Season twelve of "South Park" continues the raunchy adventures of grade schoolers Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman, who live in a small mountain town. Originally conceived as a small Christmas special that gained fame in Hollywood, the show eventually became the highly controversial Comedy Central show it still is today.
Although the show's a bit more inconsistent today (but creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker deserve credit for continuing to come up with material that doesn't seem rehashed twelve seasons later), the new seasons still offer plenty of inspired situations for the kids, great supporting characters and plenty of classic lines.Working with what appears to be a larger budget also has given the show further freedom, as the stories have grown larger in scope.
Although not every episode's a winner this time around, there are some marvelous episodes scattered throughout that stand as some of the show's best. The first is "Elementary School Musical", which sees the kids startled by the rise of popularity of the "High School Musical", only to realize that if they don't want to be outcasts (to their horror, they realize later in the episode that they're even lower on the social food chain than Butters), they have to follow along. The episode is a terrific parody of the "High School Musical" films, complete with some amusing song-and-dance numbers.
The two-parter "Pandemic" and "Pandemic 2: The Startling" actually integrates live animals into the show, as the story involves the government rounding up all the Peruvian pan-flute bands around the country. However, it's soon revealed that the music that the bands play serves a much larger purpose than anyone could have ever expected. With the bands gone, giant Guinea pigs (played by actual Guinea pigs) suddenly go on a rampage. With the boys accidentally shipped off to Peru, it's up to them to figure out how to put an end to the chaos. The concept is initially amusing, but while seeing the little creatures marching through South Park is funny at first, it grows a little tired. This would have been a good episode, but as a two-parter it runs out of steam.
A couple Cartman-centric episodes are mixed, starting with the iffy "China Probrem", where Cartman believes that the Chinese are planning to take over the US, leading Cartman to pull Butters into a scheme to find out information at PF Changs. Cartman and Butters are more amusing in "Super Fun Time", when they're forced to pair up during a field trip. Quite a bit better is the episode that comes after it, "Breast Cancer Show Ever", which sees Cartman get his revenge when Wendy challenges him to a fight after he insults her after she does a report on breast cancer. While Cartman thinks he's in for an easy fight, he's stunned when Wendy proves to be a much bolder opponent than he could have ever realized. Cartman trying to talk his way out of and around the fight in the second half of the episode leads to some good laughs.
Probably one of the season's more underrated episodes is "Over Logging", which sees the characters waking up one morning to find out that there's no more internet. Horrified that he can't get online, Randy takes his family out West to California, where he's heard rumors that there might be some internet. The episode is a hysterical look at the hold that the internet has begun to have on the daily lives of many.
Finally, a couple of other highlights from the season are: "About Last Night" (Barack Obama gets elected and while democrats party and republicans are horrified, Obama, McCain and Palin all band together to pull off an "Ocean's Eleven"-style jewel heist), "Canada on Strike" (a hysterical goof on the WGA strike) and "Major Boobage" (a tribute to the 80's animated film "Heavy Metal")
168. 12- 1 1201 12 Mar 08 Tonsil Trouble
169. 12- 2 1202 19 Mar 08 Britney's New Look
170. 12- 3 1203 26 Mar 08 Major Boobage
171. 12- 4 1204 2 Apr 08 Canada On Strike
172. 12- 5 1205 9 Apr 08 Eek, A Penis!
173. 12- 6 1206 16 Apr 08 Over Logging
174. 12- 7 1207 23 Apr 08 Super Fun Time
175. 12- 8 1208 8 Oct 08 The China Probrem
176. 12- 9 1209 15 Oct 08 Breast Cancer Show Ever
177. 12-10 1210 22 Oct 08 Pandemic
178. 12-11 1211 29 Oct 08 Pandemic 2 - The Startling
179. 12-12 1212 5 Nov 08 About Last Night...
180. 12-13 1213 12 Nov 08 Elementary School Musical
181. 12-14 1214 19 Nov 08 The Ungroundable
VIDEO: "South Park" is presented in 1.78:1 (1080i/AVC) for its Blu-Ray debut from Paramount. The animation of the series may be basic (although, as mentioned in the review, it has evolved and improved over the years), but it certainly shines on this high-def edition. Although not a great leap over the DVD edition, the primary improvement is sharpness and detail, as I've never seen the series presented with this level of clarity. While a touch or two of noise is seen, the picture otherwise appeared pristine, with no wear or other concerns. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, "South Park" certainly looks its best on this new Blu-Ray edition.
SOUND: The series is presented here in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which is a step up from the 2.0 soundtracks offered on the show's DVD sets. While surround activity was generally unremarkable, there were definitely a few instances where rear speakers were put to use to deliver effects or ambience. Most of the audio is spread across the front speakers, and sounded just fine, with clear, well-recorded effects and dialogue.
EXTRAS: In a pleasant surprise, more extras are offered this time around than on past "South Park" DVD sets. First off, a four-part documentary looks at the inspiration and production of "Major Boobage", complete with the creators and animators. "Six Days to South Park" is a six-part documentary that has the animators providing audio commentary over video examples of the six different stages of a "South Park" episode. Finally, we get a 21-minute "making of" documentary for "About Last Night", which is essentially the episode with commentary - the animators discuss their thoughts on having to do the episode within an extremely short time period (much of the episode was produced within 24 hours.) This is a very informative discussion of the episode, as the group talks about everything from production difficulties to story changes. The "About Last Night" feature is presented in HD.
Additionally, we also get the usual series of "mini-commentaries" from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for each episode.
Final Thoughts: Although there's a few so-so episodes scattered throughout this season, much of season 12 of "South Park" is very funny. The Blu-Ray edition boasts improved audio/video quality over the DVD edition, as well as the same extras. Recommended.