Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 10, 2014)
While it’ll probably never catch up with The Simpsons, South Park continues to show amazing longevity. This Blu-ray set provides the series’ complete 17th season. I’ll examine all 10 programs in the way presented on the discs, which also is the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come from the package itself.
Let Go, Let Gov (aired 9/25/13): “Cartman is sick and tired of the government spying on him. He infiltrates the NSA to gain access to the secret file he knows they have on him. Once he’s in, Cartman discovers a disturbing truth. He plans to ‘out’ the NSA with a new form of social media that transmits his thoughts directly from his brain onto the Internet.”
Season 17 starts with a quality episode. Sure, it plays a little cute with the way it matches Cartman to Edward Snowden, but it still comes with plenty of laughs along the way, especially when the NSA head delivers a hilarious statement of intent. The way Butters’ confuses the US Government with God also amuses and helps make this a strong show.
Informative Murder Porn (aired 10/2/13): “Adults are killing each other, and it’s all thanks to what they’re watching on TV. The boys use parental locks to block true-crime documentaries and save their parents. Desperate to watch, Randy discovers that the locks are opened by answering a question only kids would know. After their parents crack the code, the boys must plead with the cable company’s sadistic employees to keep their parents alive.”
“Porn” tries to be clever with its role reversal story, but it feels like a one-trick pony. Actually, I guess it comes with two tricks: the role-reversal as well as commentary about the unresponsive nature of cable companies. The latter subject seemed stale decades ago, and the parents vs. kids thread doesn’t appear fresh either. Other than Cartman’s odd incessant booing of Wendy, this episode fizzles.
World War Zimmerman (aired 10/9/13): “After a high-profile tria; ends with a controversial decision, Cartman becomes increasingly paranoid. The verdict leaves him sure Token poses a threat to all humanity. Cartman plans to save the world by invoking Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.”
With links to the Trayvon Martin trial and World War Z, “Zimmerman” suffers from dated elements. That said, Cartman’s bizarre form of bigotry provides amusing moments. Unfortunately, the show relies on too much World War Z parody and runs out of gas by its ending.
Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers (aired 10/23/13): “The Goth Kids take center stage. Henrietta is sent to a camp for troubled kids, where she is changed in an unexpected way: the camp turns her emo. The Goth kids form an alliance with the Vampire kids and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe to stop the onslaught of emo posers.”
“Posers” scores points for its unusual focus, as Cartman, Stan, Kyle and the others play no role. Otherwise, though, it seems like another one-joke show, as it focuses on the barely-discernible differences between Goths and emos. It’s not a bad show, but it lacks punch.
Taming Strange (aired 10/30/13): “When Ike hits puberty, he and Kyle start to grow apart. To save their relationship, Kyle takes Ike to a live performance of his favorite show, where Ike acts out in a crude and inappropriate way. Meanwhile, Mr. Mackey is too busy dealing with the bugs in the school’s new integrated security system to help Kyle, and the Canadian Minister of Health tries to save his marriage.”
When South Park makes fun of Canada, it usually scores laughs, and that proves to be the case here. It’s odd to see pre-schooler Ike hit puberty, but that acts as an excuse to mock the magical land of Canada, and it creates good comedy. After a few problematic shows, “Strange” gives us a bounce-back episode.
Ginger Cow (aired 11/6/13): “Cartman’s latest prank, where he dresses up a cow as a ginger, fulfills a prophecy that leads to peace in the Middle East. Kyle is the only person who knows the cow is actually a fake, a fact that Cartman uses to make his life miserable.”
With its gags spread across the boys as well as various religions, “Ginger” gets in plenty of good moments. Even after 17 years, I still love Cartman’s petty cruelty, and the scenes that bring together the warring factions amuse as well. This becomes one of the year’s best episodes.
Black Friday (aired 11/13/13): “Anticipation for the biggest shopping day of the year is upon the town of South Park. The boys take the console wars to new heights, scheming and forming alliances in preparation for a bloody battle set on Black Friday. Randy takes a job as a mall security guard, plotting to betray his sworn brothers and take advantage of the biggest sales of the holiday season. Everyone is aware that winter is coming to South Park.”
When I review multi-part episodes, I save my comments for the finale.
A Song of Ass and Fire (aired 11/20/13): “In the second part of this epic saga, Black Friday looms ever closer. Cartman seeks vengeance for Princess Kenny’s betrayal, and Randy takes on the role of commander of the mall security guards. The fate of the console wars rests in Butters’ hands, but he is getting jerked around by a fantasy author with an all-consuming obsession.”
This is just part two of three, so keep moving to find my thoughts about the trilogy.
Titties and Dragons (aired 12/4/13): “In the finale of the legendary trilogy, the boys fight the greatest battle of their young, hot lives. The boys agree to merge their factions, but Cartman is secretly conspiring for his own self-interest. A wedding feast will ultimately decide the fate of the console wars, but first, Randy must defend the mall from hordes of soulless shoppers.”
The trilogy offers a three-pronged parody, as it makes fun of video game “console wars”, Black Friday mania and Game of Thrones. It manages to mix those elements pretty well but it tends to run too long, as three full episodes means the threads run out of steam before “Dragons” finishes. Overall, the trilogy entertains, but I suspect it would’ve worked better at a shorter length.
The Hobbit (aired 12/11/13): “After Butters turns down a date with a girl who has low self-esteem, Wendy steps in. She proves that beauty is in the hands of the retouch artist. Her plan backfires when all the girls in the school suddenly have to get their photos digitally altered to make them look hotter. Meanwhile, a recovering gay fish attempts to prove his girlfriend is not a hobbit.”
S17 ends on a mediocre note. It makes decent points about media manipulation, but it tends toward simplistic elements and lacks a lot of laughs. Throw in some cheap Kanye/Kim jabs and it becomes a forgettable show.