Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 12, 2007)
With the release of 2005’s Season Nine, the South Park hit parade brings us closer and closer to the present day. This DVD release gives us all 14 episodes from that year. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which also is the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come straight from the DVD’s liner notes.
Mr. Garrison’s Fancy New Vagina (aired 3/9/05): “Mr. Garrison goes to great lengths to get what he’s always wanted: a sex change. As he enjoys his new womanly attributes, the rest of the town gets in touch with their inner feelings too. Meanwhile, Kyle wrestles with the fact that Jews just aren’t good at basketball.”
Even for South Park, some parts of “Vagina” seem awfully creepy. The shots of Garrison’s surgery are gross, and other aspects of his story come across as… yucky! It’s an interesting concept, though it doesn’t produce lots of laughs. It gets even more disgusting when a doctor turns Kyle’s dad into a dolphin. The other Kyle part is more amusing, though the gross-out factor is too high for this episode to become a winner. C’mon – do we really need to see actual footage from a sex change operation?
Die Hippie Die (aired 3/16/05): “When hippie drum circles start popping up in people’s attics and backyards, the citizens of South Park have no choice but to turn to Eric Cartman for help. In the onslaught of Hippie Jam Fest 2005, Cartman faces one of his greatest challenges yet: to rid the world of hippies, once and for all.”
Season Nine rebounds with the excellent “Die”. Cartman-centered episodes usually prosper, and this one’s combination of horror flick drama and overwrought Core theatrics combines for many laughs. It’s also always nice to see the series mock hippies, especially when it involves smug, self-righteous “college know-it-all hippies”. “Die” is a winner.
Wing (aired 3/23/05): “As talent agents, Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny can bank 10% of their clients’ earnings. After they pool all their resources to impress their one and only client, another agency steals him away. Desperate to earn their money back, they take on another client with plans to launch her on a new reality show.”
The big question here: does atrocious novelty vocalist Wing know that the show makes fun of her? I don’t know, but I can state that the episode offers plenty of great moments. I love the way the program gets into the sleazy world of talent agents, and the addition of the ever-quirky Wing makes it even better.
Best Friends Forever (aired 3/30/05): Due to his obsession with the Sony PSP, Kenny gets hit by a truck and dies. When he gets to heaven, he finds out that the forces of good need him to lead an assault against Satan. Before this occurs, though, doctors bring him back, and he gets stuck in a “persistent vegetative state”. This starts a battle between those who want to keep Kenny alive and Cartman, who wants him dead to snag his PSP.
This episode’s obvious take on the Terry Schiavo controversy will date it in the future. It doesn’t present a particularly memorable view of the issues, to be honest, though I like the way Cartman manipulates matters simply for his own self interests. A few clever moments occur, but this show doesn’t stand out as especially strong.
The Losing Edge (aired 4/6/05): “After making the state baseball championships, the boys of South Park attempt to save their tainted summer and lose their Little League game. Much to their chagrin, they learn the opposing team is much better at losing than they are.”
Wow, someone must’ve been on a Rocky bender this season! “Wing” included Sylvester Stallone, while this show features Rocky music for the kids’ joy when they think they’re done with baseball as well as references in Randy’s training and elsewhere. While musical montages aren’t the exclusive province of Rocky flicks, this episode’s use of them brings to mind the series’ Eighties efforts.
With or without Rocky allusions, this is another strong program. The kids’ apathy is amusing, and the subplot in which Randy fights other drunken, overbearing dads is also a winner. All of these combine for a very entertaining piece that marks the return of arguably the series’ most annoying character.
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 nine 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.
Erection Day (aired 4/20/05): “The South Park Elementary Talent Show is coming up, and Jimmy is excited to perform his comedy routine. But when he finds that some parts of his body tend to get more excited than others, he realizes he must find a way to gain control of his raging hormones in timr to perform in the show.”
Although Jimmy started as a cheap joke character, he turned into something a bit more than that. This episode’s unusual in that it doesn’t involve his handicap at all, and I think that’s a cool thing. Throw in the pathetic attempts of Butters and Cartman to educate Jimmy and the show works.
The Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow (aired 10/19/05): “A Global Warming State of Emergency is declared in South Park. The world’s largest beaver dam breaks and floods the adjacent town of Beaverton. As the victims wait for help to arrive, everyone in South Park tackles priority number one: who is to blame? Only Stan and Cartman know who’s really at fault.”
Two months after the Hurricane Katrina disaster seems awfully soon for South Park to make merry about it. Granted, “Days” isn’t really an attempt to mock that catastrophe; instead, it pokes fun at the movie The Day After Tomorrow, global warming hysteria and the excesses that surrounded Katrina. The episode manages a few good zings but the Katrina connection is so off-putting that it becomes tough to dig the show.
Marjorine (aired 10/26/05): “The fourth grade girls are having a sleepover. It’s imperative that the boys find out what goes on behind those closed doors and discover the truth about the girls’ fortune-telling device. Butters is picked to be the boy who must fake his death, become a girl and infiltrate this age-old feminine tradition.”
Some of the best episodes come from stories that connect to the lives of actual kids, and that’s what makes “Marjorine” fun. Of course, the program goes off onto wacko tangents, but its relation to the mysteries of pre-teen girls allows it to become something better. Even the absurd “Indian burial ground” element works in this solid episode.
Follow That Egg (aired 11/2/05): “Mrs. Garrison realizes that he still has feelings for Mr. Slave, but Mr. Slave has moved on. He plans to marry his new love as soon as the governor signs the same-sex marriage bill. In an effort to thwart these plans, Mrs. Garrison leads the charge against gay marriage.”
Hell hath no fury like a transgendered woman scorned! There’s something awfully odd about a show in which a man turned woman condemns untraditional unions, and “Egg” scores some points due to its social commentary. Granted, the show doesn’t seem very sure what points it wants to make, but it scores good laughs along the way.
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.
Trapped in the Closet (aired 11/16/05): Stan tries to have fun but not spend money, so he takes the Scientologists up on their offer of a free personality test. The results of this allege that he’s totally miserable and needs to invest in their programs to be happy again. He does so and makes an impression on the Scientologists with his insanely high “Thetan levels”. They think he’s the reincarnation of their leader L. Ron Hubbard, so Tom Cruise becomes despondent when Stan doesn’t think he’s a very good actor. Cruise goes in a closet and refuses to leave.
Easily this season’s most controversial episode, “Closet” takes shot at easy targets. I mean, the Scientologists and Cruise aren’t exactly clever subjects for mockery. The many jokes about Cruise’s refusal to “come out of the closet” gets old; it’s a cheap gag and one that grows old quickly. That said, “Closet” gets in a fair number of amusing digs and becomes reasonably entertaining despite some tired elements.
Free Willzyx (aired 11/30/05): “The boys try to help a talking whale get to space in a giant rocket ship. After stealing the whale and being turned down by the Russian and Chinese space programs, they head to Tijuana where they find that MASA (Mexicana Aeronautica y Spacia Administracion) will take their whale to the moon for $200.”
As we often hear in the commentaries, the series’ honchos run out of ideas toward the end of each season. “Willzyx” demonstrates that trend. The episode manages to generate a few laughs but the basic storyline is so thin that the show never rises above its restrictions.
Bloody Mary (aired 12/7/05): “Stan is embarrassed in front of his friends when his dad gets pulled over for drunk driving. In a neighboring town, a bleeding statue of Mary is discovered and the faithful are flocking to the site, hoping to be healed. Stan’s dad is sure the bleeding Virgin can cure him of his ‘disease’”.
Boy, Stan’s dad got a lot of play this season, didn’t he? We barely heard from the other parents, but he played a major role in three separate episodes. He’s not a particularly interesting character, and “Mary” turns into an unsatisfying conclusion to the season. Yeah, we get the point: sometimes simple problems get blown out of proportion into syndromes and “diseases”, and these overreactions cause more concerns than they solve. Sometimes the show beats us over the head with its ideas, and that’s a serious negative that mars “Mary”. This is one of the weaker programs in a while.