We’re fifteen seasons in on South Park, and the show has fallen into a comfortable groove. Matt Stone and Trey Parker went through some rough periods, but they have a system now: Generally there’s going to be some (very) topical episodes, some character episodes with many of those paired to something going on in pop culture, and now a number of multi-episode arcs that tend to fall back on fantasy or science fiction. And – though they sometimes get into beating up on things that may not deserve it or go too hard on something self-evident – the show delivers the laughs. Our review of the Blu-ray of South Park: The Complete Fourteenth Season on Blu-ray is after the jump.
The season (and disc one) starts with their take on the Tiger Woods divorce proceedings, in one of their thinner-premised shows. Sex addiction becomes a worldwide problem and it’s revealed aliens cause men to think about having sex with women who aren’t their wives. This is one of those episodes that is reasonably funny, but goes exactly where you’d expect. Better is when the boys write a filthy book called “the Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs, which is the filthiest book ever written, but is considered a great work of art. What they’re saying about misinterpretation is a bit silly, but South Park does scatological as well as anyone.
They do a medicinal marijuana program, which goes in interesting absurd directions, and has Cartman in a KFC/Scarface parody. They also take on Facebook, which leads to a Tron homage. Of course South Park would be nothing without controversy, and for the 200th episode they bring back many of their previously parodied famous figures (Cartman’s hand as Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise has a job in a fudge factory) for what was meant to be an epic summation of the show’s history. Alas, they also brought back Mohammed as a central figure, and so both that episode and the following one had to deal with censorship issues that still bug Parker and Stone. The two-episode arc also brings back so many familiar faces that it acts mostly as a nostalgia piece. The first disc concludes with a crippled-kids summer camp where Towlie works, but is about to get fired because of his drug use. Timmy and Jimmy face off against some evil kids in the camp, but they all have the personas of old Warner Brother cartoons.
Parker and Stone do about fourteen episodes a year, broken into two halves, and that’s reflected on the Blu-ray. The second disc kicks off with the first episode after that break. It’s all about Cartman wanting to join up in Nascar, but only to destroy other cars, and gets a feminine hygiene sponsor to help his destructive urges. It’s more of a Cartman-mocking session than an attack on the sport. It’s followed by an episode that takes on the newfound cultural interest in people from Jersey, and it takes some funny shots at obvious targets. “Insheeption” starts as a parody of hoarders, but – as the title suggests – goes into an Inception parody that never really comes together as well as it should, though the presence of Freddy Kruger gives it an extra oomph.
Cartman’s superhero character The Coon comes back in a three-part installment that has the dark lord Cthulhu being set free by BP’s oil spill, and then Eric becoming the kitten in the WB cartoon to Cthulhu’s protective nature. These larger-arc stories are fairly plot driven, and it’s fun to see them play with a slightly larger canvas, and to watch Cartman command Cthulhu to destroy the burning man festival. They also get into the world of Kenny a bit, and his ability to die without anyone noticing. The final episode combines the Shake Weight (now with semen) and food show obsessions for a strong finish.
At this point, South Park has flatlined creatively. That’s not a bad thing- the show is usually funny, with every episode having a number of laughs. But at this point, the show is what it is, the structure is familiar and they don’t seem to be taking it any place that would surprise anyone, other than wanting to rile up some with the Mohamed jokes. But even there, that they went back to that well is no surprise. I don’t know if there’s anything Stone and Parker could do to change that up – South Park has been around for over a decade, and we know their voices. But they’re still funny, even if they sometimes take easy targets and beat the crap out of them. Refinement is to be sought elsewhere; painting Snooki as a half troll/half dog is still mean enough to be funny. They’ve still got it.
Paramount presents all the episodes of the fourteenth season in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD. These transfers seem to be taken right from the digital source, and the images pop in 1080. Extras include mini-commentaries on every episode, and the boys say what they have in about two or three minutes about how the episode came about and whatever is tangential to that specific show. On the first disc are deleted scenes for the season (6 min.) while on the second disc is the full episode of The Coon, which is heavily referenced in this season. That episode also includes the mini-commentary from the original release.