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Reviewed by Jamey Codding
obody could have expected all of this. When the first episode of “South Park” aired on Comedy Central in 1997, the idea that it would still be going strong 11 years later would have seemed ludicrous. But not only have creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone managed to turn their crude cartoon about four crude kids into one of the most popular shows of its (or any) generation, they’ve also given life to one of TV history’s most memorable characters. He’s angry and manipulative; cruel, spiteful and downright evil. He’s Eric Cartman, and he’s not to be trusted. Ever.
A few years ago, this website ranked Cartman #4 on its list of favorite cartoon characters, behind Fred Flintstone (#3), Homer Simpson (#2) and Bugs Bunny (#1). We may have sold Cartman short. It’s not that Bugs, Homer or Fred have done anything to damage their standing on our distinguished list, but rather that Cartman just keeps enhancing his wonderfully sinister résumé. “The Cult of Cartman: Revelations,” a dozen episodes that serve as a “Cartman’s Wickedest Hits” of sorts, puts into graphic perspective just how demented this kid is. If Stan and Kyle are the heart behind “South Park,” Cartman is the show’s cold, black soul.
The two-disc set is presented as a sacred book of Cartman’s 12 essential life lessons, complete with an official membership card for the Eric Theodore Cartman Society. If the thought of legions of lost souls worshipping at Cartman’s chubby feet terrifies you, you’re not alone. The cult leader introduces each of the episodes with one of his blessed teachings, imparting pearls of wisdom like “Retaliate a thousand fold” and “Never give up on cheating” onto his disciples. Inspiring.
As is typically the case with a “best-of” compilation like this, the episode selection for “The Cult of Cartman” is open to scrutiny. There are several easy inclusions here, led by “AWESOM-O,” “Tonsil Trouble,” “Cartmanland,” and the two-part “Cartoon Wars,” but with so much material to choose from, there also are a few noteworthy snubs. “Cartman’s Silly Hate Crime 2000” and “The Passion of the Jew” were more than qualified to make the cut, but “Casa Bonita” is arguably the most glaring omission. Maybe Trey and Matt were tired of picking on the endearingly gullible Butters, the target of so many of Cartman’s schemes, including a few in this set and “Casa Bonita” as well. In that case, swap out the merely average “Super Fun Time” for the far superior (and funnier) “Bonita.” Problem solved.
Perhaps a more detailed rundown of the 12 included episodes is in order, but since most “South Park” fans are quite familiar with Cartman’s exploits, that doesn’t seem entirely necessary. In fact, that’s the only mark against “The Cult of Cartman,” because while it’s just as much fun as the “South Park: The Hits” collection that came out two years ago, it’s even more superfluous. The animated intros are cool, but they're also the only so-called "extra" to be had. Still, credit is due for coming up with a unique way to present this best-of collection. Any Cartman disciple itching for one-stop shopping will get a kick out of "Revelations," and newcomers get to see the kid at his absolute worst. Is it enough to make us rethink our favorite cartoon characters piece? Perhaps. But if there’s one thing to learn from Cartman’s life lessons, it’s that Bugs, Homer and Fred better watch their backs.