DVD REVIEW: South Park - The Complete Sixth Season
In the hit Comedy Central animated series South Park, the running gag of killing off Kenny began as a daring yet hilarious element that viewers looked forward to, but grew into a lame chore that the producers were forced to incorporate into each episode. In 2002, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker did away with the gag by tossing out the character entirely. The aging series needed new blood so for its sixth season, South Park became Kenny-less and nerdy Butters took his place as the fourth pal aside Stan, Kyle, and Cartman. Of course, the producers would eventually bring Kenny back, but season six made for a welcome experiment in a formula that at the time was becoming predictable.
Now available on DVD, South Park - The Complete Sixth Season consists of three blocks of episodes that were aired on the comedy network throughout that year. The first block of six aired throughout March and early April of that year and was followed by over two months of re-runs. New episodes returned in late June and all of July but fans then had to wait all the way until November before more new episodes ran. South Park fans have become used to the ritual of long waits in between new episodes, but with the DVD set, viewers not only are free from the commercial breaks, but also from those pesky two-month windows when Comedy Central would fill its Wednesday 10pm slot with "favorite episode" stunts. The Sixth Season set features all 17 episodes on three discs plus commentaries from the show's creators. Unfortunately, the only other bonus material consists of promos and clips of other shows from the Comedy Central vault.
Still, the Kenny-less season was a mostly solid one and has its share of outrageous stories as the creative team continued to go where nobody else would dare. The first episode from the season, which was actually the third one aired, begins with Butters dressed as Kenny, only to remove his hood and reveal his identity as he yells at his friends to stop making him dress up like their deceased, poverty-striken friend. This, plus the face of the little blonde wuss plastered on each of the discs, tells fans that this is the year of Butters. With the setup out of the way, "Freak Strike" skewers talk shows by having the gang force Butters to attach a fake scrotum to his chin in order to get onto a talk show with other disfigured people. Images of Cartman dressed up as a trailer trash skank screaming "Whatever! I'll do what I want!" are hard to forget. Too bad the DVD does not feature uncensored episodes without all the bleeps we have already seen on cable.
In "Jared Has Aides," the show both pokes fun at the Subway sandwich spokesman and concludes that enough time has passed since the arrival of AIDS so it is acceptable to make jokes about the disease. Again, the South Park team dares to go there. Just weeks after A Beautiful Mind was showered with Oscars, Russell Crowe found himself animated on South Park hosting the fictitious program "Fightin' Around the World" in the episode "The New Terrance and Phillip Movie Trailer." The episode also satirizes the studio marketing technique of debuting a movie trailer during a television program forcing fans to tune in until the very end.
The second disc begins with Butters and his new alter ego Professor Chaos who is first introduced in the previous episode. With every diabolical scheme he comes up with, he is surprised to learn that it has already been tried on The Simpsons. In response to Steven Spielberg's decision to release a 20th anniversary edition of E.T. that year complete with politically correct edits, the South Park team created "Free Hat" which finds the kids on a campaign to save great films from being ruined by their own directors. Another classic episode is "Child Abduction is Not Funny" which finds the town's parents so terrified of kids being snatched that they hire the owner of the Chinese restaurant City Wok to build a great wall to protect the city from Mongolian invaders who, of course, show up.
Disc three contains what could be the most memorable episode of the whole season - "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers." While a play on the names of each film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the title also cleverly refers to the plot where the kids try to return the video of the first film to the video store called Two Towers. Butters, the only one of the clan to have watched the tape which was actually a porn video, makes a hilarious transformation into a Gollum-like beast endlessly in search of his "precious." The scene when the children diss another group of kids playing Harry Potter plays as a wink to which movie franchise would eventually win the box office race. Airing just two days before the opening of the second Potter flick in November 2002, the wizard franchise was for the moment the bigger of the two. However, moviegoers would go on to spend less and less with each passing Potter pic and more and more on each new Rings tale.
Other noteworthy episodes appear on disc three. "A Ladder to Heaven" finds Stan, Kyle, and Cartman building a ladder to reach Kenny which turns into a media circus complete with Alan Jackson capitalizing off the crisis with his music. The story also features Cartman drinking milk with Kenny's ashes which creates an internal battle between the two which would play out in episodes to come. In "The Death Camp of Tolerance," Mr. Garrison gets promoted to teaching fourth grade and incorporates S&M routines into his curriculum with Mr. Slave in hopes of getting fired and then filing a discrimination lawsuit against the school. Psychic John Edwards gets ripped a new one in "The Biggest Douche in the Universe" when he fails to exorcize Kenny's spirit from Cartman's body.
Unfortunately, the only notable bonus features are the commentaries by Parker and Stone recorded for each episode. True fans will delight in the tidbits of behind-the-scenes information the pair reveal. However, the two only recorded a few minutes of commentary for each episode leaving the rest of the audio track to play the sound from the show.
South Park - The Complete Sixth Season contains three discs with a total runtime of 374 minutes. The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital. The material is not rated and is distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment.
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