South Park: The Complete Fourth
The fourth season of this groundbreaking animated comedy about a group of profane-yet-innocent gradeschoolers came on the heels of not only three bracing previous seasons of controversial, shock-oriented humor, but also the 1999 Oscar-nominated feature film, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. Surprisingly, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker deftly evade any signs of staleness or slump; indeed, Season Four, which aired throughout the year 2000, is even better than its predecessors, sporting more skillful and consistently engaging narratives and a more playful spirit than previously evidenced, in addition to its usually brazen cultural commentary and ceaselessly inventive (and impossibly escalating) gross-outs. Season Four is most notorious for its immediate introduction of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny's retarded classmate Timmy, who would quickly become one of the show's most beloved characters, and also for the revelatory arc of sexual discovery for third grade teacher Mr. Garrison. The show continues targeting issues of new-age and politically correct foolishness, and its aim is tighter and deadlier than ever. Stone and Parker take on hate crimes (ep. 401, "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime"), mood-altering drugs (ep. 404, "Timmy") and holistic medicine, (ep. 407, "Cherokee Hair Tampons"), and also begins to address specific real-life political issues. Chef (voiced by Isaac Hayes) protests the town's racist flag (it features a black stick figure hanging from the gallows as white stick figures celebrate) as a send-up of the southern Confederate Flag controversy (ep. 408, "Chef Goes Nanners"); Romanian quintuplets act as comic stand-ins for real-life Cuban refugee Elian Gonzales (ep. 403, "Quintuplet"); and the excellent "Trapper Keeper" (ep. 413; it aired 11/15/2000) features a sub-plot keenly lampooning the 2000 presidential election recount fiasco. These forays into social commentary are not only biting, but also gleefully irreverent and often hilarious. For those without a stomach for political humor, however, this season includes several other terrific plots, many of which push the envelope of good taste with bold cheer. Highlights include the self-explanatory "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" (ep. 406); the two-part religious cliff-hanger (eps. 410 & 411, "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?" and "Probably") which revives the South Park movie's romance between Satan and Saddam Hussein; and "The Wacky Molestation Adventure" (ep. 416), during which the town's children seek freedom by falsely charging all the adults with molestation. Parker and Stone also hilariously take merciless, juvenile pot-shots at Phil Collins (whose song, "You'll Be In My Heart," from the movie Tarzan, beat out Parker's "Blame Canada" for the Best Original Song Oscar a few weeks earlier), and, at the same time, outdo themselves musically with the brilliant Mr. Hankey anthem "Circle of Poo" in the season's final episode "A Very Crappy Christmas" (ep. 417). Paramount's South Park: Season Four collects all 17 episodes across three discs, all presented in the original full-frame (1.33:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Each episode features a "commentary-mini," during which Stone and Parker offer a few minutes of insight on their ideas and inspirations. Fold-out digipak with paperboard sleeve.