South Park: The Complete Sixteenth Season (Blu-ray)
Paramount / 2012 / 308 mins / NR
Sixteen years ago, Matt Stone and Trey Parker smashed into the heart of pop-culture with their cardboard-cutout animated series. And even though the show is now a much different animation style and has won several Emmy awards (including one for this season), it's still Matt and Trey's project from conception to final edit. They have one of the strangest production schedules ever only conceiving episodes from script to screen in just under a week before they air to keep things fresh and topical. While you can see some moments where the formula hits the wall, the results still manage to impress.
It's hard to top the last season where the creators directly addressed the issue of the show getting old and following a status quo. Thankfully, the sixteenth season is a relatively strong follow-up trying out some new material in the realm of both pop culture and general vulgarity. The season wastes no time by focusing on the subject of sitting on the toilet in "Reverse Cowgirl" and how humans have apparently been sitting on it the wrong way for years. And it also goes for the timely references to subjects like the Lance Armstrong scandal ("A Scause for Applause") and the 2012 election ("Obama Election").
The majority of these episodes stand well-enough on their own with some great scenarios. Cartman's bizarre racist nature is used for matchmaking Token with a black girl ("Cartman Finds Love"). The episode "I Shouldn't Have Gone Ziplining" is a fantastically absurd send-up of reality survival shows with some live-action footage of the main characters added into the mix. And Cartman has a unique crywolf tale in "Jewpacabra".
Two episodes in particular stand out as some of the best. Naturally, the Emmy-winner of this season "Raising the Bar" is a prime choice with a major focus on how the program Here Comes Honey Boo Boo has carved a shameless landscape for obesity in society. The other episode, which in my opinion is the best of the season, is "A Nightmare on Face Time" which does a pitch-perfect parody of The Shining within an old Blockbuster Video. Everything about that episode just worked so well and echoes the early years of South Park's genius.
There are a few misfires in the mix with episodes like "Sarcastaball" and "Insecurity" which seem like one-joke episodes that grow old fast. But even with those duds, the season as a whole is quite solid. Matt and Trey still have some great ideas after all these years. South Park is their baby and their love for the show certainly shines through in the clever writing and humor that takes no prisoners. It's a rare breed of a long-running series still helmed by its creators that has stood the test of time.
The Blu-ray quality, while South Park is not as detailed as other animated programs, is beautifully bold and vibrant. The 1080p really enhances the simple though gorgeous colors. The TrueHD 5.1 audio is nothing groundbreaking, but it's a stellar mix for a TV series (especially one that is assembled on the fly).
Extras are pretty standard for this release with no real surprises. All that's present is another round of mini-commentaries by the series' creators and some deleted scenes. It's not a bad batch of special features, but there isn't anything here that really stands out from previous season sets.
South Park is certainly getting up there in age, but this latest season proves that the show is still full of vinegar. It may not push the limits of the crude and referencial elements of previous seasons, but it's still just as comical and clever. There's a reason this show has stuck around for so long and it's still rightful of its place in the pantheon of longest running animated series, poop jokes and all.