Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 7, 2006)
The DVD release of South Park continues apace with Season Seven and its 15 episodes. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which also appears to be the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come straight from the DVD’s liner notes.
Cancelled (first aired 3/19/03): “Stan, Cartman, Kyle and Kenny find out that planet Earth is just one big intergalactic reality show and it's about to be cancelled. When the satellite dish in Cartman’s ass reactivates, the four boys have to travel through space, again, to meet the Joosyans, the heads of all the media in the galaxy, to try to convince them not to cancel their show.”
What a great way to start the year! “Cancelled” easily could have simply exploited its clever premise, but it goes beyond that to become memorable. It tosses out many funny sci-fi references and even features an alien disguised as a taco that craps ice cream. If that’s not worth the price of admission, what is?
Krazy Kripples (first aired 3/26/03): “Jimmy and Timmy pull together a group of people like themselves and call their new club the ‘Crips’. When they find out there is another gang by the same name in the city, they venture into the Denver ‘Crips’ territory to work out a way to merge the two organizations.”
Season Seven continues with another great episode. As with “Cancelled”, it overcomes its one-joke premise to broaden into something special. Even the main characters’ continued refusal to get involved works well. Given his death a year and a half after the episode aired, the inclusion of Christopher Reeve jokes borders on tasteless, but those bits are too absurd to be problematic. In any case, the Crips parts are hilarious and make this a strong show.
Toilet Paper (first aired 4/2/03): “Cartman convinces the boys to ‘toilet paper’ their teacher’s house. After the fact, Kyle is overwhelmed with guilt and on the verge of confessing his part in the prank. Officer Barbrady is hot on the perpetrators’ trail, while Cartman contemplates killing Kyle so he doesn’t rat them all out.”
The hits keep coming with the fine “Paper”. It flies because of the way everyone overemphasizes the pain of TPing. Kyle’s nightmares are especially funny, and we get some nice references to Silence of the Lambs and Godfather II in this solid program.
I’m a Little Bit Country (first aired 4/9/03): “The boys join some anti-war protesters because it’s a free pass out of school for the day. Their simple plan to protest their way out of class goes south when they find themselves in the middle of the two opposing sides of the issue. Meanwhile, Cartman attempts a flashback to 1776 to avoid studying for his American History assignment.”
As usual, the Cartman aspects of the show are its best. I like his attempts to get out of studying, and his trip back to 1776 is also amusing. The elements concerned with the war protests are less scintillating, but they have some entertaining parts. Too bad the competing war-related songs are pretty tepid. South Park usually excels at musical parodies, but these don’t go anywhere.
Fat Butt and Pancake Head (first aired 4/16/03): “One of Cartman’s body parts becomes famous overnight and rivals the popularity of another superstar. The real ‘Jenny from the Block’ is enraged to learn that a new ‘Diva’ has stolen her record deal and her boyfriend. Taco kisses!”
After the lackluster “Country”, Season Seven rebounds massively with the hilarious “Butt”. The show entertains for a variety of reasons. From the surreal aspects of the Jennifer Lopez hand puppet to the amusing songs to Cartman’s psychosis, this program works awfully well. It’s the best show from Season Seven.
Lil’ Crime Stoppers (first aired 4/23/03): “The kids start their very own South Park detective agency. After they return a missing doll to a little girl, the police department recognizes the boys’ efforts and officially names them ‘junior deputies’. Their next assignment – to break up a meth lab.”
“Stoppers” falters partly because it follows such a great episode. However, that’s not the only problem. It drags because it functions as little more than a cop show parody. That genre’s been spoofed enough, so this show lacks ingenuity and much cleverness.
Red Man’s Greed (first aired 4/30/03): “The owners of the Three Feathers Indian Casino have acquired the town of South Park. The citizens are being forced off their land to make way for a new super highway. Faced with saying goodbye to their friends and their way of life, the boys rally the townspeople to fight back against the rich and powerful Indians.”
“Greed” falls too much into one-joke territory to be a good show. The premise is moderately clever but the episode beats it to death. The laughs come only sporadically in this spotty program.
South Park is Gay (first aired 10/22/03): “The town of South Park celebrates the new, hip metrosexual craze. Cartman, Stan and Kenny are super hot to be gay. Kyle is cut from the group because he doesn’t ‘feel’ metrosexual and Garrison accuses the guys from Queer Eye of selling out.”
If nothing else, “Gay” is funny just due to the sight of all the males – young and old – dressed so flamboyantly. It’s like Johnny Weir busted out all over South Park. The show doesn’t exactly take off into unexpected places – okay, other than the Crab People bit – but it milks the material well.
Christian Hard Rock (first aired 10/29/03): “When the other boys kick Cartman out of their band, he pulls his own group together to make music for Jesus. When Cartman’s ‘Faith + 1’ rockets to the top of the Christian charts, Stan, Kyle and Kenny are arrested for downloading music from the Internet.”
Christian rock doesn’t exactly offer a challenging target, but since it does suck, I’m happy to see it spoofed. “Rock” gives it a good going over and tosses in plenty of funny and clever moments. The downloading side works well too, and they both make this a solid episode.
Grey Dawn (first aired 11/5/03): “With South Park’s senior citizens behind the wheel, more than a few farmer’s markets have been mowed down. The residents no longer feel it’s safe to be out on the streets. With their lives at stake, the boys decide to take action against the older generation. Unwilling to surrender their driver’s licenses, the elderly fight back.”
The theme of old folks as bad drivers doesn’t exactly offer a creative one. Nonetheless, “Dawn” gets its laughs due to its depiction of things ala a horror flick and then the war movie aspect. This allows some fun spoofs of other works and quite a few good moments.
Casa Bonita (first aired 11/12/03): “Kyle’s parents are taking him and three of his friends to Casa Bonita for his birthday. Kyle chooses Stan, Kenny and Butters to celebrate with him at Colorado’s version of a Mexican Disneyland. When Cartman finds out he’s not invited, he arranges for Butters to conveniently go ‘missing’.”
God help me, but I do love Cartman-centered shows. When Eric is at his most conniving, the series usually soars. His maniacal obsession over Casa Bonita makes him nuttier than usual, and the program’s climax – in which he tries to pack in as much fun as possible in a very brief period of time – is terrific.
All About Mormons (first aired 11/19/03): “A Mormon kid moves to South Park and it’s up to Stan to kick his ass. But when Stan and his dad meet their new Mormon neighbors, they become fascinated with how genuinely nice they are. While the other boys mock Stan relentlessly for wimping out, Randy forces the rest of his family to become Mormon.”
The episode doesn’t offer a scathing attack on Mormons, and it indeed makes them seem like very pleasant people. Founder Joseph Smith gets more of a slam, as the show makes it pretty clear the folks behind it think the religion started on rocky grounds. It does so in an amusing way, though I doubt Mormons would think too highly of it.
Butt Out (first aired 12/3/03): “After singing-and-dancing representatives from an anti-smoking campaign rap about the dangers of smoking, the kids at South Park Elementary realize how cool it really is and take up the habit.”
The “Butt Out” show is amusing, but the episode rapidly goes downhill after that. It picks on Rob Reiner and makes him out to be nothing more than a fat buffoon. I understand the show’s desire to illustrate that bullying and lying is bad no matter what the cause, but the nastiness aimed at Reiner and the others struck me as idiotic.
Raisins (first aired 12/10/03): “After Wendy breaks up with Stan, the boys take him to ‘Raisins’, a local restaurant known for its great chicken wings and hot girls. While everyone tries to cheer Stan up, Butters meets the girl of his dreams.”
Another mediocre episode, “Raisins” suffers because it goes after easy targets. Goth kids and a fourth-grade version of Hooters? It has some laughs but doesn’t dig deeply.
It’s Christmas in Canada (first aired 12/17/03): “The Broflofski family is dealt a devastating blow when Ike’s Canadian birth parents show up unexpectedly and want their baby back. When the townspeople decide to forgo Christmas gifts and take up a collection to get Ike home to South Park, the boys are distraught. Before all the money for their Christmas presents gets spent, they hightail it to Canada to bring Ike home themselves.”
South Park’s Christmas episodes tend to be hit or miss, and that goes for “Canada” as well. I like the Wizard of Oz spoof and think it has some good moments, but it lacks much bite overall. It ends the season on a positive but unspectacular note.