Friday, August 24, 2007

South Park: The Complete Second Season

3-disc set; 18 episodes (~404 minutes)

Unlike most runs of South Park, this one began just a short month or so after the last one concluded, but boy was it a long month. With the cliffhanger of “who is Cartman’s dad?” looming, a lot of people were anticipating the season premiere. This was still a time where the show was in the mainstream public eye, so it was a big deal. Back in ’98, you’d still find South Park in scattered TV tie-ins, magazine cover features, and item after item of new merchandise. This was the season that gave us “Chef Aid,” the South Park album, loaded with an all-star cast who appear in an episode of the same name.

Here are the 18 episodes from season two. The first two discs contain Matt & Trey intros from the old Rhino VHS tapes that take the form of a visit to a retirement home and a cooking show called “Bakin’ Bacon with Macon.”

Terrance & Phillip in Not Without My Anus (air: 4/1/98) – After four weeks of waiting, Trey & Matt thought their fans would appreciate the joke of not giving away the identity of Cartman’s father just yet. They were wrong, apparently. A lot of people tuned this one out in frustration and missed out on a funny show. Scott the Dick is trying to convict Terrance of murder again. When he ultimately fails, Saddam Hussein calls up with a plan to get Terrance & Phillip out of Canada, and him and his Iraqis in. It’s eventually up to the farting twosome to save the country. I liked it a lot. Thumbs up.

Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut (air: 4/22/98) – As a result of the backlash from that stunt, Comedy Central had them make this one a little ahead of schedule. Mephesto gets shot right before revealing who the father is and has to go the hospital. Desperate for stories, America’s Most Wanted arrives in town to film a recreation and help find the shooter. A blizzard makes medical care and shooting the TV show difficult. A ho-hum description for a classic show. “I’m sailing away…set an open chord…” Thumbs up.

Chickenlover (air: 5/20/98) – It’s discovered that Officer Barbrady can’t read. He goes back to school and deputizes the boys to keep order. At the same time, there’s a mysterious rash of chickens being made love to, and it’ll take reading to figure out who’s the culprit. Everybody remembers this one for “respect my authoritay!” but I always had a special place in my heart for the random fits of end credits. Thumbs up.

Ike’s Wee Wee (air: 5/27/98) – Mr. Mackey comes to class to talk about drugs, and passes around some marijuana to show the kids what it smells like. When it turns up missing, Mr. Mackey gets fired and turns to drugs & alcohol to cope. Meanwhile, Ike is having his bris, and the boys think that means he’ll get his peni- I mean “fireman” cut off. Another one people remember mostly for one angle (“drugs are bad…you shouldn’t do drugs”), but this was all-around good. Thumbs up.

Conjoined Fetus Lady (air: 6/3/98) – Ruthless teasing of Pip during a game of dodgeball turns him into a ball-throwing monster that sends Kyle to the nurse. When Mrs. Broflovski finds out the boys make fun of the nurse because of the dead fetus attached to her head, she aspires to make the whole town aware of her problem. Meanwhile, with Pip’s skill, the Cows go all the way to the world championship against China. Stupid, yet funny. The Chinese commentators were hilarious. Thumbs up.

The Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka (air: 6/10/98) – The boys have to do a report on Vietnam, so they interview Jimbo & Ned on their tour of duty. When their exaggerated story gives them an F, the boys fake video of a Mexican Staring Frog and send it in to Jimbo & Ned's public access show as revenge. The resulting ratings jump (more than 12 people!) causes “Jesus & Pals” to trash it up to compete. Sure the Jerry Springer references feel passé, but it’s still a goodie. Thumbs up. In keeping with my pointing out of personal favorite jokes, I love the announcer introducing Bob Denver.

City on the Edge of Forever (aka Flashbacks) (air: 6/17/98) – The title and some aspects of this episode are an homage to “Star Trek.” Mrs. Crabtree drives the bus to the edge of a mountain, and leaves the kids while she searches for help. They all reminisce about past adventures while her travels lead her to a career in stand-up comedy. This is basically a parody of clip shows, and while it has its moments, a premise like that can’t achieve greatness. Thumbs in the middle.

Summer Sucks (air: 6/24/98) – It’s the one week of the year when there isn’t snow on the ground in South Park, and the kids want fireworks for the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, some North Park kid blew his hand off with one, and the only thing allowed are those stupid growing snakes of ash, which the mayor decides to do the max. Only thing is, the ash takes over the country and kills everybody. Plus, in the sub-plots, Mr. Garrison loses Mr. Hat, Cartman takes swimming lessons, and Jimbo & Ned go off to Mexico to buy fireworks. Funny, but it didn’t feel all there. Thumbs in the middle.

Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls (air: 8/19/98) – The Sundance Film Festival people want to find a new town to move the festival to, and decide South Park is perfect. However, all the tourists from California ruin the sewer system for Mr. Hankey, who tries to come to the surface to warn them all. This episode’s so named for Chef’s business venture during the festival – selling chocolate cookies called Chef’s Salty Balls. Another one that was merely okay. Thumbs in the middle.

Chickenpox (air: 8/26/98) – Kenny gets the chickenpox, so the parents conspire to give it to all their kids before they get older. When Kyle eventually finds out about this plan, it’s time for revenge in the form of a herpes-ridden prostitute. Also, Sheila tries to reconnect Kyle’s dad with Kenny’s dad. And the result is a school paper by Kyle about how all the poor people should be put in camps. Oops. Thumbs up.

Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods (air: 9/2/98) – Mr. Garrison takes the class on a field trip to the plane_arium, where the proprietor gets people to come back through a mind control device in the star display. The boys get hip to this and try to shut him down. Cartman skips out and tries to become the new kid in the Cheesy Poofs ad. Having seen it a billion times, I’m sort of numb to the jokes, but it was one of my favorite episodes at the time and I’m sure I’d be laughing now if my memory were erased. Thumbs up.

Clubhouses (air: 9/23/98) – Bebe takes an interest in Kyle, so Wendy has Stan build a clubhouse for them all to play Truth or Dare in. Cartman & Kenny see this and decide to build a competing clubhouse. Stan would get to his game faster if he weren’t dealing with the divorce of his parents. Good laughs here, with Stan’s new stepdad Roy and “The Fat Abbot Show.” Thumbs up.

Cow Days (air: 9/30/98) – It’s Cow Days in South Park, a festival celebrating…the cow. The boys attempt to win Terrence & Phillip dolls from one of the booths. Since Cartman spends all their money before they can do so, he gets nominated to ride a bull in a contest so they can raise the money. And one fateful buck during practice makes him think he’s a Vietnamese prostitute. This one gave us “Shenanigans!” but it completely didn’t hold up for me at all. Thumbs down.

Chef Aid (air: 10/7/98) – Chef hears one of his old songs being performed by Alanis Morissette and tries to get the record company to put his name in the credits. Their reaction? Use Johnny Cochran to sue Chef for two million dollars. O…kay. Chef decides to whore himself out to South Park’s women while the kids try to sell candy to all his old rock star friends. They all eventually come to town and perform a benefit concert to get Chef his money. This episode contains guest appearances by basically everyone on the album from Meat Loaf to Elton John to Rick James. Both this and the album are fun. Thumbs up.

Spookyfish (air: 10/28/98) – Stan’s mother’s Aunt Flo makes her monthly visit and gives Stan a fish that kills people. Apparently a pet store owner opened a door to an alternate universe where Cartman is nice, Chef’s a white insurance salesman and pets kill people. It’s up to Stan & Kyle to set it straight and return things to their correct realm. The stuff with Evil Cartman is fun, and the rest pretty good too. Thumbs up. This one gave American culture the adjective “hella.”

Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson! (air: 12/9/98) – Stan’s parents won’t let him go with the rest of the boys to Nebraska for a Cartman family Christmas. He sneaks out and goes anyway. Once they get there, Eric’s Uncle Howard breaks out of jail with his prison buddy Charlie Manson. Oops. He takes them to the mall to visit Mr. Hankey, where Kyle reveals to the kids that it’s not the real Mr. Hankey and a riot ensues. The cops come and spot Charlie, and it’s a standoff at the Cartman home. I missed this one’s initial airing and caught it in the rerun cycle. I was surprised how early in the run it was. A forgotten gem. Thumbs up.

Gnomes (air: 12/16/98) –The school board threatens to fire Mr. Garrison because he doesn’t teach enough about current events. He splits the class into groups to write a paper on a current event, and the boys get stuck with Tweek, the jittery kid whose dad runs a coffee shop. Tweek insists they write about the Underpants Gnomes, a group of little men who appear at 3:30 in the morning to take your underpants. Since they’re coming off a coffee high, the boys miss their appearance, so Mr. Tweek pushes his paper about corporate takeovers on them, in the wake of his shop being pushed out of town by Harbucks Coffee. You should know all this by now since it’s a classic. Thumbs up. I still hear people do the “phase three: profit!” joke in one form or another today. And I love the voice Matt Stone uses for the Harbucks guy – something we haven’t heard a version of since. Like the last episode, I was surprised this came from so early in the run. It feels “newer.”

Prehistoric Ice Man (air: 1/20/99) – Kyle falls in a hole while the boys pretend to be Steve Irwin. When Stan repels down to save him, he discovers an ice man from a previous time…1996!! Mephesto and government agents struggle to communicate with him and bring him up to speed, while Stan & Kyle fight over who gets to name him and who discovered him. Eventually they find a place for somebody three years behind the times. It’s a slightly generous thumbs up nowadays, but a thumbs up nonetheless. The concept was clever, as were the things that made the ice man feel comfortable in a controlled 1996 habitat.

The count (up-middle-down):

This set came with a music video for “Chocolate Salty Balls,” plus “Goin’ Down to a South Park” a one-hour documentary on the making of the show. It’s mostly tongue in cheek, but it’s funny and has cool parts like a look at the South Park offices. Also, if you got it at Best Buy upon release, you received a bonus disc containing the unaired pilot cut of “Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut” from season one. It’s a little longer, with a different theme song and score, and some minor changes in the plot from the aired one. It’s no better or worse than that version.


Trey & Matt have gone on record a few times as calling this a disappointing season. Coming off an amazing first run with a few lukewarm shows, it wasn’t AS good, sure. But it had a lot of quotes and moments that have gone down in the annals of South Park lore that people still remember fondly today. And considering they made the movie the following year, the entertainment industry and the TV-going public weren’t disappointed at all.

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