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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/19/02

South Park: The Complete First Season
1997 (2002) - Comedy Central (Warner Bros.)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

South Park: The Complete First Season Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B-/D-*
*Does not include commentary

Specs and Features

The Episode DVDs
Approx. 310 mins (13 episodes at 24 mins each), TV-MA, full frame (1.33:1), 3 single-sided, single-layered discs, custom slipcase/fold-out packaging, A South Park Thanksgiving with Jay Leno (from The Tonight Show), Cartman's O Holy Night music video, Ned's O Little Town of Bethlehem music video, 1997 Cable Ace Awards presentation (with The Boys), 4 classic South Park TV promos (along with promos for Comedy Central's The Daily Show, The Man Show, Insomniac, South Park and Comedy, 4 Easter eggs, animated program-themed menus with sound, episode access (4-5 episodes per disc), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Closed Captioned

South Park: The Complete First Season (Audio Commentary CDs)
Commentary Rating: B

The Audio Commentary CDs
5 CDs in multi-disc jewel case, 13 audio commentary tracks featuring South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (1 for each episode), 3 bonus tracks (Cartman's O Holy Night, Ned's O Little Town of Bethlehem and Primus' South Park Theme)

"No kitty, that's MY pot pie!"

At last... an animated series for adults, that pokes fun at just about everything. What? That's Simpsons? Oh. Well, okay... South Park is ANOTHER animated series for adults, that pokes fun at just about everything. And this one packs lots of swearing, political incorrectness and side-splitting body function humor. And that's really what we all want from our cartoons deep down, isn't it?

For those of you who have had your heads in the sand these last five years, South Park tells the story of four average boys growing up in a small town in Colorado. There's the two best friends (Stan and Kyle), the trash-talking fat kid (Cartman) and the poor kid who smells like sour milk and dies in almost every episode (Kenny). Together, The Boys (as they will henceforth be known) concoct hare-brained schemes and get caught up in all kinds of misadventures. With soul man, cafeteria maestro and all around love master Chef as their guide (Issac Hayes in the best long-running celebrity cameo ever in animation), The Boys seem to offend just about everyone on Earth as they struggle to survive the boredom of their daily lives.

All thirteen of the first season episodes of this hit series are available here on this set's three discs. They are, in order:

Disc One

Cartman Gets an Anal Probe
Weight Gain 4000
Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride

Disc Two

An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig

Disc Three

Starvin' Marvin
Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo
Tom's Rhinoplasty
Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut

If you have, or have seen, these episodes as released on DVD by Rhino... you'll know exactly what to expect here, video-wise. Near as I can tell, the masters are identical to the ones used on the Rhino discs (you should know that each episode features the same introductions by Trey and Matt that were on the Rhino DVDs). The episodes are all presented in their original full frame video... and they look just so-so in terms of quality. Color and contrast are good, but there's a little too much edge enhancement. And, more importantly, these episodes are horribly over-compressed. Every outline on the various characters seems to crawl and shimmer with digital noise. I had really hoped that Warner would go to the trouble of going back to the original source files for these shows and recompressing the video with higher quality in mind. Sadly no. Could these episodes really look better than this you may ask? Well... take a look at the video footage of recent episodes of South Park toward the end of the "promo" video clip on each disc (about six minutes in) and you tell me. Then look at one of the actual episodes. If that doesn't make you cry, you should turn in your DVD player and go back to VHS.

Audio-wise, the discs are okay, as presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. This isn't exactly sonic demo material, but then it's not really meant to be either. There's a little bit of hiss on the earlier episodes, and you hear occasional little pops in tracks from time to time (strange that this wasn't cleaned up), but the audio quality gets better as you go through the season. The sound is mostly fine for what it is.

Now... given how long fans have been waiting for this DVD collection, the extras leave a LOT to be desired. In fact, I think they're really disappointing. First up, the one extra fans were all really excited about, Warner decided to give the boot. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone recorded audio commentaries for EVERY first season episode, but they're NOT on the DVDs (more on that in a minute).

So what do we get instead? Well... there's a video short that appeared on The Tonight Show, called A South Park Thanksgiving (featuring Jay Leno visiting Mr. Garrison's classroom). There are a pair of Christmas-themed music videos that appeared on Comedy Central (Cartman singing O Holy Night and Ned singing O Little Town of Bethlehem with his "cancer kazoo"). There's brief video of The Boys presenting in the category of Best Talk Show at the 1997 Cable Ace Awards. And you also get the aforementioned video of four classic South Park TV promos. Which is fine. Except that the same video (hosted by Lewis Black) also features additional promos for Comedy Central's The Daily Show, The Man Show, Insomniac, South Park and Comedy on all three discs. Nothing like getting the hard sell AFTER you've already given someone your money... again and again and again. Finally, there are four of the lamest Easter eggs you'll ever see (one on each disc in the "languages" section and another one on the "special features" page of Disc Three). I'm not going to talk more about them, except to say that you get NOTHING for finding them. No deleted material, no bonus featurettes. Nothing. They're just little quasi-animations.

Where's the original Spirit of Christmas short? Where's the second Spirit of Christmas short? Where's the original, longer pilot version of Cartman Gets an Anal Probe? In short, where is ANY kind of bonus material that makes up for the fact that fans have already purchased all these episodes on DVD from Rhino, a line which Warner Bros. subsequently screwed up with "best of" discs, and then fans had to wait for years to get the complete season box sets they all wanted in the first place? If you know the answer to those questions, I'd like to hear it. There's little of real value on this set, that's for sure.

Thankfully, the fact that Warner dumped the audio commentaries from the DVDs didn't exactly sit well with Trey and Matt. So they worked out a deal with Comedy Central to release all of the commentaries, unedited, on a set of 5 CDs. You get them automatically if you buy the DVDs direct from Comedy Central. But don't worry if you've already bought them elsewhere. All you have to do is to send in the proof of purchase tabs from your DVDs, along with a completed order form and $3.50 to cover shipping costs. The form and mailing address information can be found at this link at Comedy Hats off to the folks at Comedy Central for doing this.

The commentaries themselves are pretty great. To listen to them, you simply press "play" on your CD player the moment the opening credit music ends. Trey and Matt were obviously recorded sitting in a room with other South Park staffers (judging by the amount of laughter you hear in the background during these tracks). They provide tons of cool little bits of trivia and behind-the-scenes information about the characters and the episodes - where the ideas came from, why they did things the way they did, etc. The tracks are laid back, but that's as it should be. And there's some pretty funny stuff here. One thing I will say is that I've listened to about half of the commentaries thus far, and I have yet to hear ANYTHING so controversial or offensive that should have caused these tracks to be killed from the DVDs by Warner. Someone in legal over there must really have a serious hair-trigger. All they really needed to do is to put a disclaimer on the discs when they start saying that the commentaries don't represent the opinions of the studio. It could have been that easy. I really can't figure out why these were dumped. I mean, if they're THAT worried about offending the sensibilities of their DVD viewers, perhaps they'd care to explain Battlefield Earth to me. Maybe the Warner marketing types determined that "kids" don't like audio commentaries. Who knows?

So boys and girls, let's recap. That South Park is finally on DVD in complete season sets = GOOD. That the actual South Park: The Complete First Season DVDs kinda suck = BAD. I really hope Warner gets their BEEP together with South Park: The Complete Second Season and releases DVDs that are actually BLEEPING worth the BLEEPING money they're BLEEPING charging fans of this show, and the BLEEPING time they've BLEEPING been made to wait for them. I mean, come on... this is South Park! How can you possibly screw up South Park DVDs? Yeah, I don't know either. Try again, WB.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

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