Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 13, 2009)
Most prior South Park compilations favored various themes. For the first time, we get one that focuses on a specific character. That leads us to the 12 episodes of The Cult of Cartman. I’ll look at each one in order and offer my own thoughts about them.
Scott Tenorman Must Die (aired July 11, 2001): This program finds Cartman the victim of eighth grader Tenorman. That kid convinces Cartman to buy a supply of his pubic hair with the promise this means he’s reached puberty. When the other boys tell Cartman he’s a fool, Eric goes on a campaign of revenge against Tenorman, all in the hope he’ll get back his money. Matters continue to escalate as Tenorman consistently gets the better of Cartman, at least until the shocking conclusion.
”Tenorman” offers a strong show. The battle between Tenorman and Cartman is plain fun to see, and the bizarre ways that they fight against each other seem very entertaining. And when I say that the ending’s shocking, I mean it; I kept expecting to find out that parts of it were in jest, but they weren’t, which makes the whole thing all that much more amusing. It’s a great ending that helped turn “Tenorman” into a very memorable episode.
AWESOM-O (aired 4/14/04): “Cartman dresses up like a robot, calls himself AWESOM-O and moves in with Butters in a plan to learn all of Butters’ secrets and then use them against him. While Butters is thrilled to have a new best friend, the US Army believes AWESOM-O is some new secret weapon, and Hollywood is after the phony robot to develop their next big blockbuster.”
The idea behind this episode is one of the series’ oddest – and a lot of fun. Cartman’s plan is great, and the way it inevitably backfires is even better. The show turns out to be a real winner.
The Death of Eric Cartman (aired 4/13/05): “When the boys get fed up with Cartman and begin ignoring him, he becomes convinced he has died and become a ghost. When an unaware Butters thinks that only he can see Cartman’s ghost, the two of them try to make amends to all the people Cartman has wronged over the years.”
After all these years, shouldn’t I be tired of the Cartman shtick? Perhaps, but I’m not, and Eric remains the best thing about the series. “Death” takes a delightfully weird path as Cartman turns nice for the short-term before he inevitably sees the error of his ways and becomes a prick again. The switch makes the show consistently hilarious.
Cartoon Wars Part I (aired 4/5/06): “Cartman and Kyle are at war over the popular cartoon Family Guy. When the creators of the show announce that they will show the image of the prophet Mohammed, the network threatens to ban the episode. Cartman sees this as his chance to get Family Guy off the air for good. The two boys embark upon a mad chase across the country, and the fate of Family Guy lies with whichever boy reaches Hollywood first.”
When a series runs a two-part episode, I prefer to save my comments until I get to its conclusion. So look for my thoughts down there!
Cartoon Wars Part II (aired 4/12/06): “After leaving Kyle injured on the side of the road, Cartman races to the headquarters of Family Guy, determined to put an end to the show once and for all.”
“Wars” pokes fun at itself to a degree, but – more importantly – it slams Family Guy. How that show has earned an audience escapes me, as it features mostly cheap, obvious gags or nonsensical pop culture references that exist for no reason other than to seem clever. Cartman usually follows wrong-headed paths, but in his single-minded hatred for Family Guy, he’s right on the money for once. It also lampoons the idiocy that surrounded the whole Mohammed cartoon hubbub a few years ago. “Wars” probably belabors its points – which the series often does – but still gets in enough laughs to succeed.
Le Petit Tourette (aired 10/3/07): “After seeing a kid with Tourette’s Syndrome at the toy store, Cartman believes he’s found the magical ticket to happiness. Drunk with the power of saying whatever he wants, whenever he wants, without getting in trouble for it, Cartman lines up national TV coverage to take advantage of his new life without filters.”
“Petit” demonstrates what South Park does well: it calls attention to a condition and creates some sympathy for folks with Tourette, but it also has a lot of fun with the issue. Dunno how it sits with folks who have Tourette, but I think it balances its two sides well.
Tonsil Trouble (aired 3/12/08): “After going in for a routine tonsillectomy, a botched transfusion leaves Cartman afflicted with an incurable disease. When he finds no comfort in his friends and family, how far will he go to find a cure?”
Like “Tourette”, “Tonsil” makes attempts to raise awareness of an issue, specifically the way that society seems to have forgotten about AIDS. It doesn’t do a ton in that vein, though, and it mostly just kind of rambles. It scores a few laughs, but it’s not one of the better episodes.
Eek, A Penis! (aired 4/9/08): “With Ms. Garrison out of the school in search of a way to be the man he was always intended to be, Cartman is given authoritah over the classroom. After doing an exemplary job as substitute, Cartman is sent to help inner-city youth.”
I wouldn’t call “Eek” a one-joke episode. No – it’s a two-joke episode. Half of its attempted laughs come from the sight of a mouse with a penis growing from its back as it scampers through town, while the other half derive from Cartman’s take on Edward James Olmos from <>Stand and Deliver. Neither succeed. Add to that some heavy-handed moralizing and “Eek” doesn’t soar.
Cartmanland (aired 7/25/01): “Cartman inherits one million dollars from his grandmother and fulfills his lifelong dream of owning his own amusement park: Cartmanland! A hemorrhoid erupts in Kyle’s ass when he learns of Cartman’s undeserved fortune, making him question the existence of God and whether there’s a reason to stay alive in a world where someone like Cartman is happy.”
In a normal show, Cartman would become lonely by himself and make amends with his chums. Of course, that never happens here. Not only does Cartman fail to learn a lesson, but also the other kids actively derive pleasure from his pain. How can you not like a show with so little redeeming moral value?
Up the Down Steroid (first aired 3/24/04): “Jimmy is in training for an upcoming sporting event and he’s determined to win at any cost. Cartman decides he can easily take first place against Jimmy. He just has to convince the qualifying committee that he’s handicapped.”
Didn’t they steal this idea for that Johnny Knoxville bomb The Ringer? I never saw it, so I can’t compare the two, but the idea sure sounds the same. I can’t imagine that The Ringer was as funny as this show. Cartman’s attempts to make himself “special” are a riot, and the Jimmy elements are also entertaining. Add to that a hilarious scene in which Timmy tries to rat out Jimmy to Mr. Mackey and this episode’s a winner.
Super Fun Time (aired 4/23/08): “Ms. Garrison takes the kids on an educational field trip to a living museum, Pioneer Village, where all the workers remain dedicated to staying in character. While there, Cartman makes Butters sneak away from the class to go to the amusement center located next door.”
As someone who grew up in shouting distance of Colonial Williamsburg, I always maintained a healthy disdain for those annoying “in-character” presentations. I guess the South Park dudes feel the same way, so they take out their irritation with a darned funny episode. The insane dedication of the Pioneer Village employees is hilarious and produces consistent laughs. The Cartman parts aren’t quite as good, but they have their moments in this solid episode.
Ginger Kids (aired 11/9/05): “Cartman suffers from a mysterious and sudden onset of the disease Gingervitis. Sick and tired of being ridiculed because he now has red hair, light skin and freckles, he rallies all the ginger kids everywhere to fight against discrimination and rise up and become the master race they are intended to be.”
“Kids” goes into “Afterschool Special” territory with the usual perverse South Park twist. Of course, the Watermelon Man treatment doesn’t teach Cartman any lessons, and that’s why I love him. It’s a bizarre spin on prejudice that turns funny, especially when it goes into horror territory.