The complete eighth season of the TV Series South Park.
To quote Bad Day at Black Rock, a man is as big as what’ll make him mad. By this criteria, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are giants. Fanaticism of any stripe, steroids, vapid pop culture icons marketed as role models for impressionable youth, and mass merchants encroaching on small town life are just some of the hot button issues tackled in South Park‘s eighth season. Of course, South Park is not above (or beneath) stooping to conquer, as witness “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset,” which climaxes in a “whore-off” featuring–you guessed it–Paris Hilton. Sure, Paris is an easy target, as is Michael Jackson (portrayed in the episode “The Jeffersons” not as a child molester, but as an infantile parent who needs to grow up). But just as a segment of the population tunes in to The Daily Show to get Jon Stewart and company’s satirical take on the day’s news, so do South Park fans eagerly await Parker and Stone’s perspective on the zeitgeist. Which brings us to the season’s most infamous episode, “The Passion of the Jew,” in which Kyle is devastated by Mel Gibson’s brutalizing epic, Cartman is transformed into Gibson’s Hitlerian apostle, and an unimpressed Stan and Kenny try in vain to get their money back from Gibson himself, a loony toon with a penchant for torture. And while Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction is old news, South Park‘s response, “Good Times with Weapons,” remains a relevant satire of misplaced parental priorities, not to mention an anime-stylized tour-de-force in which the boys purchase martial arts weapons at a county fair and imagine themselves as ninja warriors.
In one of Stone and Parker’s candid mini-commentaries, available as a listening option on each episode, the duo grade this season a B+. Give them extra credit, then, for such seriously (or hilariously) twisted episodes as the one (whose title cannot be printed here) that sends up the film You Got Served, and the instant holiday classic “Woodland Critter Christmas,” with its Satan-worshiping forest creatures, and a brilliant surprise ending that echoes Chuck Jones’s classic cartoon Duck Amuck, in which the unseen animator tormenting poor Daffy is revealed to be none other than Bugs “Ain’t I a stinker?” Bunny. –Donald Liebenson