South Park has earned its place as a landmark TV show. For better or worse, through the actions of pre-pubescent heroes Kyle, Stan, Kenny (the one who dies in each episode) and Cartman (the mean, chubby one), it has broken many taboos and changed what can or cannot be shown on TV forever. However, South Park could not have lasted as long as it has (it is hard to believe it is over 10 years old now) if there was not a streak of cleverness and oftentimes genius behind the desire to offend. Furthermore, it has been consistently funny.
Christmas Time in South Park contains seven Christmas specials, including the infamous "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" episode from season one (yes, as his name suggests, Mr. Hankey is a walking, talking piece of fecal matter). In discussing the strengths of the DVD, first, and perhaps most important, I have to admit that I laughed out loud at least once during each episode (again, South Park would not have lasted as long as it has were it not funny).
Second, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone do not get enough credit for being brilliant songwriters. My favorite episode of the disc, "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics," is simply a collection of holiday songs, with Mr. Hankey himself introducing each one. The hilarious and catchy "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" is one of the highlights of the disc, along with Cartman's butchering of "O Holy Night," Shelly Marsh's attempt at "I Saw Three Ships," and a nightclub duet medley performed by Jesus and Santa Claus (no, I'm not kidding). I smiled through this whole episode, and it was the only one I immediately wanted to watch again.
Third, though they seemingly most draw the ire of conservative groups, Parker and Stone have always been equal opportunity offenders (case in point, the recent flap the show had with its portrayal of Scientology). The secondary story of the "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" episode, in which the town becomes so obsessed with removing any aspect of the school Christmas play that might seem offensive that the play itself is reduced to an incoherent, pretentious mess, is pointed in the way it shows how fear of offending anyone often results in something that pleases no one.
My final strength is a matter of personal taste. The final episode, the controversial "Woodland Critter Christmas," in which some "Bambi"-ish characters are not what they seem, is one of the darkest, most twisted episodes of South Park ever made, which is saying something. As a fan of the macabre, I decided this was my second favorite episode on the disc, but be warned: this one is not for everyone.
NOTE: I found no extras or commentary on the disc, nor could I find any hidden Easter Eggs. While not required, some extras would have been a nice touch.
As for my perceived weakness, I must say that a little Mr. Hankey goes a long way. I was rather glad he was in only four of the seven episodes. There are only so many jokes one can make about fecal matter before it stops being funny and is just gross (there is a live action "Do It Yourself Mr. Hankey Kit" commercial featuring real actors in the first episode that almost had my gag reflex going).
Also, South Park's willing desire to offend is a double edged sword. It's a matter of personal taste, but there were moments where I felt the show went too far and was not funny (Princess Diana in hell and Santa Claus being tortured in an Iraqi prison among them).
Finally, I also felt "It's Christmas in Canada" was the weakest episode on the disc. It is primarily a one-joke episode that depends on the viewer finding the concept of Canada as some offshoot of Oz to be hilarious.
As South Park has always been, these episodes are offensive, rude, gross, and often twisted. At the same time, they are often brilliant, creative, pointed, and hysterical. It is definitely not, nor has it ever been, for children or the easily offended, but those willing to watch it will find something to make them laugh out loud.
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