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South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (2008)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/10/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/7/2009

Let's talk about two rarities. First, it's rare for a television show to make it past one season. In today's instant gratification society, if a show isn't an immediate hit, the networks yank it and try something else. Secondly, if a show does have any sort of longevity (which today can mean just 2-3 years), it's rare for it sustain a level of quality. As actors, writers and producers come and go, it's difficult for a program to maintain whatever made it popular in the first place. This is such a common occurrence, that a term has been coined for it, "Jumping the shark". This refers to an episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie jumps a shark while on skis. Many feel that this marked the beginning of the end for the show. In the case of South Park, I can't pin-point when it "jumped the shark", but it certainly isn't the show that it used to be. And nothing illustrates this quite like South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season.

Here's a listing of the episodes included in this season:

-- "Tonsil Trouble" -- Cartman (voiced by Trey Parker) goes into the hospital for a routine tonsillectomy and contracts AIDS. Instead of dealing with it, he makes sure that Kyle (voiced by Matt Stone) gets AIDS as well. Now they must both try to find help.

-- “Britney’s New Look” -- Britney Spears comes to South Park and when the pressure from the media becomes too much, she tries to commit suicide. However, she simply blows the top of her head off, and the boys must help her deal with the even greater media attention.

-- “Major Boobage” -- Kids in South Park begin “cheesing”, which is getting high by having a cat pee in your face. When Kenny (voiced by Matt Stone) and Stan’s Dad, Gerald (voiced by Trey Parker), do it, they have hallucinations which are based on the movie Heavy Metal. The authorities attempt to stop the epidemic by outlawing cats.

-- “Canada on Strike” -- In a parody of the writer’s strike, the entire country of Canada goes on strike when “Canada Appreciation Day” is ignored. In South Park, Ike’s adopted brother, Ike (who is Canadian), goes on strike as well. The boys become upset when their favorite Canadian show “Terrence and Philip” goes into reruns.

-- “Eek, A Penis” -- Mr...Ms...Garrison decides that he...she...wants to reverse the sex-change operation which made him a female. So, he has a penis genetically grown on the back of a mouse, which promptly escapes. As he...she...can no longer be in the classroom, Cartman becomes the teacher and is oddly successful. This leads him to getting a job in an inner-city school.

-- “Over Logging” -- The show does a very odd spoof of The Grapes of Wrath. The internet in South Park goes down, so the citizens head West to try to find a place where they can go on-line. They find themselves in a refugee camp in California where internet access is rationed. This does have one of those “can they show that on TV” moments.

-- “Super Fun Time” -- Mr. Garrison’s class goes on a field-trip to a re-enactment community which shows what life was like in the 1800s. However, Cartman finds the whole idea lame, and instead he wants to go to a local play-place. Meanwhile, the villains from Die Hard suddenly arrive at the old-time town to rob it.

-- “The China Problem” -- The elaborate opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics convince Cartman that China is going to invade America. Because of this, Cartman and Butters take everyone in a P.F. Chang’s hostage. At the same time, the boys try to deal with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

-- “Breast Cancer Show Ever” -- When Wendy Testaburger attempts to do a presentation on breast cancer in class, Cartman makes fun of her. Angered, she challenges him to a fight, and Cartman keeps making excuses to avoid it.

-- “Pandemic” -- Peruvian flute bands are everywhere in South Park, so the boys start one in order to make money. But, the government becomes convinced that the bands are a threat, the boys are deported to Peru.

-- “Pandemic 2: The Startling” -- As it turns out, the Peruvian flute bands were keeping giant guinea pigs at bay, so this becomes a parody of Cloverfield, where the citizens of South Park must find their way to safety.

-- “About Last Night...” -- In what may be the weirdest idea ever, Barack Obama wins the presidency, but it’s all been a ploy to create an Ocean’s Eleven-like heist. Meanwhile, a bi-partisan fight breaks out in South Park.

-- “Elementary School Musical” -- As High School Musical 3 opens, everyone at school is singing and dancing. Yet, Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny have no idea what is happening. So, they watch the movies and try to understand the phenomenon.

-- “The Ungroundable” -- When the movie Twilight creates a sensation in South Park, a clan of “vampires” emerge in the school (much to the chagrin of the goths). Butters, who always wants to fit in, joins the clan.

Looking back over these episodes, I have the same two reactions that I had when I viewed them the first time. First, the show has strayed too far from what made it good in the first place. When South Park first emerged, the novelty was the fact that it showed elementary school life through the eyes of kids who were both innocent and jaded. Parker and Stone drew upon their own childhoods and tweaked those experiences through adult perceptions. Everyday life was skewered, and it was things to which most of us could relate. Today, the show tries too hard to be timely and spoof current events, and the boys, and their opinions and actions, are often cast aside. The other reaction is that all of these shows sound good on paper. Nearly all of the 14 episodes have an idea which sounds humorous and makes one smile. However, something is lost in the execution and I rarely laughed while watching the actual episodes. I think that the guys are pushing themselves so hard to be timely that they forget to write jokes. South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season proves that the show continues to push the envelope, but I wish that it would simply go back to being funny.

South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season pulls a Fonzie on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The show is presented in a full frame (1.33:1) format. (This is sort of odd, as framing is usually consistent and not an either or thing. If the Blu-ray Disc is framed at 1.78:1, then the DVD should have slight letterboxing, but it doesn't. And I don't remember the shows being letterboxed when they aired. So, the question is, is the DVD viewer missing info?) The image is sharp and clear, and the colors look very good. There is notable stuttering the animation and jagged lines appear. (The lines on Mr. Garrison's forehead were freaking me out.) The image is neither as clear or as deep as the Blu-ray Disc. The DVD carries a Dolby Stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The dialogue is clear and there are some nice stereo effects at times.

The South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season DVD set contains several extras. Each episodes contains "Commentary Mini" by show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Although I don't think that they call it that anymore.) These are brief commentaries which typically run less than 5 minutes. They tell us where the idea for each episode came from and give some details about the production -- usually detailing how they were pressed to finish. "The Making of Major Boobage" (13 minutes) features Animation Producer Eric Stough talking us through animatics, concept art, and CG modeling. He explains where the ideas for certain sequences came from and how they were created. "6 Days to South Park" (82 minutes) takes us through the creation of the episode "Super Fun Time". The animators provide commentary as we learn about the storyboard process, scripting, and animation. They illustrate the process of taking a raw script, animating it and then fine-tuning it until it is ready to air. "Behind the Scenes: About Last Night..." (22 minutes) again has Stough showing us how this episodes was essentially put together in one day. It's interesting to hear how they took the actual invites from Election Day to make the show.

Paramount Home Entertainment has also brought South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season to Blu-ray Disc. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors are incredible, and some of the most realistic that I've ever seen. I can't believe that I would recommend a South Park Blu-ray as a demo disc, but these colors leap off of the screen. The image has a notable amount of depth and the various textures used on the characters really stands out. There is still some blurring in the animation. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.9 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and come to life in scene-after-scene, showing very good separation. However, the surround sound is so subtle that it has very little impact.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long