewish boy in the group, Kyle Brofloski. Kyle is the best adjusted of the group and is usually quick to point out the many flaws in the constant plots and plans of the others. Then there is Stan Marsh. He is the most sensitive of the boys with a genuine love for animals. He is also the skeptic of the group typically refusing to embrace the latest pop culture fad. The last of the four main characters is Kenny McCormick. He is considered as ‘poor white trash’ by the others and always wears his signature orange parker all year around. When frightened or unable to cope he pulls the hood tightly around his face and always speaks in a muffled voice.
Parker and Stone start off in a run at the start of this season. In the first episode Cartman has to get his tonsils removed. During the procedure he is infected with HIV. Cartman is extremely upset when he attends an HIV benefit where almost nobody attends. They managed to raise $17 for research with an explanation that HIV is a disease that was popular in the eighties and nineties; now it is all about cancer. True to his spiteful personality he deliberately infects Kyle. The pair go off to find the cure that they are sure is being withheld which brings them to basketball great Magic Johnson. The second episode of the season proved to be one of the most popular with fans. The boys become involved with pop star Britney Spears. She is overwrought at the constant media attention and attempts suicide by shooting herself in the head. She only manages to blow the top half of her head off but somehow survives. Without a mouth her tongue just wags in the remains of her skull. Still, she is pressed by the media and forced to perform. There is no topic that is off limits for Parker and Stone. In one episode the boys discover that male cat urine is a hallucinogenic and soon even the adults are getting sprayed by cats. The hallucinations typically take the form of the eighties cult cartoon classic ‘Heavy Metal’ complete with women with huge breasts. This is just the tip of the ice burg of bad taste. The boy’s teacher Mrs Garrison is a post operative transsexual. He is considering reverting to being a man and has his penis cloned on the back of a mouse. When the rodent escapes the lab Mrs. Garrison winds up chasing his penis all over town. Sure it’s disgusting but you know you are going to laugh at it anyway. No current fad goes unnoticed by this crew. One of the most popular movies for the tween set is ‘High School Musical’ which gets a send up in the episode aptly titled ‘Elementary School Musical’. During the proceedings Stan is afraid of losing his girlfriend Wendy if he cannot learn how to sing and dance. Even something as simple as a school trip takes a very wrong turn when the class visits a local tourist trap ‘Frontier Land’. Just as the group arrives the place is taken over by thieves on the run. They take the place hostage. Fortunately Cartman felt the place was lame and forced his trip buddy Butters to explore the nearby town. The only thing is the teacher told them that trip buddies have to hold hands so Butters refuses to let go of Cartman until the teacher says it is okay. Hand in hand they have to rescue the group.
This was a short season with only 14 episodes. A few overlap some previously released special collections sets. A couple of extras get the behind the scenes treatment and there is a featurette called ‘Six Days in South Park’ which details the production cycle of a typical episode. Even after a dozen years this series is as irreverent and funny as ever.