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Reviewed by David Medsker
hey weren’t supposed to last this long, right? After all, “South Park” was this crude little show with amateurish animation filled with titillating words like “asshole” and “God damn it.” It was indeed those things, but it was also much, much more. In many ways, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “South Park” picked up the baton when “The Simpsons” dropped it in the early ‘00s and made what was easily the most biting satire on television. Season 6 has some of the show’s best episodes ever, and it also contains the arc where sweet, mild mannered little Butters finally snaps and becomes Professor Chaos. Oh, the humanity.
Throughout the first disc, it’s actually very easy to see why Butters went bad. Stan, Kyle and Cartman, frankly, were terrible to him (in other words, they acted just like kids do). Anytime he refused to do their bidding, they would guilt him into whatever they wanted – even if it meant gluing a scrotum to his chin – by saying, “Kenny would have done it.” And Butters, trying hard for their approval – though it’s unclear why – knuckles under, and ends up getting his butt kicked by his parents every time. It looks like a cheap joke, but it’s not; every child has that other child that will always get them into trouble. When the boys decide to “fire” Butters – thus giving birth to Professor Chaos – they do a “Bachelor”-style audition to find a new fourth friend. In the end, they choose Tweak, who instantly caves because he can’t handle the pressure.
Perhaps the signature episode in this collection is “The Simpsons Already Did It,” where Butters, as Professor Chaos, realizes that his methods for disrupting society (i.e. switching soup orders at Bennigan’s) are too small scale, so he hatches plan after plan to destroy South Park. The problem comes when his sidekick, General Disarray, politely reminds him that “The Simpsons” have already done everything that Butters thinks up. Eventually, Butters loses his mind, and sees “Simpsons” characters everywhere (General Disarray looks just like Bart). Even downtown South Park morphs into Springfield. It’s a hilarious love letter to the show that helped make “South Park” possible.
And yet, there are two or three episodes on disc 3 that give the Simpsons episode a run for its money. “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers” has the boys playing wizards and elves after watching “The Fellowship of the Ring,” but when Stan’s parents accidentally put a porno tape in the box and then ask them to bring it to Butters to watch, things turn completely upside down. Butters becomes Gollum, obsessed with the tape; sixth graders become the ring wraiths chasing the boys all over town. After a while, the boys truly believe that the tape has evil powers. Then there’s the season finale, “Red Sleigh Down,” where Santa is shot down over Baghdad and tortured “Three Kings” style, until Jesus comes in (armed to the teeth, no less), and helps free Santa, only to be shot in the back and killed by the Iraqis. The whole time this is going on, Jimmy is singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” stuttering the entire time. Hopelessly cruel, and hilariously funny.
Don’t let the bathroom joke smokescreen fool you: Each show has a moral, and it usually involves poking fun at the PC mafia. Or, in some instances, they focus their attention on something more specific, like when they wrote an entire episode about John Edward from “Crossing Over” being the biggest douche in the universe. In the same episode, there is a series of “trailers” for Rob Schneider movies that are only slightly less dumb than the movies Schneider actually makes. But Parker and Stone aren’t careless when they tackle an issue: their messages about tolerance, sensationalized news coverage, and talking to your children are spot on.
If there’s anything wrong with the season as a whole, it’s in the way that several supporting characters go underused. Timmy (TIMMY!) hardly has a single line all season, and Mr. Garrison gets only one story line. This is likely due to their decision to create Butters’ alter ego Professor Chaos, but even Professor Chaos only lasted for a couple of episodes before he was brushed aside. In their quest to roast every one that offended them in the last year, Parker and Stone seemed to lose focus on the town as a character in and of itself. Sure, they wrote some funny episodes, but the interaction among the townsfolk is severely limited.
Still, you will be hard pressed to find a show with writing as razor sharp as the stuff on these discs. The beauty is in its direct approach; there are no wordy Aaron Sorkin-style rapid fire soliloquies, just bare bones, no-nonsense straight talk that would be a welcome sight to see elsewhere on television. “South Park Season 6” is when Parker and Stone decided to piss off as many people as possible, only to win them over.
Bonus features: Each episode has a brief commentary from Parker and Stone, and unlike the “Simpsons” commentaries, which tend to go way off track, Parker and Stone get to the point and move on. In the track for “Fun With Veal,” Parker says, “Every single vegetarian I know always has a cold. They’ve got a scarf around their neck and they’re going, (sniff, sniff).” Parker ends it by saying, “So our stance on that was you can eat meat, just maybe don’t eat babies.” “Or you’ll break out in vaginas,” Stone adds, which the episode clearly demonstrated.
The best commentary, though, has to be for “The New Terrance and Phillip Trailer,” which mainly consists of bashing Russell Crowe: “Russell Crowe is a very talented actor,” Parker acknowledges. “A very talented actor. But the music is like Bon Jovi meets Hepatitis B.” He also bashes Rob Schneider, Alan Jackson (“he wrote this terrible, terrible song about 9/11 that just cashed in on it”), and says that Penn & Teller loved the way they exposed John Edward as a fraud. It’s nothing that the episode itself didn’t already do, but it’s still fun to listen to Parker when he’s on a roll.