For the fifteenth season of South Park, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were coming off of the opening of their Broadway show The Book of Mormon, which was a huge hit. And when they went into their summer hiatus of that season with a cliffhanger episode that showed a huge shift in the characters, there was a sense that they might be done with the show. After all, the two had been doing it for so long, and – as with almost every season – their hit to miss ratio has always been noticeable. They had no intention of quitting, however, and we’re going to keep getting South Park. Sometimes they’re great, sometimes they’re one-note, but most episodes offer a number of big laughs. Our review of the Fifteenth Season of South Park on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
The season opens with the weakest episode of that year. Kyle is taken in by Apple because he signed an agreement of terms that he didn’t read. Those terms include being turned into a HumancentiPad. Cartman wants an iPad, but his mother can’t afford one so he goes on Dr. Phil to bitch about his mother “fucking” him. The problem with this episode is that recreating The Human Centipede isn’t that funny. As Parker notes they get away with a lot for cable television, and though there’s a laugh here and there involving what the front of the CentiPad eats it’s the problem with all weak parody: it’s just recreation with no commentary. The second episode “Funnybot,” also is weak as it makes fun of Germans having no sense of humor and Tyler Perry. Here the boys go up against the Funnybot, which is a Dalek (basically) that becomes a huge comedy star and then murderer.
But by the third episode, everyone seems back in their swing as Ike Broflovski is watching the Canadian wedding and ends up on a quest to save the kidnapped princess. Tooth Decay is the villain. Though the episode relies a little too much on the premise that Mr. Mackey swearing at children is funny, the absurdity of the Canadian wedding ceremony is hysterical. It’s followed by “T.M.I.” which has all the boys in the school measuring their penises, which then leads to Cartman being sent to anger management. The payoff of the episode is excellence. Stone and Parker are like shotguns with political commentary – where often a scalpel is best – but “Crack Baby Athletic Association” takes a shot at the NCAA rules (where college players are essentially slave labor) and hits its mark.
“City Sushi” is one of those episodes where reach exceeds grasp as the concept is good, but the execution is a little off. City Wok gets competition when City Sushi opens next door, and the longstanding rivalry between the Chinese and Japanese is ignited. There are some funny moments, but the B plot about Butters having a multiple personality disorder has a weak payoff. But the close of the first half of their season is “You’re Getting Old,” which has Stan rejecting tweenway music as just fart sounds and comes to start seeing everything as shitty. He’s diagnosed as a cynic, and Kyle, Cartman and Kenny stop hanging out with him. This is exacerbated (or possibly caused) by the fact that his parents are getting divorced. Here they make fun of Jack and Jill and trailers for bad comedies with such contempt that it’s award-worthy.
This is resolved in “Ass Burgers” which has Stan diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which ultimately leads to a Matrix parody where Stan can only see the world everyone else does by drinking heavily. It wraps things up, but it makes you wish they would take these characters in new and interesting places. “The Last of the Meehecans” has a game of “border patrol” (a modern cowboys and Indians), which goes in an odd direction when Butters gets lost and eventually goes back to Mexico and stays in character until the game is over. Mix in a Life of Brian reference or two and this is a good episode for Butters and the show. It’s followed by “Bass to Mouth” which brings back Lemmiwinks to fight his brother Wikileaks as the school is haunted by a TMZ-type gossip site. It’s a firing on all cylinders episode.
“Broadway Bro Down” is equally strong, as Randy is swayed to love musicals when he’s informed that the subtext of every musical is “blowjobs.” The sight of Elton John and Steven Sondheim hanging out at Hooters is golden, as is the eventual bro-down. “1%” is one of those episodes that would be stronger if they had anything to say about Occupy Wall Street. All they have is shots at Michael Moore being fat, but the B plot has an assassination attempt on Cartman’s stuffed animals that’s good enough to make this a half and half. “A History Channel Thanksgiving” infused the plot of Thor with the history of Thanksgiving, when stuffing is revealed to be an intergalactic delicacy. Here though also is the problem with the show’s laziness. Natalie Portman is in the episode and there’s nothing they really parody, except that in the end she turns out to be a portal. I get having Paris Hilton cough up globs of semen as a joke, and it’s pretty hilarious even if transgressive, but here it doesn’t make much sense as parody, and borders on sexism. The season ends mildly with “The Poor Kid” where Kenny’s family is targeted by a cop show, and sends Kenny and his siblings to a foster home that is strongly agnostic (a one-note pushed as hard as it can be). But it also leads to the return of Mysterion.
Paramount’s Blu-ray presents all fourteen episodes on two discs, all in widescreen (1.78:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD. Picture quality is excellent – this is as good as it can ever look. Each episode comes with a mini commentary by Matt and Trey on the show and what they were thinking at the time. They hate these, but they do actually provide insights into the making of the show. All the rest of the supplements are on disc one. “Six Days to Air: The Making of South Park” (42 min.) shows them going through the process of writing, animated and doing the voice work for the first episode of the season. They also comment on their working process and show how last minute much of the production is. It also covers Parker’s Oscar nomination. “Six Days to Air: Behind the Scenes of ‘City Sushi’” (3 min.) offers a much quicker glimpse at a later episode. There’s also seven deleted scenes (5 min.) from the season, most small changes with “HumancentiPad” losing a bit about haikus.