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South Park: The Complete Nineteenth
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/6/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/11/2016
When a show has been around for just a few seasons, it is bound to go through some changes. If a series has been on the air for nearly 20 years, it will definitely make transitions. I'm sure that to some South Park has not changed very much since its inception in 1997. But it has. In the beginning, the show's conceit was to show classic childhood memories and kid's activities through adult eyes. As time has passed and the makers of the show have fallen into the mode of working on the show just before it airs, South Park now focuses on being as topical and cutting edge as possible. But, here's the question; Is it still funny?
Over the years, South Park has had many recurring characters and repeated situations, but Season 19 is the first season (that I can remember) which features a complete story arc over the ten episodes. As the season open, Principal Victoria (voiced by April Stewart) is fired and P.C. Principal (voiced by Trey Parker), who, as his name implies, wants everything P.C. and nothing which may offend anyone is allowed. This spreads a wave of P.C. through the town and a feeling that South Park must be improved. Therefore, Randy Marsh (voiced by Trey Parker) decides that if the town had a Whole Foods, then things would be better. While he is campaigning for this, it is decided that the poor part of town, where Kenny (voiced by Matt Stone) lives, should be gentrified and the home of trendy shops and restaurants. This creates chaos in other parts of town. Meanwhile, the boys begin to suspect that P.C. Principal is making students disappear and that he's behind a media cover-up.
As noted above, for several years now, South Park's M.O. has been to target a person or topic which is trending in the news. Through various making-of pieces, we've learned that the show is typically put together over the course of a few days just before the airdate, so Matt and Trey are able to cover things which are still in the headlines. As is the show's style, they pull no punches in assaulting these issues and their parodies are often weird, but on-target. For Season 19, things are no different, as the show attacks Yelp reviewers, celebrity fat shaming, Whole Foods, trendy restaurants, ISIS, pop-up ads, Caitlyn Jenner, and even the obscure Japanese trend "yaoi", which is practice of drawing straight characters or people as if they were gay. (Have I mentioned lately that Japan is so weird?)
Many of the ideas presented here are clever, despite the fact that South Park is never, ever subtle when it is targeting something. And, aside from the "yaoi" thing (seriously, what's up with that?), they pick things which have been in the news or things which are in the zeitgeist. Most of the things which have been chosen to be mocked here are easily relatable, especially when one considers the target demographic of the show. Unlike nearly any other scripted show on TV, South Park has its finger on the pulse of society and is not afraid to peel back the curtain.
But, is it funny? A lot of the concepts found in Season 19 would come across as humorous if you read about them. The idea of restaurateurs turning the tables on Yelp reviewers is clever. Butters beings hired to edit Twitter so that celebrities don’t have to face criticism certainly has bite to it. There’s no doubt that nearly every wacky notion put forth here has some comedic merit. However, South Park simply isn’t funny anymore. I can remember that the first few seasons had truly laugh-out-loud moments and quotable lines. (I still say, “Chicken wings. Medium spicy.” when the situation calls for it.) The modern version of the show is so intent on being current that the true comedy is left far behind. I chuckled a few times here and there, and I will admit that I laughed every time Caitlyn Jenner ran over someone, but otherwise, I watched all ten episodes feeling bemused at best. Again, I could see the comedic potential in each episode and I agreed with many of the points being made here, but as a comedy show, South Park failed. Even with 19 seasons under their belts, one would think that Matt and Trey could uncover a few more universal truths from childhood. But, as long as they are intent on making the show a cracked version of the news, the portions of the show intended to be funny will suffer.
South Park: The Complete Nineteenth Season does make some great points about labeling people on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Comedy Central. The two-Disc set contains all ten episodes from the show's 19th season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 10 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. If you've seen South Park, then you know that the animation is deliberately lacking in detail, but we can see all of the textures and layers in the art here. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The show doesn't overflow with dynamic effects, but we do get some stereo effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen and some mild surround-sound effects.
The South Park: The Complete Nineteenth Season Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Season Commentary" (27 minutes) is an odd extra, as it's an AUDIO COMMENTARY set to clips from the season, as Matt and Trey describe their inspirations and goals for the season. So, instead of their usual "Commentary-Mini", we get the one big commentary. The Disc contains ten DELETED SCENES from various episodes which run about 6 minutes. Most of these are brief and feel like moments cut from existing scenes. We get the trailer for the video game "South Park: The Fractured But Whole". "#SocialCommentary" allows viewers to watch each episode with "Pop-up Video" like Tweets which provide trivia.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long