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South Park: The Complete Eleventh
Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/12/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/13/2008
For decades, the schedule of television shows seasons was very uniform. Shows would begin a new season in the fall (usually around September), run though mid-December (where there would be a holiday break), resume in January, and run through May. Somewhere along the way, the notion of mid-season replacements came in, but if they succeeded, they would follow this same path. In the early 90s, FOX introduced the notion of new episodes in the summer, which was unheard of. Since then, cable shows have completely wrecked the notion of a traditional season schedule. This can challenge the viewer to keep up and remember which season is which.
South Park is a show which has embraced this idea, as its "seasons" run in small chunks throughout the year. So, when the South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season DVD arrived, I remembered that particular group of shows as one which was full of duds. However, when I checked out the list of episodes, I found that I was wrong. Scanning the air-dates, I realized why. These shows aired as a chunk in March & April '07 and then a chunk in October & November '07. No wonder I was confused! This is a perfect example of how cable shows use the "mini-season" style to stretch out a season.
So, a second glance at the list of episodes revealed there were actually some good ones in Season 11. (Or, what they are calling "Season 11".) But, as usual, we get the typical South Park hit-or-miss batch of shows. While some people seem to think that every episode of the show is hysterical (I have serious doubts that as many people are falling in the floor due to uncontrollable laughter as claim to be.), I take each one with a grain of salt. It's no secret that series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker live to shock people and even today the show can elicit a response of "Can you say/show that on television?" However, shocking doesn't always equal entertaining. In the beginning, the show's charm came from the fact that it was examining childhood situations through the eyes of adults and giving some of that mature knowledge and language to the kids. And today, these are still the episodes which work the best.
Season 11 gives us a mixture of episodes which work too hard to be shocking, those which work because they are actually clever, and those which don't work at all. Unfortunately, the list of episodes which actually work is quite short. "Cartman Sucks", "Le Petit Tourette", "Guitar Queer-O" and "The List" are the four shows in this season which actually focus on the main characters, Stan, Cartman (both voiced by Trey Parker), Kyle, and Kenny (both voiced by Matt Stone). Again, these shows which offer a very skewed view of childhood are the ones which show a true attempt at creativity and cleverness by Parker and Stone. "The List", in which the girls in the class rank the boys on appearance, is the best of the lot, as the guys stop at nothing to get their hands on that list. And of course, any of the episodes where Cartman gets his comeuppance is always good.
When the show isn't focusing on the boys, it's either lampooning current events or something from popular culture -- usually at the same time. Of these, "Night of the Living Homeless" is the best example. In this show, South Park is besieged by the homeless, who are ignored or mistreated. This political statement is mixed with a homage to Dawn of the Dead, as the homeless act like zombies and the townspeople are forced to seek shelter at the local mall. This is an example of how the show uses the medium of animation to show whatever it wants. "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" and "Fantastic Easter Special", which attack racism and The DaVinci Code respectively, have some funny moments (especially the rabbit in the Papal hat), but run out of steam. "More Crap" and "The Snuke" never worked from the outset.
However, the center-pieced of this collection is supposed to be the three-episode story arc "Imaginationland", where terrorist attack Imagationland, threatening all of the fictional characters there. This would have been very topical in late 2001 or early 2002, where "If we ____, then the terrorist win." statements were being made right and left. Now, it feels like a complete afterthought and it's never funny. The only fun thing about "Imaginationland" is spotting all of the familiar characters in the background.
Fans of South Park will no doubt say that I'm being too hard on the show, but I've seen how clever and funny the series can actually be and I want that from every episode. I don't think that's too much to ask.
South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season jumps onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. This 3-disc set contains all 14 episodes of the show's eleventh season. The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image here is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are very good and the image isn't overly bright. The only defect that I noticed was some slight blurring during quick character movements. Otherwise, the transfer rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVDs carry a Dolby stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Some minor stereo effects aside, most of the audio comes from the center channel, but it all sounds fine.
The only extra on the South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season DVD set are "Mini-Commentaries" by Parker and Stone where they speak for about 5 minutes on each episode. Despite the brevity, these are often interesting, as they explain where they got their ideas for the shows.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long