It is hard to believe but South Park has started its thirteenth season with the twelfth arriving on Blu-ray, a first for the show on the high definition format. The long running series is a constant breath of fresh air on television, but how does it translate to Blu-ray?
South Park is a groundbreaking show in many different ways. Its very crude art style has many benefits: it can be generated really quickly, the characters can do almost anything and seem believable, and the nature of the characters makes you excuse the many excesses the show allows.
Because of the quick nature of the show, and the talented creative team, South Park is able to be incredibly timely and often pokes fun of current issues within days of them occurring. This enables the show to take pop culture events and capitalize on them in near real time, a feat unheard of in scripted television.
Although South Park is full of foul-mouthed characters and low brow humor is the norm, it is actually a very intelligently written show that takes solid shots at pop culture and current events. Because of the animation style and characters South Park can do things that would normally never be allowed on television if it was live action, a situation they often push to the limit.
The twelfth season is very funny, maybe not the best in the show's history, but very solid with many memorable moments that stand out. The season starts in a typically edgy way with Cartman getting AIDS (which he spreads to Kyle) and then looks at everything from the presidential election, to Britney Spears and the High School Musical series.
There are many key moments in season 12 that stand out, but two episodes really made an impression and caused many guilty laughs. The first was “The China Problem”, an episode mainly about Cartman’s fear that China will invade. During the episode the boys also watch the new Indiana Jones film and we are shown a very graphic portrayal of how Indiana Jones is violated by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The other is “Major Boobage,” an episode that emulates the classic movie Heavy Metal. Kenny enters this strange land after the boys experiment getting high on cat urine after hearing about it in school. Both episodes stand out but are joined by 10 other great episodes.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone consistently create smart, funny and irreverent television for us adults to enjoy. The humor is very adult-oriented and as this is an uncensored version the language is explicit. You forget how much the series is bleeped on air and it is surreal hearing Cartman and friends swear (nearly non-stop some episodes). If you can handle the language there is an amazing show for you with some really clever takes on relevant issues and pop culture icons.
Presented for the first time at home in high definition, South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season is presented in 1080i on this Blu-ray release. The increase in resolution really demonstrates how great the color range is in the show and many small textures/details are visible on all the characters. Edges are very well defined and black levels are really deep and effective.
While the video presentation is admirable, it is almost wasted on a show with South Park’s animation style. The incredibly simple character models and animation style cause some unnecessary blurring on occasion. Obviously South Park looks better then it ever has before, it just can’t quite benefit from all that Blu-ray can offer.
While the animation style of South Park hamstrings its video presentation, the same can definitely not be said of the audio. Presented in a much better than you would expect Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack, South Park sounds better than many mainstream releases I have listened to. The theme song sets the stage with ample use of your surround mix and bass to bring you into the show as never before.
Generally the episodes do not heavily use bass or deep sounds but there is regular use of rear channels to enhance the feel of the environments and the speech of peripheral characters. Dialogue is crisp, well balanced, and never muddled by ambient or stray noise. This is a mix anyone would be proud of and really helps enhance the overall enjoyment while watching the season.
It is a shame that Matt Stone and Trey Parker did not utilize any of the advanced features of Blu-ray for the extras (BD-Live, PiP as examples). The supplemental materials are adequate but they are fairly niche as far as content goes and there really isn’t that much on offer. Two of the three featurettes are presented in DVD resolution (480p) which is disappointing on Blu-ray and doesn’t make much sense as one of the extras is in 1080i.
- Mini Commentaries – Matt Parker and Trey Stone offer a short commentary (4-5 minutes) on each and every episode. These are generally very interesting to listen to, but after watching other releases with PiP commentaries I found them lacking. They do offer many interesting topics such as issues that crop up, tackling big topics, and the tight schedules.
- Making Boobage: Behind The Scenes of "Major Boobage" – Producer Eric Strough breaks down four scenes from the Heavy Metal parody episode from story board to pre and post animation. Fairly compelling if you are interested in the animation process, but it may not appeal to everyone.
- Six Days to South Park, A Day By Day: Making of South Park – Basically a running commentary showing the process from storyboard to near final cut of the “Super Fun Time” episode. This is a quite long but incredibly comprehensive look at the process the team goes through to create a South Park episode in less then a week. Definitely worth watching if you are a fan of the series.
- Behind The Scenes: "About Last Night" – Essentially a shorter version of the "Six Days to South Park" featurette. Producer Eric Strough discusses and demonstrates the last minute changes made to the “About Last Night’ episode.
- South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season Digital copy – The show is available as a digital copy, but unlike most major releases it will only work in Windows, no iTunes or Mac compatibility.
The Final Word
South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season is a solid chapter in the South Park series that is made great by a very well done Blu-ray transfer. The crisp video and stellar audio compensate for the relatively weak extras provided on the disc and make this a must own for casual and hardcore fans of the series.