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South Park: Season Seven

Season Seven of Comedy Central's iconoclastic animated series South Park finally slows down the momentum of the show's peak fourth, fifth and sixth seasons, but even operating only at partial capacity remains one of the funniest shows on television. This short 15-episode run (which aired in two parts from March - December 2003) continues the franchise's unblinking mockery of contemporary insanities, covering overhyped political crusades, dysfunctional social trends, and the egregious shamelessness of celebrity culture. Season Seven begins with cute self-deprecation in "Canceled" (#704) as the show's central clique of fourth graders, Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman, discover that the planet Earth is the artificial construct of an intergalactic reality TV show slated for cancellation. The second episode, "Krazy Kripples" (#702), is more merciless, as handicapped grade schoolers Jimmy and Timmy try to merge their new exclusive club for the congenitally disabled, "The Crips," with the street gang of the same name. In an outrageous sub-plot, injured actor Christopher Reeve discovers that he can reap miraculous benefits from stem cell therapy by eating dead fetuses. The series' 100th episode, "I'm A Little Bit Country" (#701), tackles the heated debate over the U.S. invasion of Iraq with Cartman self-inducing a "flashback" to discover how the Founding Fathers felt about polarizing issues of war. The season's most vicious attack on celebrity comes in "Fat Butt and Pancake Head" (#705), as Cartman's singing Latino hand-puppet threatens the career of diva Jennifer Lopez and also seduces her fiancee, Ben Affleck. "Red Man's Greed" (#707) indulges in a sharp historical switcheroo, when a Native American casino attempts to run the citizens of South Park off of their land. The cultural trend of "metrosexuality" is skewered in "South Park is Gay!" (#708) as the men of South Park embrace their inner-"queer eye," threatening the identity of the town's most vocal homosexual, Mr. Garrison. "Christian Rock Hard" (#709) pokes fun at uninspired inspirational rock, as Cartman cynically assembles a hit Christian musical group. Fans of the sociopathic Cartman will revel in "Casa Bonita" (#711), in which the porky manipulator inflicts psychological abuse on the impressionable Butters to seize his invitation to a birthday party at a cheesy Mexican theme restaurant. "All About the Mormons?" (#712) highlights the Latter Day Saints as a cheerful Mormon family moves to South Park. One of the more startling episodes of Season Seven is "Raisins" (#714), which features a Hooters-style eatery targeted at pre-pubescent boys. Season Seven wraps up with the Emmy-nominated "It's Christmas in Canada" (#715), depicting Kyle's journey into the bizarre heart of Canada to reclaim his adopted baby brother from his re-emergent birth parents.

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Overall, Season Seven of South Park is fun, and one wonders how the show has managed to continue brimming with originality and provocation despite its age. However, given its pedigree, it's no surprise that the series has lost just a little bit of its edge and energy, occasionally riding a premise too long (in a knowing nod to just this, in "Red Man's Greed" one Native American character is named "Runs with Premise" and his son is "Premise Wearing Thin") without added humor value and, as with Stone and Parker's feature film Team America: World Police (2004), habitually fall back on the novelty of amusing vulgarity when a more creative option may have been fresher and funnier. The show's increasing tendency to spoof Hollywood formulas (Red Dawn, The Wizard of Oz, and Silence of the Lambs are singled out for homage this season, as are many generic narratives), while often inspired in concept, also tend to fall short of their promise. Still, it's hard to fault a season that introduces characters like A Taco Pooping Ice Cream and Crab People, and in which rebellious townspeople break out into a chorus of "Love is a Battlefield," amongst many other memorable moments. Paramount's DVD release of South Park: The Complete Seventh Season includes all 15 episodes, presented in 1.33:1 transfers on three-discs. Stone and Parker offer usually engaging mini-commentaries during the first few minutes of each episode. Fold-out digipak.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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