Tell me, have you heard about Judge Ike Oden's robot friend?
Our reviews of Christmas Time In South Park (published November 28th, 2007), South Park: The Complete First Season (published April 7th, 2003), South Park: The Complete Second Season (published March 8th, 2004), South Park: The Complete Third Season (published January 14th, 2004), South Park: The Complete Fourth Season (published July 19th, 2004), South Park: The Complete Fifth Season (published February 23rd, 2005), South Park: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 11th, 2005), South Park: The Complete Seventh Season (published March 21st, 2006), South Park: The Complete Eighth Season (published August 29th, 2006), South Park: The Complete Ninth Season (published February 28th, 2007), South Park: The Complete Tenth Season (published August 21st, 2007), South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season (published August 12th, 2008), South Park: The Complete Fourteenth Season (Blu-ray) (published May 1st, 2011), South Park: The Complete Fifteenth Season (Blu-ray) (published March 23rd, 2012), South Park: Imaginationland (published March 24th, 2008), South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (published March 9th, 2009), South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (Blu-Ray) (published March 10th, 2009), South Park: The Cult Of Cartman: Revelations (published October 1st, 2008), South Park: The Hits, Volume 1 (published November 8th, 2006), South Park: The Passion Of The Jew (published September 13th, 2004), South Park, Volume 2 (published January 21st, 2000), and South Park, Volume 5 (published January 21st, 2000) are also available.
Comedy Central once again brings us a South Park DVD compilation designed to tempt fans' wallets. This time, the focus is on Leopold "Butters" Stotch, South Park Elementary's wholesome, perpetually grounded fourth grader. Thirteen of his most memorable appearances are packaged in South Park: A Little Box of Butters.
• "Professor Chaos"
• "The Simpsons Already Did It"
• "You Got F'd In The A"
• "Cartman Sucks"
• "The Ungroundable"
• "The Coon"
• "Butters' Bottom Bitch"
• "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs"
I want to love this box set. I really, really do. I'm a die-hard South Park fan from way back, having been barely older than the boys themselves when the show first premiered on Comedy Central, which puts me neatly in the bracket of those jackass kids you used to see roaming the halls of your middle school wearing Cartman t-shirts (one of these nearly got me kicked out of Church Camp, to further reveal my jackassitude).
You can imagine my delight at the fact that, since Season Five, Butters has become a perennial side character, one whose storylines rely on extremely dark, messed-up things happening to a kid who is as wholesome and naive as a nine-year-old comes. "Butters' Very Own Episode" sets the tone of the set nicely as his father is revealed to be a closeted homosexual, his mother goes crazy and attempts to murder him, and all Butters wants to do is eat at Bennigans. The episode properly introduces Butters and makes his status as the Boys' on-again, off-again fifth wheel all the more sad and funny as his frustrations result in the invention of "Professor Chaos."
My personal favorite of the set, "Awesom-O" expands on his recurring partnership with Cartman, revealing the lengths at which Eric goes to torment his forgiving friend and the price he pays for it when he's forced to be Butters' robot sidekick. The partnership reaches its awful zenith for both characters in the intensely off-putting (in a good way) "Cartman Sucks." South Park is renowned for its cutting satire, and Butters experience in a camp for the "confused" and "bi-curious" is easily the most biting piece of social commentary on the show. The episode, while almost depressingly dark at times (the counselors must deal with the constant suicides of self-loathing campers), never becomes too heavy-handed for its own good (though Mr. Stotch's own experiences as a gay man ironically never come into play).
Finally, "Butters' Bottom Bitch" lets the character run at his most morally unwieldy, making for the most white-bread, oblivious pimp in the history of television. The storyline, juxtaposed with South Park's hard-nosed chief of police going undercover as a prostitute and taking it way too far, shows a Butters far evolved from the character's roots; a frustrated, weak willed outcast whose moral code, while easily bent to any comedic situation, remains concrete in any storyline. It's what makes Butters the most sympathetic and likeable character on the show (for my money anyway).
Make no doubt about it, these episodes are about as classic as they come, and with the exception of "The Coon" (an episode that barely features "Professor Chaos") borders on near perfect in their selection, giving you the best-of-the-best of the mildly stuttering character.
Yet why am I having trouble recommending it?
Well, for one thing, all of these episodes are currently available on DVD or to be streamed at South Park Studios website (see Accomplices). For this reason, I can't recommend the set to fans that already have each season, and I can't recommend it to casual fans that have a solid internet connection.
Truthfully, the only audience designed to purchase this DVD is hardcore South Park collectors. So how does the set hold up in that department?
The boxset is cleverly designed to resemble Butters' personalized school box. Inside you'll find an "Inspector Butters" badge (introduced in "Butters' Very Own Episode"), Paris Hilton's fake check to Mr. and Mrs. Stotch for $250,000,000 (though they never received the check in "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Set"), newspaper clippings of the tragic tap-dancing events (from "You Got F'd In The A"), a Butters' Bitch chain (from "Butters' Bottom Bitch"), and a fully illustrated chapter of "The Poop That Took A Pee," (Butters follow-up story to "Scrotie McBoogerballs"). Finally, the set has a W.W.B.D.? (What Would Butters Do?) rubber bracelet, though its connections to any of the episodes included (aside its uninspired glorification of the character) is lost on me.
Yes, it's a fine set of trinkets, but they're just that—trinkets. They're meant to entice fans on sheer cleverness alone, with little regard for the fact that most of us already own these episodes. The packaging is inspired, but ultimately useless ploy that will prey only on completist collectors (of which I'm sure there are many).
It is also worth noting that, while cleverly designed, the actual box is made of flimsy cardboard that is easily damaged if bent, dropped, or squeezed. The paper sleeves holding the disc are ironically the direct opposite—sturdy cardboard that protects the discs tightly. Needless to say, I handled the set carefully.
If there's any reason to purchase the set, it's for the technical reasons. These episodes are presented in a near-perfect anamorphic transfer for the first time, showing off strong colors that represents the best South Park is going to look on standard DVD. On the audio side of things, a 5.1 mix comes off equally strong, with surprisingly detailed sound effects, while the 2.0 stereo is no slouch, either.
In terms of extras, we're given "Butters" trivia game, wherein a group of people watch half the scene and the first person to shout out the missing line of dialogue wins. It's sort of fun, but only for extremely knowledgeable South Park fans. I wish Paramount had ported some of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's mini-commentaries from previous season sets, but no such luck.
Aw shucks, fellas. P-probably not guilty, I guess.
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