|South Park - Volume 2|
|DVD TV Shows|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 27 October 1998|
The animated television series 'South Park,' now running on Comedy Central, has been accused of heralding the end of Western civilization. After seeing four episodes linked together, a more accurate reading of the show would be a) it's possible to do cartoon comedy that is both jaw-droppingly crass and satirically brilliant and b) with the success of this 'toon, there's hope for aspiring artists with minimal drawing skills.
'South Park,' for those who have somehow missed the entire phenomenon, is a half-hour show set in the mythical small town of the title. We follow four eight-year-old boys -- relatively thoughtful Stan, average kid Kyle, plump and cranky Cartman and incomprehensible, parka-clad Kenny -- as each week they go through some new utterly outrageous adventure.
How outrageous is it? Episode One, first up on the DVD, is entitled "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe." The culprits are extraterrestrials, but 'The X-Files' wouldn't dare to go where 'South Park' blithely rushes in. The other three episodes included here are 'Volcano' (a sly send-up of the same-named feature film, interspersed with a look at hunting), 'Weight Gain 4000' (an examination of celebrity, plagiarism and a psychotic hand-puppet) and 'Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride' (about Stan's gay dog, whose plaintive whimpers are provided by George Clooney).
The shock factor is heavy in terms of content and aesthetics. The 'South Park' boys talk like real eight-year-olds, which is to say that their language is extremely salty and Jesus Christ is a recurring character with his own cable-access talk show. The animation is as simple as possible (watching it, you can imagine the cel-makers at Disney writhing in apoplexy), with big, uninflected patches of primary colors and simple shapes for heads, eyes and mouths. Movement is intentionally, hilariously jerky and when people die here, it's gross yet somehow cute--the blocking drawings make even impalement and electrocution look humorous. In every episode, Kenny gets killed in some new gruesome fashion, only to be resurrected without explanation the following week.
There are plenty of other comedies, both two- and three-dimensional, that revel in jokes about flatulence, blood-letting, profanity, stereotypes and human stupidity. What sets 'South Park' gloriously apart is that it is not only razor-smart and crazily original (name another show that would create a monster so scary that it has Patrick Duffy for a leg), it is also subversively thoughtful. In its own loopy way, the show is a deft social satire, slipping its points in amidst gleeful grossness, rudeness and cheerful silliness so that they sail right under the radar of those who normally would flee screaming from anything resembling a message. At the same time, 'South Park' has a definite viewpoint that makes it strangely endearing to viewers who may have gritted their teeth at, say, 'There's Something About Mary.'
The sound on 'South Park' is perfectly serviceable, if lacking in high points. The DVD comes with four campy, friendly introductions from series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (one for each episode). 'Shaft' composer Isaac Hayes provides both the voice of the lusty Chef and the invariably suggestive, enjoyable songs the character writes.
The one downside to the DVD is that each episode is given its own single chapter, so that the only way to reach a particular point within the episode is by fast-forwarding through the intervening content, just as one would do with a videotape. Otherwise, if 'South Park' is indeed the end of life as we know it, it's a good way to go.