Jan 10, 2010

Dec 18, 2009

105 - An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig

Synopsis: When Kyle's mail-order elephant gets to big to take on the school bus, the boys get a great idea - they decide to genetically crossbreed the elephant with Cartman's potbellied pig, Fluffy to make potbellied elephants! When they try to enlist the help of the mysterious geneticist Mephesto, things go horribly awry. Mephesto makes an evil clone from Stan's DNA and now the boys must stop the clone from destroying the town of South Park.

Yeup. With a title like that it's easy to see why South Park has made such a huge cultural imprint on the world. There is simply no other show that has episode titles like that. I really don't know how I feel about this episode. I mean, I understand that many fans consider it to be a classic, and I did try really hard to like it, but I just truly never 'got it'.
Hot off the success of Big Gay Al, South Parks decides to take on another topical and divisive issue - genetic engineering. The idea of splicing a pig and an elephant is, to be frank, fucking genius, and be honest, who doesn't love Fluffy? But, beside that, this episode just felt rather... dare I say, bland. The satire just felt kinda off-kilter and the jokes were either too extreme (Cartman's "stop dressing me up like a mailman and making me dance for you" line felt forced and over-the-top, whilst the Garrison-pig joke is self explanatory), or just not funny.
As for the geneticist satire, while, I didn't find the 'OMG geneticists are all mad scientists' message that sharp. As a spoof of real genetic scientists, it was miles off of any reality that I know of, but as spoof of mad scientist movies, then I felt it worked well.
One other thing that amazed me about this episode was the Elton John parody. I couldn't believe that that was Trey singing. Does he have a voice or what?
So, sorry, but I just deem this episode watchable, and it sure has its moments, but it's definitely not a classic. - 6.8/10

Quotable Notables: "I would never let a woman kick my ass. If she tried something, I'd be like "Hey, get your bitch-ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!"" - Cartman
"Me Stan, bachump, ba-chewy-chump, ba-chewy-chump." - Mutant Stan

104 - Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride

Synopsis: The big homecoming football game pits the South Park Cows against their arch rivals, the Middle Park Cowboys. Uncle Jimbo has convinced the rest of the town to bet heavily on his nephew, Stan the star quarterback, to beat the sixty point spread. But when Stan discovers his dog Sparky is gay, he becomes so confused he loses his will to play in the big game. A mysterious magical new friend, Big Gay Al, helps Stan understand the wonders of being gay and sends him back into the game.

Tackling homosexuality, and those who abhor it, through the inclusion of a gay dog voiced by none other than George Clooney is not an easy task. But, in what feels like the first fully formed episode this season, South Park succeeds with style and grace.
The idea of a gay dog is absurd enough to yield any pretentious overtone or preachiness (which is a word often applied to more recent South Park episodes), and fits just perfectly in the South Park universe. This episode has many fine points examining the fixation of homosexuality in Western culture. We have Stan claiming the Sparky's not a homo, he's "just confused" and trying to "fix" him. Then we have the obvious closet Mr. Garrison and his insanely funny hate speech that reeks of ignorance, denial and extremity, as most anti-gay speeches and campaigns do. And the inclusion of Jesus almost revealing his true feelings on homosexuality is marvelous. Of course, we can't forget Big Gay Al, an overly flamboyant stereotype who looks after gay animals who teaches Stan to be tolerant of gays.
Then there's the football subplot. It raised fine points about how football stars are treated unfairly well over average students, and the thought that Jimbo would gamble on Elementary school football is funny, but it didn't tie in with the over-riding storyline or theme very well, unlike, say, Weight Gain 4000. But, in saying that, it provided enough laughs to keep it from being a big deal (One of my favourite moments in the episode is Jimbo praying to Jesus, and Jesus' annoyed response - "Leave me alone.").
All in all, a very sharp and well-done episode - easily the best so far. It provided plenty of laughs, insight and absurdity, which kept it well-balanced, and stopped it become neither preachy nor tasteless. -8.4/10

Quotable Notables: "Gay people? Gay people are evil, right down to their cold black hearts which pump not blood like yours or mine, but rather a thick, vomitous oil that oozes through their rotten veins and clots in their pea-sized brains which becomes the cause of their Nazi-esque patterns of violent behavior. Do you understand?" - Mr. Garrison

Dec 16, 2009

103 - Volcano

Synopsis: Stan's Uncle Jimbo and his Vietnam buddy Ned take the boys on a weekend trip to experience the finer points of camping, fishing and blowing animals to smithereens. An erupting volcano and a mysterious creature named Scuzzlebutt not only threaten the boys' excursion but endanger the entire tow of South Park as well.

Three episodes in and it the show is slowly starting to stand upon its own two feet. Here we have Volcano, and it is the first consistently laugh-out-loud funny episode of the series. Whether it's Kenny's disgusting muffled comment about Cartman's mum, the ludicrous repetition of the "Oh-my-God!" (sorry, my lexicon is feeling rather limited today) sound, or the worryingly nostalgic 'Duck and Cover' film, there is a lot to like about this episode.
Another reason to like this episode is that it features the debut of Randy Marsh, many a person's favourite character in the show, although we are yet to learn that he is Stan's dad yet, and he offers up some nice chuckles. Less significant, but just as lovable is the introduction of Ned, the poor, amputee, Vietnam veteran, and his mechanical larynx, who catches painfully on fire for our amusement (and so Cartman can cook his weenies).
All in all, this was a solid episode. Jimbo and Ned were perfectly characterized, and the insane arsenal of weapons and unorthodox hunting methods are fun, and the disaster movie spoof is well-done. And it's hard to fault a show that creates a random monster with a name like Scuzzlebutt and Patrick Duffy for a leg. - 7.1/10

Quotable Notables: "Watch out, it's coming right for us!" - Jimbo
Stan: "Uncle Jimbo says that after this he's taking me to Africa."
Cartman: "My mom says there are lots of black people in Africa."

Dec 14, 2009

102 - Weight Gain 4000

Synopsis: When Cartman's environmental essay wins a national contest, America's sweetheart, Kathy Lee Gifford, comes to South Park to present this award on national television. While Cartman is busy bulking up for his television debut, Mr. Garrison suffers flashbacks of a childhood humiliation at the hands of Mrs. Gifford. Mr. Hat convinces Garrison to even the score once and for all, and together they hatch a malevolent plot to kill Kathy Lee! Stan, Kyle and Wendy must stop the deranged Mr. Garrison before it's too late.
This episode is an extremely important part of the South Park canon, much more than I had previously realized. After the pilot's poor reception, Comedy Central requested one more script from Matt and Trey, the one that would decide whether or not South Park was to become a full-time series. Needless to say, this episode did the trick.
This episode, now completely computer animated, showed that South Park was capable of combining a witty, satirical edge with its shocking toilet humour. After starting with one of the most bizarre series of dialogue I have ever heard on TV (outside of South Park of course) about rainbows, we learn that Cartman won an essay contest and gets to receive his award live in national television, presented to him by Kathy Lee Gifford(!). Admittedly, I had to look up who Gifford was in a futile attempt to learn why Matt and Trey decided to spear her, before finding out she was chosen at random.
Anyhow, this introduces the two major themes of the episode; American consumerism and celebrity obsession.Cartman's inexplicable devotion to the 'Weight Gain 4000' and denial that it has had the opposite effect on his body than advertised acutely shows the brand devotion distilled in society, right down to his repetition of the slogan ("BEEFCAKE!"), and the fact that he completely ignores the health warning is indicative of our blind faith in brands. Also, his obsession with the fact that he is going to be on television reflects the 'fifteen minutes of fame' ideology, and the vacuous belief that being on television is the pinnacle of success for some.
More obviously mocked is the celebrity obsession in Western culture, clearly shown through the town's excitement of seeing Kathy Lee, and that she was regarded as some sort of deity, or higher being. Mr. Garrison was ousted for yelling, "To Hell with Kathy Lee Gifford!", as if she were perfect and free from fault.
The bizarre subplot is hilarious, and intertwines well with the A-plot. Expanding on the suggestion of a mentally unwell elementary school teacher, we find out that Mr. Garrison was not only beaten by Gifford in a talent show, but also bald as a child. Guided by his hand-puppet, Mr. Hat, he decides the only way he can come to terms with this injustice is to assassinate Kathy Lee. It is completely surreal and completely funny.
Summing up, this episode is definitely a step in the right direction, implementing not only the surreal humour that was to define the earlier seasons, but also the satire that was to define the series as a whole. It is still developing at this stage, but was pivotal in proving that the show could be though provoking as well as funny. - 6.9/10

Quotable Notables: "That's right! He's a black guy isn't he?" - Mayor McDaniels
Stan: "Dude, dolphins are intelligent and friendly."
Cartman: "Intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonnaise!"
"Cartman, you're such a fat ass that when you walk down the street, people go "Goddammit, that's a big fat ass!"" - Kyle
"BEEEEEFCAKE!" - Cartman

Dec 13, 2009

Website Update

I have done some more maintenance on the website following the publishing of my first review. I optimized the backdrops so that the pages load faster, and lightened to browser background colour. Is still not perfect though. I checked on Safari and Firefox and they are loading much faster than before, so I would recommend using either of those two (Safari in my opinion) but one of the pages, Recent Reviews, was buggy when I checked it on Firefox but not Safari. To be honest, it will never be the greatest website in the world, as I made it for free using iWeb, Dropbox and DotTK. But, hopefully one day it will do the job.
In unrelated news, I watched 'Weight Gain 4000' this afternoon, and, fingers-crossed, will post a review tomorrow.

101 - Cartman Gets An Anal Probe

Synopsis: Alien visitors wreak havoc in South Park when they kidnap Kyle's little brother, Ike, mutilate dozens of innocent cows and give Eric Cartman an anal probe. Flaming flatulence, skeptical school officials and a preteen seductress named Wendy Testaburger are a few of the obstacles the boys must face as they try to rescue poor Ike from the clutches of the mysterious visitors.

Only being five at the time, it's for me to imagine the cultural landscape back in 1997. It's also hard for me to fathom exactly what viewers would have made of their first South Park experience. Needless to say, they probably hadn't seen much like it before; I mean, how many television shows would title their pilot episode "Cartman Gets An Anal Probe" and then present a crudely animated cartoon about four foul-mouthed third grade boys, one of whom has a giant satellite stuck up his arse? No, straight off the mark Matt and Trey dared to be as different and as vulgar as their minds and television executives would let them.
Seeing what would become of this off-colour animation, it is easy to go over the top and label it as 'classic', but in truth, this is far from it.  Unappealing animation aside, this episode lacks the sharp wit and/or the bold, profound satire that would come to define the series, and place it high on the sacred mantle for many intellects. Instead the characters, storyline and humour remain largely one-dimensional. Sure, it has its moments: The "I Love to Singa'" song from a 1936 Tex Avery cartoon for one, and Ike is adorable, as is is impression of David Caruso's career. Assuming that you haven't seen the previous shorts, we get our first introduction to such endearing characters as Chef, Mr. Garrison, Officer Barbrady, Wendy, Kitty and Cartman's mum. And, of course, "Oh my God! They killed Kenny!" "You bastards!"
Poorly received at the time of its release, this episode is far from the apogee of humour the series would later reach, and the characters, with the possible exclusion of Cartman, are yet to develop any trace of personality. But still, it was this little bacterium that multiplied and multiplied into the thirteen seasons we love so much. And it deserves credit for that alone. - 6.1/10

Quotable Notables: "I'm not fat, I'm big-boned!" -Cartman
Stan: "Oh my God! They killed Kenny!" Kyle: "You bastards!"
"Eric! Do you have to sit in the corner until your flaming gas is under control?" - Mr. Garrison
"No! You go to Hell! You got to Hell and you die!" - Mr. Hat