South Park pokes fun at Britney Spears, Heavy Metal, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Dangerous Minds, YouTube, CloverfieldHigh School Musical and Hot Topic.

The Lowdown

What makes South Park successful is that, even after twelve seasons, Matt Stone and Trey Parker are still in touch with the pop culture sensibilities of the nation and remain relevant over time. In season 12, South Park is not as overwhelmingly funny as it once was but provides numerous moments that are as funny as anything else you will see on TV.

The first DVD in the set includes five episodes, with “Tonsil Trouble” the funniest of the bunch. The episode is pretty much the “AIDS” episode as Cartman gets aids from a blood transfusion during his tonsillitis surgery. After he gives the disease to a sleeping Kyle, the two boys set off to find the cure for aids, a trip that leads them to Magic Johnson. As with the best South Park episodes, this one hadme quoting it ad nauseum to my co-workers. “I’m not just sure, I’m HIV positive.”

South Park also continues to give numerous pop culture references, not to the excess of Family Guy, but they are scattered throughout. In “Tonsil Trouble”, Elton John was supposed to perform at the aids benefit for Cartman, but because cancer has replaced it as the disease of choice they could only get Jimmy Buffet. An even more obvious pop culture reference involved Britney Spears in “Britney’s New Look.” The episode seems forced at times and the main joke is that Britney has been hounded by paparazzi so much she finally blows her head off, survives and is dragged back out to perform, despite missing the top portion of her head. For those who enjoy obscure references, there is an homage to the Donald Sutherland scream from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

“Major Boobage” is an straight homage to the movie Heavy Metal (1981). The boys discover a new method of getting high by sniffing freshly sprayed cat urine (cheesing). The side effects include taking a trip to a new land, reminiscent of Heavy Metal, with boobs everywhere. It is interesting hearing during the commentary track that neither Matt nor Trey liked the original movie at all. Also included are allusions to The Diary of Anne Frank, as all cats are made illegal and Cartman takes it upon himself to shelter them in his attic. It’s an interesting episode to say the least.

“Canada on Strike” is one of the poorer episodes of the season. There is the obligatory song for a Canadian episode, ala South Park the movie, where the Canadians decide to go on strike, an allusion to the writer’s strike that was taking place at that time. Matt and Trey mention they were disgusted by the strike itself and believe the writers got nothing in return for the strike, voicing their displeasure with this episode. Nothing in the episode is funny with the exception of the boys forcing Butters to make a music video for a song called “What What in the Butt” which becomes huge on YouTube. They try to cash in and get paid for the hits and find themselves in a room full of Internet celebrities, including the “Chocolate Rain” guy, the Tron guy, the fat Star Wars kid, the cute sneezing panda, and the dramatic gopher. The battle of YouTube celebrities was worth the wait. The only other positive of the episode was another quotable moment – “I’m not your buddy, guy”, “I’m not your guy, friend”, “I’m not your friend, buddy.” another quote I may have said a little too much after watching it.

“Eek a Penis!” finishes off the first DVD, and is the episode where Mr. Garrison finally becomes a man again. The secondary storyline is better with Eric Cartman being sent to an interurban school to teach the kids in an off take of Dangerous Minds. The twist is he teaches them that the reason white people always get ahead is because they cheat.

The second DVD starts with a strange episode in “Over Lodging” where Internet stops working and the entire world freaks out and becomes uncivilized. No one knows how to live without the Internet and it becomes a homage of old westerns as the Marsh family leaves for the west since the “Internet has all dried up.” The episode pays homage to both John Ford westerns and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“Super Fun Time” was a great episode where the kids visit “Pioneer Village,” a historical park where the employees refuse to break character for any reason. I couldn’t stop comparing the voices to Cannibal: The Musical but got over that when a group of thieves take everyone in the park hostage. The criminals are straight out of Die Hard, with a Hans Gruber type character leading the way. The fact that the employees refuse to break character, even as they are killed, is hilarious to me. This is the best episode since “Tonsil Trouble.”

“The China Problem” has a weak story where Cartman believes the Chinese are going to take over the world. The other storyline involves the other three boys feeling disgust at not being able to do anything when they witness a rape. The rape in question was George Lucas and Steven Spielberg raping Indiana Jones with the Crystal Skull movie. Each person has a different view of how Indiana was raped and in each instance is that it was an actual rape. It reaches the level of discomfort of “Britney’s New Look” but is miles funnier. “Breast Cancer Show Ever” is the episode most similar to Season One. Wendy is telling the class about breast cancer and finds herself the brunt of Cartman’s jokes. She finally reaches her breaking point and challenges him to a fight on the playground after school. The actual fight is lifted from Snatch, at least the second time I know of that South Park animates a fight punch for punch from another movie. I also enjoyed the “I am finished” line Wendy proclaims at the end, reminding me of There Will be Blood.

Disc three starts with a two-part episode, “Pandemic” and “Pandemic 2: The Startling.” The episode starts with a Pan Flute epidemic that drives the boys crazy. The government orders a lockdown on all pan fluting and arrests all bands across the world, including the boys who have decided to try it for cash. When the pan flute bands are removed from the picture, giant guinea pigs attacks the world. The guinea pigs are real and wonder through wearing various costumes (guinea rat, guinea bunny, guinea-sauras-rex, kind of like Night of the Lemurs) and the episode is seen mostly from Mr. Marsh’s home video camera, ala Cloverfield or Quarantine. I have read a lot of complaints about the episode but I found it funny, especially when Craig is along for the ride and tells the boys that it is no surprise they are always getting in trouble. Funny, funny episode.

“About Last Night” was completed over one day (it aired the day after the election) and involves the day Barack Obama was elected president. Obama supporters all get drunk and excited about the new world while McCain supporters either try to kill themselves or lock themselves away in a bunker. It is all part of an elaborate plan that is a straight homage to Ocean’s Eleven. “Elementary School Musical” continues the easy way out for South Park as they focus on the High School Musical phenomenon. Finally, the season ends with another easy target in “The Ungroundable”. The targets here are both Twilight and Hot Topic.

While the season is not full of overall great episodes, there is something in every one of them that makes me laugh. It is a triumph for Stone and Parker to be able to take an idea that lacks creativity, such as making fun of Twilight or High School Musical, and fill it full of moments that are genuinely funny. Despite underwhelming ideas, South Park remains a funny television show bringing something great to even the worst ideas.

The Package

There are short commentary tracks opening each episode, for about a maximum of five minutes per episode. The commentary is funny but I would have liked to hear them go on for an entire episode, instead of small bits.

Making Boobage: Behind the Scenes of Major Boobage is a look at the process of animating “Major Boobage”. The actual process includes commentary while we watch a 4 part split screen with each stage of animation in each box. One box includes background animation, another includes character animation, another drawn sketches and the fourth is the final scene. It’s a really interesting look at the animation process.

Six Days to South Park: A Day-by-Day Making of South Park is exactly what it sounds like. The feature is almost an hour and a half and shows major portions of the episode “Super Fun Time” in various stages of design. It is set up in a commentary format where you watch the show six times, once per day during the week they made it, while a number of the creators (Eric Stough, Adrien Beard, Ryan Quincy, Jenny Yu, Jack Shih, Keef Bartkus) talk about the changes that were made to the previous day’s footage. It is a cool little feature because you see the show progress from rough sketches to the full finished product. It gets a little repetitive after awhile but the commentary is a fun listen and keeps it from being too tiresome to watch.

Behind the Scenes: About Last Night is another “Six Days” type featurette except the commentators make clear they only had one day to put the episode together. It is short and too the point, more of a commentary track with a slightly unfinished product than a behind the scenes feature.