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South Park: Season Six

With its excellent fourth and fifth seasons, the subversive animated Comedy Central series South Park had already firmly established itself as the most consistently surprising, smart, gross, and enjoyable half-hour on television. Season Six continues the show's hot streak with another batch of 17 mostly hilarious and timely attacks at its favorite targets: politically correct sanctimony, fatuous celebrity worship, and cultural and sociological hysteria. While celebrities are the targets of some of the season's strongest episodes (#604, "The New Terrance and Phillip Movie Trailer," features a lengthy and savage lampooning of Russell Crowe's tabloid-friendly machismo, while the compulsive revisionism of filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is well targeted in #609, "Free Hat"), this run of the show is most effective parodying trends in social disorder. In #611, "Child Abduction Is Not Funny," creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone turn the media-fed panic over kidnapping into unlikely comic material as the easily-impressionable parents of the show's small Colorado mountain town first build a Chinese wall around their city and eventually abandon their children — including fourth-graders Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Butters, and Tweek — so as to protect them from harm by both strangers and family members. The season's (and, arguably, so far, the series') best episode, #608, "Red Hot Catholic Love," takes a similarly cavalier and absurdist approach to revelations of child molestation within the Catholic church. As the town's priest, Father Maxi, visits the Vatican to address the arcane atmosphere that contributes to the practice, South Park's fourth-graders' questions about the scandal lead to a fad of reverse-engineered food digestion popular amongst the town's growing congregation of atheists. Narratively, the show matures in Season Six, featuring its most satisfying plot construction in the epic spoof, #613, "The Return of the Lord of the Rings to the Two Towers," as Stan, Kyle, and Cartman attempt to return a coveted videotape to the store from whence it came, but also by introducing the first real recurring plot arcs of the series. After their friend Kenny died with some degree of permanence at the end of Season Five, Stan, Kyle, and Cartman try out a few new best friends, including inept pushover Butters and caffeine-addled spaz Tweek, leading the spurned Butters to manifest his abuse in the alter-ego Professor Chaos. The previously chronically resurrected Kenny does resurface in #612, "A Ladder to Heaven," when Cartman mistakes the cremated boy's ashes for chocolate milk mix and becomes possessed by his friend's soul, culminating in the season's one great disappointment, the final episode, #617, "Red Sleigh Down," during which Santa Claus is shot down over Baghdad on Christmas Eve, and the boys enlist Jesus on a commando-style rescue mission with some amusing but uncharacteristically sentimental results. Other highlights include a spoof of 1980s' ski movies in #603, "Asspen," glimmers of nascent puberty in #610, "Bebe's Boobs Destroy Society," a scold of anti-drug deceit in #616, "My Future Self n' Me," and one of the series' most audacious and hilarious inventions, the journey of the Gerbil King Lemmiwinks in #614, "The Death Camp of Tolerance." Paramount's three-disc South Park: The Complete Sixth Season presents all 17 episodes in 1.33:1 transfers. Stone and Parker offer mini-commentaries during the first few minutes of each episode, which are usually engaging. Fold-out digipak.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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