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South Park: Season Five

Following the groundbreakingly funny fourth season of their popular animated series, South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone keep stride during Season Five. While the heights of Season Five aren't quite as consistent as those of its immediate predecessor, there's still a lot of daring and original funny going on as fourth-graders Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman try to cope with the rampant dysfunction of their small Colorado mountain town. More than any other non-news entertainment show on television, South Park is pre-occupied with reflecting contemporary pop-culture and social issues, and Season Five wastes no time with the opening episode "It Hits the Fan" (ep. 502) — mocking the CBS hospital drama "Chicago Hope"'s taboo-breaking use of the phrase "Shit happens " — before moving on in later episodes to broach controversies over gay Boy Scout leaders (ep. 503, "Cripple Fight"), sex education (ep. 507, "Proper Condom Use"), gentrification (ep. 512, "Here Comes the Neighborhood"), and stem cell research (ep. 513, "Kenny Dies," in which Kenny, who, as a running gag, died in every preceding episode of the series, kicks the bucket and stays dead until the end of Season Six). Season Five's run from June-Dec. 2001 was interrupted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, provoking the show's most aggressive commentary episode to-date, "Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants" (ep. 509), during which the boys visit Afghanistan and the notorious terrorist leader is mercilessly mocked in an ode to Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny cartoons. While the show's irreverent (and often reactionary) issue-oriented episodes offer valuable satire, South Park is nevertheless at its best when its ideas are pulled from the deep recesses of the absurd rather than from contemporary headlines. The very best of Season Five includes Cartman's humiliation and revenge in "Scott Tenorman Must Die" (ep. 501); Kyle's crisis of faith when Cartman becomes a millionaire in "Cartmanland" (ep. 506); the introduction of one of South Park's weirdest characters yet, a talking pothead towel in "Towlie" (ep. 508); Cartman's comic breakdown in "How to Eat with Your Butt" (ep. 510, not to be confused with the next season's "Red Hot Catholic Love" which could use the same title); and the season's finale, "Butters' Very Own Episode" (ep. 514), in which hapless supporting character Butters stumbles upon his father's secret life. As usual with this poop-stained, envelope-pushing show, the season is also full of memorable shocks and grossness, and Stone and Parker show no wear in their enthusiasm for gregarious offensiveness. South Park: The Complete Fifth Season is presented by Paramount/Comedy Central in a three-disc set. Each episode is presented in a bright 1.33:1 OAR transfer with Dolby Digital audio. Parker and Stone offer mini-commentaries covering the first couple of minutes of each episode. Fold-out digipak in cardboard sleeve.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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