|South Park: The Complete Fifth Season (2001)
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes, Eliza Schneider
To say that the “South Park: The Complete Fifth Season” DVD set is loaded with classic episodes is kind of pointless because, to be honest, the same can be said of virtually every “South Park” season. Still, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone knocked one episode out of the park after another in this fifth season by introducing several memorable new characters (Jimmy and Towelie), killing off one of the show’s mainstays (Kenny), swinging the spotlight onto another fan favorite (Butters) and, of course, announcing to the world that Osama Bin Laden had farty pants.
Think back to November 2001. The country was still grieving the September 11 tragedy and nobody really knew how to regain their sense of normalcy. For Parker, Stone and the "South Park" crew, though, normalcy could only be achieved through comedy, and while everybody told them they couldn’t do a 9/11 episode so soon after the attacks, they told everybody that they couldn’t not do it. As Parker contends in the included mini-commentary, “This is sort of what we do.” The result? The Emmy-nominated “Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants,” an episode that features, among other things, an encounter between Bin Laden and Cartman that first escalates into a priceless Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd shtick and ends with the destruction of the Taliban. No other show on television could’ve handled such delicate subject matter so brilliantly (hell, no other show even tried), which shows just how far Parker, Stone and their colleagues have come over the years. After all, if they would’ve tried to tackle the same topic in seasons one or two, the end result most likely never would’ve been cleared to air.
Sadly, there are plenty of people out there who don’t appreciate “South Park,” and they never will. To them, it’s a juvenile show about a bunch of foul-mouthed kids. What they don’t notice, though, is that the show actually has developed a conscience and, quite often, arrives at a point of startling morality. Sure, it rarely takes the virtuous road to get there, but that’s what makes “South Park” so damn refreshing and funny. And in this fifth season, the social commentary and biting satire reaches new heights, with “Farty Pants” being just one of several examples. The immortal “It Hits the Fan” episode, during which the word shit (or variations of it) is used a whopping 162 times, thumbs its nose at censorship, “Super Best Friends” shreds magician David Blaine, and “Cripple Fight,” featuring a bad-ass street brawl between the town’s two handi-capable kids Timmy and Jimmy, preaches acceptance.
Other standout episodes include “Cartmanland,” with Cartman using his one-million-dollar inheritance to buy an amusement park and then refusing to let anybody in so he doesn’t have to wait in any lines, the “Mad Max” themed “Proper Condom Use,” “Towelie,” which introduces a genetically engineered, pot-smoking towel named Towelie, and “Butters’ Very Own Episode,” the show that launches Butters into a more prominent role in season six and beyond. Then, of course, there’s “Kenny Dies,” which kills Kenny off once and for all…supposedly.
Each of the 14 episodes can be viewed with the aforementioned mini-commentaries, which are actually kind of cool. Instead of listening to someone drone on and on for 20 minutes, Parker and Stone give the skinny on each episode in the first four or five minutes, allowing you to get some cool background info while still being able to enjoy the bulk of the episode. Unfortunately, aside from the Comedy Central Quickies for “South Park,” “Chappelle’s Show” and “Reno 911” found on disc one, the mini-commentaries represent the set’s lone special feature.
Still, that’s not enough to drag this three-disc collection down. It may be a stretch to say that season five is South Park’s best, if only because it faces some pretty stiff competition for that title, but it’s certainly in the running. Sharp, fresh and relentlessly funny, this DVD set demonstrates why “South Park” will go down as one of the greatest shows, animated or otherwise, in television history.