Wednesday, August 29, 2007

South Park: The Complete Fourth Season

3-disc set; 17 episodes (~380 minutes)

It’s hard to describe, but this fourth season is like the second year of South Park as we know it now. The first two years almost felt like a different show. Even if the quotes are still popular today and recent episodes have callbacks to the older ones, it just seems like the definition of what South Park is came to be with season three and beyond. In this set of episodes, another new popular character is introduced, and they actually progress the age of the kids.

One reoccurring theme this season was Cartman trying to make scads and scads of money and it never really working out. In commentary, Matt & Trey joke they could make a series out of that on the Road Runner principle, with episodes always starting out with Eric trying to make $10,000,000 or something. I’m inclined to agree.

Here are season four’s 17 episodes in airing order – things got a bit jumbled up early on production wise.

The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000 (air: 4/5/00) – After Cartman gets $2 from the tooth fairy for a single tooth, he decides to start collecting teeth so he and the boys can swindle up enough money for a SEGA DREAMCAAAAAST. Sorry I spoiled that joke, but I loved it. They eventually discover there’s a whole underground tooth racket ran by a crime boss named Loogie, and they butt heads over the South Park turf. Funny stuff, with a boffo opening scene featuring Cartman’s new favorite word – “tits.” Thumbs up. Timmy makes his debut here, but doesn’t appear like anything with staying power just yet.

Cartman’s Silly Hate Crime 2000 (air: 4/12/00) – The girls challenge the boys to a sled race just as Cartman throws a rock at Token, is convicted of a hate crime and sent to juvenile hall. And his fat ass is the key to sledding victory, so he needs out. Token and the boys take on hate crime legislation as Cartman comes to grips with life in prison, and sneaking things in up your ass. Beaten to death by reruns for me, but still funny. Thumbs up.

Timmy 2000 (air: 4/19/00) – Timmy solidifies his spot with this one. Mr. Garrison sends Timmy to the principal because he can’t pay attention, and Mr. Mackey thinks he has ADD. When the kids see how this gets him out of homework, they all say they have ADD and get prescribed Ritalin. Meanwhile, Timmy stumbles into a band that gets popular and knocks Phil Collins out of Lollapalababa. Trey reveals on commentary that all the Phil Collins stuff was because he lost the Oscar for Best Song, and didn't take it very well. It wasn’t losing, it was losing to Phil Collins. A definite thumbs up. The scene where Mr. Garrison tries to rattle the medicated kids and Phil Collins’ “performance” are memorable.

Quintuplets 2000 (air: 4/26/00) – The boys get dragged to a French-Canadian circus, and after watching several gay men wearing feathers, their interest is piqued with the appearance of five female Romanian contortionist twins. They vow to start their own circus, just as the girls’ grandma sneaks them out of the circus’ clutches. They stay with the Marsh family, where one night of passion with Stan’s grandpa kills the grandma. It eventually turns into parallel parodies on the Elian Gonzales scandal, with Kenny in Romania and the girls in America. Another show with a great opening segment. Thumbs up.

Cartman Joins NAMBLA (air: 6/21/00) – This one’s a gutbuster. Cartman decides he needs to hang out with more mature people, so he logs on the internet and goes into a “Men Who Like Young Boys” chat room and finds no shortage of eager takers. The sudden arrest of all his new “friends” makes him think Stan & Kyle are behind it. Eventually, the North American Man Boy Love Association gets involved to stand-up for the arrested, and to take in Cartman and all the kids of South Park. In the B-plot, Kenny’s trying desperately to stop his parents from having another baby. All sorts of great jokes, like the Investigative Reports with Bill Curtis Game, the John Denver Experience, and a classic characters-chasing-each-other-through-doors scene from the cartoons of yore. Thumbs up.

Cherokee Hair Tampons (air: 6/28/00) – Kyle’s sick, so Sharon suggests Shiela take him to a new holistic medicine store ran by Miss Information. Whoa, look out for the clever bus. Cheech & Chong guest star as Native Americans who supply the store with merchandise. As Kyle gets worse, Stan figures out he needs a kidney transplant, and the only donor in town is…Cartman. Also, Garrison is put on hiatus by the school board, but finds work as a romance novel writer. Started slow, but got good. Thumbs up.

Chef Goes Nanners (air: 7/5/00) – Chef & Jimbo are at each other’s throats again over the South Park flag. Chef wants it changed, and Jimbo wants to keep history in tact. Y’see, it depicts four white stick figures hanging a black stick figure. Oh poo, what’s the big deal? So under the direction of their new substitute teacher, the kids have a debate on the subject. Wendy has to work with Cartman, and finds herself developing feelings for him. The KKK eventually comes into town on Jimbo’s side, much to his chagrin. That bit was funny, but on the whole, this one’s thumbs in the middle.

Something You Can Do With Your Finger (air: 7/12/00) – One of my all-time favorites; I’ve seen it a billion times. Cartman convinces the guys to start a boy band called Fingerbang so they can make $10,000,000. His first stop? The South Park Mall. The mall manager is one of the best characters from the entire series. Stan’s dad has a problem with it since he was in a boy band as a youth and it ruined his life. The stuff with mall security is classic too. All-around...awesome. Thumbs up.

Do The Handicapped Go to Hell? (air: 7/19/00) – This is part one of a two-parter, and it sort-of requires you to have seen the movie for some of the backstory, which is a pretty good assumption by them given the nature of the fanbase at this point. Father Maxi preaches the boys into fear, and gets them all to go to Sunday school and become better Christians. Meanwhile in hell, Satan and his new lover Chris are moving into a new apartment when old flame Saddam Hussein drops by to muck things up. The boys can’t follow every rule of Christianity, and apparently neither can the clergy. So Cartman starts to preach on street corners just as we fade to black. The title of this episode comes from a point when the boys figure out that Timmy’s inability to talk means he can’t confess, and thus will burn in hell. Thumbs up, by the way.

Probably (air: 7/26/00) – We join this episode as Cartman’s congregation has grown and they all work to build a church for their new religion. Saddam kills Chris, but he comes back because…well, where the hell else would you go if you died in hell? Eventually Satan goes to God for relationship advice. And it’s revealed the whole church was a scheme for Cartman to make his money…again. Funny in parts, but not as good as the setup. Thumbs in the middle.

4th Grade (air: 11/8/00) – They decide to actually advance the kids’ age by putting them in the fourth grade with this show, which also comes with an updated opening sequence and theme song. The boys scheme with the rest of the class to do something bold and establish they’re the dominant ones. When they meet the new teacher, Ms. Choksondik, only Cartman goes through with it. However, she can’t properly punish them, which is especially prevalent when the boys get some Star Trek geeks to build them a time machine to go back to third grade. She asks to contact Mr. Garrison, something the school staff is leery about. Not uproariously funny, but a good episode. Thumbs up.

Trapper Keeper (air: 11/15/00) – Cartman gets a new Dawson’s Creek Trapper Keeper that catches the interest of a weird guy on the school bus named Bill Cosby. I…see. Mr. Garrison, meanwhile, is the new kindergarten teacher, where Ike takes on Filmore in the class election. It turns into a parody of the Florida/recount situation going on at the time. Bill Cosby ends up being a robot sent back to the present to stop Cartman’s Trapper Keeper from taking over the world. Sounds stupid, but it’s solid. Thumbs up.

Helen Keller! The Musical (air: 11/22/00) – It’s time for the annual Thanksgiving pageant, and the fourth graders have to compete with the kindergarteners play. They decide to jazz up the usual serving of “The Miracle Worker” by adding songs, special effects, and a trick-performing turkey. Timmy, who’s playing Helen, takes a shine to his choice, the physically challenged Gobbles, while Cartman tries to sub in a ”professional” turkey. When Gobbles goes missing, so does Helen. Can they beat the kindergarteners without their lead player? Very silly; an on-target holiday special. Thumbs up.

Pip (air: 11/29/00) – This one totally floored me, because I completely missed it first run and it apparently has only been reran twice as of August 2007. Malcolm McDowell guest stars as the storyteller of this “South Park Classic” – “Great Expectations,” the Charles Dickens novel with South Park’s Pip in the lead role. It has enough flashes of traditional South Park humor and references to modern times to make it interesting. I went in expecting to hate it and be bored, but got the opposite. Thumbs up. Although it’s not surprising most fans didn’t like it – outside of Pip, there are no other South Park characters in it. Still, worth a look or two.

Fat Camp (air: 12/6/00) – While dissecting manatees for class, the children get Kenny to eat one of the parts for money. Stan & Kyle realize they can cash in on this and eventually get Kenny on TV. Meanwhile, Cartman’s mom stages an intervention and sends him to fat camp. Once there, Eric sets up a scheme whereby a drug rehab dropout poses as a skinny version of himself whilst sneaking in junk food to sell at the camp. One for the ages, even if you’ve seen it a billion times like myself. Thumbs up. Another great Chef song is in this episode too.

The Wacky Molestation Adventure (air: 12/13/00) – Kyle brings democracy to Cuba to appease his parents, but they still won't let him see the Raging Pussies in concert. So, on Cartman’s recommendation, he tells the police his parents “molestered” him. Eventually, every kid in South Park does it, leaving the city in control of the children. Two factions arise: Smiley Town, which is Cartman and his peers, and Treasure Cove, which is Stan, Kyle and the younger set. They got the raw end of the deal there. Eventually, a couple on their way to a job interview intervenes. It’s very “Twilight Zone” and that’s good. Thumbs up. The original plan was for Cartman to block out the sun from Treasure Cove, but you-know-who did it first, and that inspired an episode in season six.

A Very Crappy Christmas (air: 12/20/00) – South park doesn’t have the Christmas spirit this year, so the boys decide to make an animated Christmas card to get everybody ready for the holiday. Sound familiar? The Hankey family helps out by fixing the old drive-in and its projector, which gives us the great “Circle of Poo” song. It feels a little cheap for them to just repurpose one of the original South Park shorts like this, but it has enough funny moments to warrant a mark in the thumbs up column.

The count (up-middle-down):


Two episodes worthy of a top ten of all time distinction plus no thumbs down shows equals a good season.

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