The SmarK DVD Rant for South Park The Complete Third Season
– A funny thing happened on the way to the third compilation of Matt & Trey’s wonderfully anarchic animation legacy, as Warner sold the rights to the South Park franchise to Paramount, who have an even worse track record for DVD than Warner if possible, so I’m not holding out hope for a grand treatment of the show and the movie any time soon. But at least there’s commentaries now. Sort of.
Produced at a frantic pace while making South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut for Paramount in 1999, the third season is definitely the weirdest, and in the opinion of Matt & Trey, the first “good” one, as they apparently hate the second season. Their stress shows in a lot of cases, with some very notably terrible episodes, but also some absolutely brilliant ones, which shows you how fickle genius can be.
– Rainforest, Schmainforest. Jennifer Aniston plays Cartman’s nightmare: A true-hugging hippie teacher who leads kids from around the US on insipid “musical” tours of South America, as they’re forced to dance to pre-recorded music under the banner of “Getting Gay With Kids” (a sendup of the equally vapid “Up With People”). This leads to Cartman getting free reign to expound on environmentalism while whacking innocent forest creatures with sticks to “assert his authoritah”. Cartman is funny, but once they get lost in the “delicate” rainforest and nearly killed by an assortment of insects, animals, and unfriendly natives, the teacher’s attitude towards nature makes a drastic 180 turn and Jennifer Aniston steals the show with a hilarious rant against all things bright and beautiful. This is politically incorrect Matt & Trey at their best to kick off the season.
– Spontaneous Combustion. Speaking of political incorrectness, this one has fart jokes AND heresy. How can you lose? People are randomly bursting into flames and since Randy Marsh is the only person in town even approaching a scientist, it’s up to him to solve it. The solution: Too many people are holding their farts, and it’s killing them. So they go to the other extreme, but things only get more disgusting from there. Meanwhile, the boys are so distraught over Kenny’s latest death that they seek refuge in the church (“You’re not too Jewish to worship Jesus, are you?”) and agree to perform the Stations of the Cross, but Cartman volunteers to play Jesus and ends up crucified for three weeks. As offensive and funny as you’d expect, which is to say a lot of both.
– The Succubus. Every guy can relate to this one. Sort of. Chef disappears from active chef-ing duty, as he’s met a woman? Even worse, she wants to CHANGE HIM. And read poetry with him! The boys are immediately suspicious of her motives, especially when Chef gets a job as an accountant. Mr. Garrison even dispenses USEFUL advice for once, pointing out that she’s probably a succubus, an evil bitch who sucks the life out of men and steals them from their friends. Meanwhile, Cartman gets into a feud with a hilariously mean eye doctor and ends up with creepy dilated pupils. The highlight here, though, is the incredibly offensive portrayal of Chef’s parents, who tell rambling and pointless stories about their encounters with the Loch Ness Monster, who is constantly looking to borrow “tree fiddy” from them. A lost classic.
– Jakovasaurs. I really hated this one and found it annoying and stupid, but according to Matt & Trey, that’s part of the brilliance of it, so who am I to argue? Anyway, while out camping (and while Cartman is taking a crap in the open and singing a song about it) they encounter a previously-lost species called the Jakovasaur, and she talks like Jar Jar Binks, oddly enough. Soon they find the male, too, and he turns out to be louder and even more annoying, and soon there’s a sitcom starring them, by which point everyone in turn hates them, except for Cartman (who finds them charming and hilarious) and the town hatches a plan to send them the only place they’d possibly be welcome France. This one just fell completely flat for me, but since the whole point was to skewer George Lucas, it kinda worked on that level alone. But not really.
– Tweek v. Craig. Now this is South Park at its most absurd and brilliant the boys (minus justifiably paranoid Kenny) enter shop class, and get into a pointless argument about who would win in a fight between caffeine addicted Tweek and middle-finger-raising Craig. So, being morally bankrupt, they start building an imaginary feud between the boys so they can trigger a fight and bet on the outcome. The real winner of the episode, however, is the shop teacher, who is dependant on nicotine gum for day-to-day functioning and has live-action flashbacks to the death of his fiancÃ©e (played in hilariously earnest manner by writer/producer Pam Brady) until he’s driven mad enough to commit suicide by laying on the bandsaw. But not crotch-first, because that would HURT. That gag is possibly one of the funniest things they’ve ever written. A home run episode, to be sure.
– Sexual Harassment Panda. And if that was a home run, this is a weak grounder to the shortshop for a double-play. By this point, there was two weeks to go before the release of the movie to theaters, and they still weren’t done. But they also had commitments to Comedy Central, so the result was this. A horrendously unfunny episode, featuring a guy in a panda suit talking about sexual harassment in schools, which triggers the people of South Park suing each other for sexual harassment over every little thing until Gerald Brofslovski is rich. And that’s the whole episode, folks. Not only do they pound the “frivolous lawsuits are bad” joke into the ground for 20 minutes, they even have a coda from Sexual Harassment Panda where he does a PSA and says exactly that! Matt & Trey claim not to even remember making this one due to the stress of the movie, and I don’t blame them for saying that.
– Cat Orgy. And back from the movie-making experience our heroes return, refreshed and weirder than ever. In this case, a trilogy featuring the individual boys, all tied together by the loose theme of a meteor shower occurring one night in South Park that everyone is attending a party for. The first part sees Cartman (nursing an obsession with “Wild Wild West” and quoting “Aliens” mostly) left in the babysitting grasp of Stan’s evil sister Shelley, who treats Cartman with about as much respect and tenderness as she does Stan. She also enjoys calling him a turd. However, she invites boyfriend (and unlikely future recurring character) Skylar over, which is not only against the rules of the house, but also against the laws of most civilized nations, since he’s 22 and she’s 12. Cartman actually uses his brain for once and hatches a scheme to catch them in the act, but when he dumps her for not putting out, Cartman shows his rarely-seen less-evil side and joins forces with Shelley to exact final (and hilarious) revenge on him and his beloved guitar. Skylar and his crappy garage band would actually return as Timmy’s backup band the Lords of the Underworld. A great episode that shows Cartman is actually capable of acting like a human being for once in his life, strange as that might sound.
– Two Naked Guys in a Hot Tub. Onto the second part of the trilogy, as they move onto posting deeper philosophical questions, like “If two guys watch each other masturbating in a hot tub, does that make them gay?” The answer, of course, is yes, but this is neither the time nor place. Anyway, as the adults party and get drunk upstairs, Stan is confined to the dreaded “children’s section” (aka the basement) with the scum of the school earth Butters, Pip and Dougie. And just when Stan thinks they can’t get any dorkier, they find a box of women’s clothing and decide to play “Charlie’s Angels” (the original, not the movie) and require tasks to perform. Stan decides to use this as a way to escape the basement, but he discovers that the ATF is stationed outside of the house, thinking the party to be another Waco. And they’re determined to prevent mass-suicide, even if it means killing everyone in the house! You have to admire that kind of temerity. The main plot involves Gerald and Randy getting naked and watching each other jack off in the hot tub, just to experiment, and then finding social situations strangely awkward for the rest of the night. Go figure. Another winner.
– Jewbilee. The trilogy concludes with the weirdest of the three, as Kyle goes to his annual Jew Scouts camp, where all the different denominations of Jews gather to make macaroni art and pray to Moses. However, a new elder, representing the Anti-Semitic Sect, seems to be acting suspiciously. Ike, meanwhile, is part of the Squirts, a younger version of the scouts, but their troop has increasing problems getting picked off one-by-one by a bear after making their macaroni art. The elders summon Moses from the campfire (who appears in the form of the Master Control from TRON, making this one a classic right there) but without macaroni art to please him, the Anti-Semitic representative is able to summon the evil Haman to wreak havoc, trapping Moses in a conch shell. Kenny sacrifices himself to save the day, despite not even being Jewish. Just super-weird, super-funny stuff as Matt & Trey threw everything but the kitchen sink at the viewer with this one and hoped for the best.
– Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery. Continuing their strange flirtations with creative animation, this is Matt & Trey’s version of a Hanna Barbara cartoon, as Korn visits South Park during Halloween (like celebrities used to do on Scooby Doo) and find themselves embroiled in a spooky and mysterious conundrum if you’re attacked by glowing ghost pirates, are they the ghosts of dead pirates, or ghosts who are ACTING like pirates? Oh, there’s also a plot here, too, as Priest Maxi protests the evil of Halloween and the boys plot to scare the crap out of the older kids by digging up a dead grandma, but it’s all a backdrop for weird Scooby Doo riffs and gross-out gags. Funny gags, though.
– Chinpokoman. It’s funny because it’s TRUE. The boys become obsessed with the latest craze out of Japan, the collect em all sensation “Chinpokoman”, which has them frantically buying toys, game controllers, and memberships to a fantasy camp in order to keep up with the demands of peer pressure. Poor Kyle is nearly left behind due to his square parents, but soon he’s being brainwashed along with the others, and is happier for it. When the parents discover all their kids spending all their time with the toys (and having oddly slanted eyes ) they question the retailers and eventually the Japanese manufacturers, but the PR people use underhanded tricks on them, by constantly telling the Americans how incredibly huge their penises are compared to the Japanese, who apparently have very small penises. However, there’s an insidious plan behind the brainwashing of children, as the Japanese want to use them to invade Pearl Harbor again, and only one thing can break the spell when the toys become cool with parents, too. Works every time. One of the high points of the season, to be sure.
– Hooked On Monkey Phonics. This is one I don’t think we ever got in Canada, as Cartman gets a spelling monkey to help him train for a spelling bee (hence the title), but he’s beaten handily by a pair of weird home-schooled kids. The girl is a real freak, so of course Kyle falls madly in love with her and sets out to corrupt her isolated and happy existence. Meanwhile, her brother decides to try public school, and discovers that kids can be pretty mean. Go figure. Cartman, however, decides that there might be potential in this home schooling idea, and decides to exploit it for everything it’s worth. The weird romance between Kyle & Rebecca is pretty funny, the rest not so much. In fact they already did the “alienated newcomer” deal much better with “Damien” in the first season.
– Starvin’ Marvin in Space! Sadly, Mary Kay Bergman killed herself at this point, leaving them with no female voices for the rest of the season, and the result is some very interesting creative choices. The first one of the bunch sees aliens from the planet Marklar (who replace all verbs and nouns with “Marklar”, ala the Smurfs) leaving a ship in Africa, which Marvin finds and uses to bring his people to the safety of planet Marklar, where hopefully they can eat and live in peace without being bugged by missionaries. However, the evil forces of Pat Robertson and Sally Struthers are unwilling to let that happen, and the result is a hilarious running gag with Robertson begging for money on-air to finance an increasingly-complex starfighter to chase the boys down. Weird sci-fi gags abound, as it’s another strong episode.
– The Red Badge of Gayness. An idea so warped that it could only feature Cartman sees the annual Civil War Reenactment going awry when the boys make a bet if the South wins, Kyle and Stan are Cartman’s slaves, but if the North wins, Cartman is their slave. Of course, this is a sucker’s bet on Cartman’s part, but never underestimate his will to prove them wrong, as he gets all the “Confederates” drunk on S’Mores Schnapps and convinces them to turn the worked battle into a shoot. However, when the boys point out that the South only won the BATTLE, not the war, Cartman leads them on a nationwide rampage of drunken terror (in full character as General Lee, of course) as they recreate all the major battles of the Civil War with drastically different results, leading to a showdown in Washington DC, with a payoff that fits perfectly within the rules of the game. Luckily, the casualties were light just Kenny.
– Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics. Kind of a weak concept for an episode, as they animate several videos for songs from the CD of the same name, in edited form. You get “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” (a brilliant feat of layered production and vocals), Adolf Hitler doing “O Tannenbaum”, Satan doing the catchy “Christmas In Hell”, Mr. Mackey doing a surreal version of “Carol of the Bells”, Cartman’s brilliantly awful version of “O Holy Night”, Mr. Garrison offending every religion with “Merry Fucking Christmas”, Shelley doing an annoyed version of “I Saw Three Ships” while dealing with her brother, Jesus & Santa doing a Christmas medley Vegas-style, and finally everyone contributes to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (which includes a very sweet tribute to Mary Kay). The highlight of the episode for Star Wars geeks is the “fighting the frizzies” running gag, which refers to the bootleg tapes of the one and only airing of the Star Wars Christmas Special in 1977. Not much as a show, but the songs are nice.
– Are You There God? It’s Me, Jesus. Back to the incredibly bizarre and offensive again, as Cartman starts bleeding from the ass and thus assumes he’s getting his period and is thus more mature than the other guys. Naturally this means he has to wear maxi-pads. Of course it’s just a stomach bug going around, but that doesn’t stop Stan from freaking out and going on hormone therapy so he can be “mature” too. Meanwhile, Jesus is worried that he’s out of touch with the people, and decides to stage a comeback show in Vegas, with headliner Rod Stewart, to win back his flock. However, rumors abound that God himself might make an appearance, which has him even more nervous about everything going smoothly. God finally does appear, and gives the crowd one and only question, which Stan proceeds to blow. You can’t help but laugh at the tampon jokes even while you’re embarrassed by them, which I guess is kind of their plan.
– Worldwide Recorder Concert. Another weird one has the boys shipped off to Oklahoma City for a recorder concert (organized by Yoko Ono) where 3 million kids will play “My Country Tis of Thee” on Fox, thus guaranteeing more people in attendance than actually watching the show. However, when they get there, they’re immediately bugged by kids from New York (with expected overdone accents) and to get revenge, they decide to seek out the fabled “Brown noise”, a frequency that will cause the listener to lose bowel control. Unfortunately, once they find it, it’s inadvertently written into the master sheet music, and the results aren’t pretty, to say the least. But the WEIRDER subplot has Mr. Garrison visiting his father for the first time in 20 years, and being unable to confront him about the horrible things that went on in the past yes, that’s right HIS FATHER DIDN’T MOLEST HIM! This obviously has left a gaping hole in his life, and he goes about seducing his own father, which has everyone pretty creeped out. Me included. Still, mass-shitting, can’t lose there.
Overall, a very hit-or-miss season thanks to the movie biz and suicide infringing on the creative process. This is also where the show started to fade out of the public eye a bit, and Matt & Trey really expanded the boundaries of what they were doing with it, resulting in some truly brilliant moments. But with any genius comes the risk of failure, and it happened more than a few times here.
Speaking of hit-or-miss, all three discs are single-layer, resulting in another transfer that isn’t exactly the cat’s pajamas. The first episode is the worst, with faded colors and grain galore, although things improve a lot over the season as they switch more and more to full digital production. If nothing else, it’s no WORSE than Warner’s terrible transfers of the first and second seasons.
Plain ol’ 2.0 stereo, rather quiet actually. The music cuts in nicely, however, with a good full surround mix via my receiver. Again, no WORSE than Warner’s take on it.
Well, this time you get commentaries from Matt & Trey, although it’s interesting idea from them rather than full 22 minutes of them rambling on to fill time, they say everything they want to in 4 minutes, and then move onto the next episode. So they’re actually “mini commentaries”, although if there’s ANYONE who could talk for 22 minutes at a time, it’s those two. Disappointing, but there’s still some neat stories in there, and their discussion of Mary Kay Bergman is really quite touching.
Other than that, zilch, aside from a couple of trailers for Comedy Central shows. Thanks, Paramount, way to carry the ball!
The Film: ****1/2
The Video: **
The Audio: **
The Extras: **