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"South Park Season 14" A Tale of Censorship and Crème Fraiche

Try THIS on for size, WALL-E!Mecha-Streisand. The Gingers. Snookie. Scrotie McBoogerballs. Tiger Woods. Facebook. Intervention. Jersey Shore. NASCAR. Cthulhu. Inception. The BP oil spill. Food Network. Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman are back for their 14th season, and have to deal with all these threats to their very survival. Will Mint-Berry Crunch be able to save the day, or will Captain Hindsight see the futility in the Muhammad arc?

South Park is one of those cultural landmarks that everyone with a sense of humor can enjoy. Willing to call out the faults with any show, celebrity, politician, political point, social more, and the like, the show reaches its 200th episode in this set. Oddly, though, this season features five episodes’ worth of arcs, in a show that rarely does long-form stories.

“Sexual Healing” deals with Tiger Woods’ extramarital affair. “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs” challenges The Catcher in the Rye. “Medicinal Fried Chicken” covers the marijuana-legalization debate. Facebook gets its turn in “You Have 0 Friends.” Intervention gets its go in “Crippled Summer.” NASCAR fans will recoil at being called “Poor And Stupid.” America faces its greatest threat of muffcabbage in “It’s a Jersey Thing.” The world of dreams is covered in “Insheeption”, and Food Network and foodie culture get their time with “Crème Fraiche.” Five episodes are devoted to two arcs, one focusing on the superhero personas of the characters dealing with the end of the world brought upon by the BP oil spill, and the anniversary arc focuses on the celebrities of the world trying to steal the prophet Muhammad’s power of ridicule-avoidance.

Threat or menace?Obviously, one issue that has to be acknowledged is the infamous Episode 200/201 deal. For the uninitiated, previous episodes featured Muhammad with no cause for alarm until “Cartoon Wars” aired, when Comedy Central forced an edit. Episode 200 took advantage of this by playing up the fact that he had previously been shown on South Park with no warnings or fear. The plot of this two-episode arc centers around Tom Cruise (and other celebrities relentlessly called out on their faults over the previous years) wanting Muhammad’s inability to be made fun of for their own. The first episode constantly jokes about showing Muhammad, but never truly does. In the week that followed, the South Park crew had intimidating threats thrown their way. The following episode begins with a warning that this episode is as aired, and that Trey and Matt have never turned in an episode they weren’t proud of. Following that, all references to Muhammad are bleeped, any visual of the character is covered up by a CENSORED bar, and the end-of-episode speech is censored. Accompanying these edits, the episode isn’t available online, and the commentary for the episode is, likewise, heavily censored.

While I don’t doubt that much of this could be true, there’s some oddities in the censorship that can lead one to believe, despite protestations that it’s not some meta-joke on Matt and Trey’s part, that it could be one of the biggest hoaxes in animation history. In the episode “201,” Muhammad is shown repeatedly covered by CENSORED (much like his appearance in the previous episode), and when Tom Cruise gains his powers of being mock-free, he likewise is covered by a CENSORED bar.

If this was an edit, what would Tom Cruise have looked like with his powers? Regular Tom Cruise? A Mohammad-styled Tom Cruise? Mohammad also has no lines in these episodes, despite being the focus of dialogue, and neither Mohammad nor the censored Tom Cruise ever do anything to step out of the vertical CENSORED box, such as stretch out their arms or anything. The heavily censored commentary also begins and ends at a convenient point, much like the speeches at the end of the episode, which Matt and Trey claim focused on intimidation and fear, and not Muhammad. Additionally, the intro states that Matt and Trey have never turned in an episode that they weren’t proud of, and this isn’t stated to be an exception. While the CENSORED boxes appear to be part of the episode’s plot and animation, any and all bleeps were reportedly added by Comedy Central, as stated by the crew, and were not part of the joke. Either way, it’s headache-inducing, and the fact that a non-censored version hasn’t been made available anywhere in any form is almost the antithesis of what South Park stands for.

BP oil spill actually caused by immense, all-consuming, inhuman, incomprehensible monsters. Also, resulted in rise of Cthulhu.The episodes are solid, as always, but thanks to their topical nature, end up being slightly dated. Sure, jokes about Jersey Shore still make sense at it runs, and we’re still dealing with the ramifications of the BP oil spill, but the Shake Weight has seen it’s day in the limelight, Tiger Woods has fallen to culturally irrelevancy, the chance for marijuana to become legal in California came and went, and people aren’t really wondering if the top fell or not in Inception. The episodes are fun either way, but made more sense in 2010 than in 2011. While not much in this season will go down in history as some of the great quotable lines, South Park at its worst is better than most television.

Extras include mini-commentaries on each episode, running only as long as the duo have anything to say, and don’t feature any other voice actors or crew, and lack any time-filler or moments of the pair just watching their show, like many other commentaries. Deleted scenes exist for most, if not all, of the episodes, and it even includes a bonus episode from the previous season, to help give backstory for the three-part “Coon and Friends” arc. Additionally, a song from their new play, The Book Of Mormon, is available for download (http://bookofmormonbroadway.com/download/), but admittedly, the code we received didn’t work.

South Park continues be one of the most important television shows on the air at the moment, and part of that is thanks to its done-in-one-week schedule allowing for massive relevance. Heck, only one year later, calling Osama bin Laden out to fight Jersey Shore is already outdated. Still, if you enjoyed these episodes when they aired and have the correct amount of cultural relevance in mind, this a decent box set that’ll let you remember the good times.

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