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South Park
The Complete First Season

review by Zach B.

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 310 Minutes

Starring the voices of: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Issac Hayes

 

Studio: Warner

Retail Price: $39.95

Features: Trey and Matt Intros, Jay Leno's Appearance On South Park ("A South Park Thanksgiving"), Cartman "O Holy Night" Music Video, Ned "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" Music Video, Cableace Awards, Promos

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selection, Three-Disc Set

Released: November 12th, 2002

 

 

I guess Warner Bros. FINALLY gets the message. After releasing television series on DVD in best of packages, it seems the studio is finally releasing the series they own the rights to in the way everyone wants them: in complete, season packages. "South Park" is the next show to get such treatment, but in fact, despite the box claiming that these "classic episodes are available for the first time," these episodes were previously available from Rhino before Warner took over, got the rights and then released "Best Of" collections. And yes, Rhino did it right the first time: they released four episodes per DVD, IN ORDER.

Still, I don't think you can get those anymore, so if you want them all in a nifty boxed set and with extras, here's your chance. But watching this set, I find it hard to believe it's been over five years since the show debuted on the air. I was a major fan (and still am) since the way beginning. While many simply dismissed "South Park" as another show that was a fad and made the creators (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) rich with all the merchandise, I believe "South Park" just gets better and better as it goes on. Sure, the show spawned a hit movie and a ton of catchphrases ("They killed Kenny!", "Respect my authori-tah!" etc.) The show does have lasting value. Trey and Matt do the shows in a quick time period, making the show relevant to current events. The show has always had biting social commentary, mocked the world and of course media itself.

So here they are, all thirteen episodes from the first season:

The first, the pilot which got me into the show and probably still my favorite, is Cartman Gets An Anal Probe. We meet the kids of South Park, Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman. Cartman gets an anal probe from aliens who mutilate cows, and even though he thinks it is a dream, Kyle's little brother, Ike, gets kidnapped from them and it's about to them, with the help of their school Chef named Chef and Stan's crush, Wendy Testiburger, to save Ike.

Volcano follows the boys as they go on a camping trip with Stan's uncle Jimbo and his war buddy Ned. There, Ned favors Kenny more to Stan, and Cartman tries to scare everyone else by dressing up as the woodland creature "Scuzzlebutt". But it turns out the real Scuzzlebutt will help save the day when a volcano near where they are camping is about to eruptt and could kill them all.

Weight Gain 4000 has Cartman bulking up for a TV appearence after he forges an essay (he basically steals "Walden" and puts his name on it) and Kathie Lee Gifford comes to South Park. However, the children's teacher, Mr. Garrison, has a score to settle with Kathie Lee.

The Emmy® nominated Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride features George Clooney as the voice of Stan's gay dog, Sparky. Stan is a bit upset over his dog being gay, and loses interest in playing for the big football game which everyone is counting on him for. However, Big Gay Al comes to the rescue and shows Stan all about homosexuality through history.

An Elephant Makes Love To A Pig has the boys trying to win their class science fair. So, they attempt to breed a hybrid pig/elephant using Kyle's elephant and Cartman's pig, Fluffy. However, things go wrong when the town's evil scientist, Mephisto, creates a clone of Stan and the clone runs amok.

The sixth episode, and end of the first batch of episodes on television (before the show was picked up again), is Death where we meet Stan's suicidial grandfather. The parents of South Park go out to protest the dirty TV show "Terrance and Phillip", and while that happens, Death himself comes to South Park.

The first Halloween special and a big fan favorite, Pinkeye was the seventh episode aired. The town of South Park slowly turns into zombies, and fun chaos breaks loose which ruins the boys' trick-or-treating and annual costume contest.

The first episode of the second half of the first season, Damien featured Cartman having a big birthday bash. A new kid, Damien, the son of Satan, comes to South Park, and is taunted for being different and is not invited to Cartman's birthday. Meanwhile, Jesus enters a boxing battle with Satan.

Starvin' Marvin follows the boys, Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle in a little case of mistaken identity. Cartman orders a sportswatch off a TV informercial, and instead gets an Ethopian who the boys name Starvin' Marvin. Of course, when Marvin is trying to be retrieved, they take Cartman instead and he's stuck in Ethiopia with Sally Struthers (nooo!). Meanwhile, it's almost Thanksgiving, and genetincally altered turkeys are invading and destroying South Park, which leads to a "Braveheart" parody.

Mecha-Streisand is sort of a "Power Rangers" parody, as Barbra Streisand herself is really a huge robot monster, and Chef is called upon to help stop her with Leonard Maltin, Robert Smith of the band "The Cure" and Sidney Poiter. This is a pretty funny episode, but I do admit the whole fighting monsters bit does get old fast.

Definitely one of the most beloved episodes of the show, Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo was the first holiday episode, and has Kyle feeling jealous and sad about Christmas, due to the fact he's Jewish. He tells his friends that "Mr. Hankey", a talking piece of poo, comes out of the toilet each Christmas to reward those with good fiber in their diet. Still, no one believes Kyle and he is eventually comitted to a mental hospital. A sideplot involves the school's Christmas Pagenent, and in the end everyone catches a little holiday spirit and gets to see if Mr. Hankey is real or not.

Tom's Rhinoplasty has Mr. Garrison getting a nose job, and is replaced by a hot, young subsitute named Ms. Ellen. All the boys in the class love Ms. Ellen (who's voiced by the chick from "Species", Natasha Henstridge"), and Stan has nurtured a crush on her. Still, Stan's real love, Wendy, gets a bit jealous as she proves no one should mess with her.

Finally, the set features Cartman's Mom Is A Dirty Slut. This was the first season cliffhanger that caused quite a bit of controversy, and followed Cartman as he went on a quest for his dad, where most of it is told in flashback from a certain party many years ago, and ties in themes with a genetic test and "America's Stupidest Home Videos". What makes this cliffhanger so important is that the ending to it was supposed to be aired a few weeks later. However, the creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, pulled a stunt as the show was supposed to air on April Fool's Day, and did this stupid "spin-off" episode of "Terrance and Phillip", the kids's favorite TV show. So many people complained about it, Comedy Central bumped up the cliffhanger finale a full month, so it aried two weeks later, and not an additional six weeks later.

Overall, the first season of "South Park" was truly solid, consistent and hilarious. Many of these episodes are really loved by fans after all this time, but if you ask me, the show got better in the upcoming years. Be it you're a new fan of the show or a die hard from the start, this is set is comprehensive in these episodes. However, depending on how big of a fan you are or how new you are to the show, this DVD set may or may not be worth picking up. Read on...

 

Man, how disappointing! All the episodes are presented in their full screen broadcast ratios of 1.33:1 full screen, but they look terrible! The episodes look like poor VHS transfers if you ask me. The colors look really washed out and the balance on the colors are off. The colors, especially the lighter ones, are way too bright and are rather hard to see. Even worse, the colors tend to bleed off and the amount of edge halos and noise is plain atrocious... everything seems to be off in every frame somehow or another. Everything here is way too distracting and seriously does look like some poorly digitalized VHS tape that were transfered to discs. Obviously, these episodes were not remastered the way they should have been and all the old Rhino transfers look better. For shame... I seriously hope future seasons get the correct treatment and offer major improvements on what visual trash is here. I'm not saying the cut-out look for "South Park" is made for pop-out DVD presentations... but I certainly expected a much better quality level.

 

Well, if there's one thing I can't fault with the set, it is the English Dolby Surround tracks. They aren't amazing, but they do sound pretty good. Fidelity is pretty high, while all the sounds come together pretty nicely. Dialogue is crisp and clean, while the mountain twang music, Chef songs, other songs and background sound effects (such as birds tweeting, gun shots firing in some of the episodes - namely in "Volcano" and "Weight Gain 4000") do help add some life to the Dolby Surround tracks. While the other sound elements really don't pack any major surround opportunities and the fact that these are mere Dolby Surround tracks limit a lot of the sound, what's accomplished here is suitable and perfectly fine, and fans of the show should have no complaints. It may not seem like much, but sometimes less can be more, and how it all comes together in the tracks make everything sound pretty sharp and adds flavor for the most part. They certainly beat stereo mixes.

Sadly, there are no chapter stops for each episode, but we do get an episode selection feature on all three DVDs. Also included on the episodes are English closed captions, Spanish subtitles, French subtitles and English subtitles.

 

Fans of the show may be very disappointed here. The extras really don't add up to much, even if it includes material that were only shown on television once or a few times. Each disc has the same Promos. These TV promos were used to hype the show when it first began airing, so we have some slight introductions to Cartman, Kenny, Kyle and Stan. After these promos, there's a Comedy Central promo that seems made especially for the DVD as it hypes all of their fine programming.

Each episode also has a Trey and Matt Introduction. These intros were made especially for the original VHS releases, and can be a bit amusing the first time around... but not really after that. I was pretty pysched to hear that the duo would be doing commentaries for every episode on this set, but alas, the press release was wrong and I guess this is what the release meant by "audio commentaries." So, this has been offered a few times before and can be fun, yet holds very little lasting value.

The rest of the extras are housed on the third disc. Unless you were with the show from the very start and were obsessed (such as myself), I don't think many people have seen these. However, since I was obsessed from the very start, I must admit I taped all of the following when they aired (I remember sitting through the Rodney Dangerfield comedy classic "Back To School" just to record Cartman doing "O Holy Night"!).

So yes, you get two Music Videos so to speak. One is of Cartman performing "O Holy Night" which provides a few laughs given the treatment he gets, and the other isn't as funny unless you really like how Ned speaks, where he performs "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

The others are a lot funnier. A South Park Thanksgiving was a short which aired exclusively on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Leno (who has guest starred on the show quite a few times), hoping to expand demographics, comes to South Park and talks with Mr. Garrison's class about the meaning of Thanksgiving. Naturally, Kenny dies and Leno's chin is the butt of all the jokes. I will admit it's nice to have this without the laugh track from when it aired on "The Tonight Show." The intro Leno did for it is not found here in case some of you were curious.

The other bit are the boys presenting a talk show award at the 1997 CableACE Awards. Of course, that award ceremony folded a few years back, but how the boys present and what they say is quite amusing.

On a different note, the packaging for the set is pretty nice. The fold-out case housing the discs features episode titles as well as their original airdates and plot descriptions.

 

If you're a die-hard "South Park" fan and don't happen to old the older Rhino DVDs, the price is right and this is worth picking up. Still, I find this set quite disappointing. The episode transfers look like they've been dragged through the mud, the sound mixes are only decent and the extras, while fun watches, don't give any insight onto the show whatsoever and are technically commercials. I hope Warner gets their act together with season two. Unless you don't own these episodes in any format and really need them or are a die-hard fan and want the extras, then go ahead and check it out.