[20 October 2010]
Associate Features Editor
Best of collections on DVD are almost as irrelevant these days as compilation CDs. These collections don’t offer all of a TV series, but merely a few pre-determined “best” episodes. Whether they were chosen by a common theme or solely for their extreme popularity, these sets allow viewers to get a sampler spoon before investing in the whole tub of ice cream.
Now, however, we have iTunes. And Amazon. And BitTorrent. Well, not BitTorrent. That’s only used for the legal sharing of large media files… but plenty of other sites and applications allow users to choose as many individual episodes as they want and then burn their own compilation discs (just as is it’s now commonplace to burn mixed CDs for your friends – wait – is that legal?).
Now the challenge for distributors is to make these easy moneymakers relevant to an audience outside the avid collector who will buy anything involving his or her favorite show. Some choose to use alluring packaging or exclusive bonus content. Others provide goodies like production stills, letters from the cast and crew, or free merchandise. The good people at Paramount and Comedy Central, though, chose to include all of the above for A Little Box of Butters.
We’ll get to the episode content in a bit, but let’s be honest – those of you who would consider buying this already love South Park and the fourth-grader Leopold Stotch, more commonly known as Butters, and there’s no question that he deserves his own collection. After all, his naïveté, paired with astounding optimism, always guarantees an enjoyable episode. So what you really want to know is if the extras make it worth your money. It’s definitely not a steal for the full retail price of $29.99, but what store actually sells their DVDs at full retail? Keeping an estimated price of $15-20 in mind, let’s dive into the awesome extras.
The first feature everyone will notice is the fully realized case featuring drawings by – who else? – Butters. The front features his smiling face, the title, and some scrawl at the bottom stating “Keep Out Please”. The back and sides are covered in drawings, including an especially humorous portrait of Butters and AWESOM-O (the fake robot inhabited by Cartman) with AWESOM-O scribbled out and “Best Friends” written above the duo. The interior of the case features even more inside jokes for fans. There are tally marks counting how many times Butters has been grounded (his greatest fear), and a name tag from fourth grade with Miss Choksondik’s name crossed out and Mr. Garrison written underneath with the ‘Mr.’ crossed out, replaced with ‘Ms.’, and then scribbled out again and changed back to ‘Mr.’
Some may not care too much about the box itself, but it’s an ideal indicator of the effort put into this release. Though some may find faults in the episode selection, no one can claim to be left wanting more Butters (unless you can never get enough). There are six extra items included in the box, all of which hold great relevance to the episodes included in the set.
The best of these are the first six pages of a book written by Butters in “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”. The title of the episode references a book written by the four main South Park characters Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny. After getting excited about the “graphic content” found in The Catcher in the Rye, the boys are bitterly disappointed in the novel’s mild nature. They then set out to write the most explicit, disgusting novel of all time, but blame its creation on Butters when their parents find it. Unexpectedly, the novel becomes a worldwide sensation and Butters is hailed as the “voice of a generation”.
He’s then asked to write a follow-up book and thus produces “The Poop That Took a Pee”. Though the full novel was much longer in the episode, the six pages included in this set are hysterical. Written on white legal paper with childlike scribble, the stapled sheets not only tell the first few scenes of the book but also include drawings to better depict the subtle references and cultural touchstones of Butters’ attempt to be as vile and repulsive as his much more evil-natured friends. It’s a fitting companion to an episode brilliantly focusing on the contrasting world of artistic interpretation (with some really gross poop jokes).
Next up in the box is an Inspector Butters badge first seen in the first episode of the collection, “Butters’ Very Own Episode”. Here, Butters follows his father and tries to find out what his dad plans to buy his mom for their anniversary. Of course, Butters uncovers a few secrets with disastrous consequences, but none quite as damaging as the events mentioned in the South Park Tribune articles also included in the set. Called the “biggest tap tragedy since 1954”, the events of the 2002 National Tap Championships scarred little Leopold for years until his dance comeback in the 2004 episode, “You Got F’d in the A” (also in the set). The articles and their accompanying pictures adequately exemplify the horror (and humor) of Butters’ first attempt at national recognition.
Sadly, there’s nothing in the case paying tribute to Butters’ most (in)famous attempt at acknowledgment. Perhaps it’s too much to ask for a Professor Chaos costume, but a miniature bobble head or action figure would have been the crown jewel of an already treasure-filled set. Even a coupon for tin foil or a thin strip of the material made to construct his costume would have done the job. The character’s best episodes are included on the disc, though. “Professor Chaos” and “The Simpsons Already Did It”, both from season 6 of the series, are easily Butters most widely viewed and admired shows. It’s just a shame there’s no material markings of their greatness in the collection.
Finishing off the collection is a fake check for $250 million (from “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset” when Paris Hilton tried to buy Butters as a pet) and a Butters’ Bitch medallion and chain (from “Butters’ Bottom Bitch” when Butters becomes a pimp on accident). I personally like the chain because it can be used for an easy Halloween costume or a totally rad accessory for nightclubs. There’s also a plastic bracelet with “W.W.B.D?” written on it, but I’m not sure what, if any, episode it references. This might have been cooler five years ago when people still wore the bracelets or used the slogan, but some courageous Butters enthusiasts still might find time to wear it with pride.
There’s one last hidden treasure in the set. “It’s Butters! A Trivia Game” is included on disc one and features sing-a-long portions and questions based on clips from the show. It lasts about 20-minutes and follows the same order every time through making it fairly repetitious after the first game. It could only really be played once through in legitimate competition, but it doubles as a highlight reel for Butters’ funniest moments. Plus, you get to know the lyrics to all Butters-related songs.
In the end, A Little Box of Butters may not bring back the days of yore when best-of sets were welcomed by one and all, but it certainly does the best it can for today’s marketplace. Unless you know you don’t like the included episodes (but what fan doesn’t?), this collection serves its purpose perfectly. The episodes are excellent, content cool, and reverence realized. Look for it to be on sale here in the upcoming weeks, or take advantage of the upcoming Christmas season and put it on your wish list. After all, there really is no better way to spend the time after being grounded for running away from Paris Hilton when she dressed you in a bear costume and tried to buy you for $250 million.
You’re a bad bear! A bad old bear! Aw, shucks.
“Butters’ Very Own Episode” – Episode 79, Season 5 – 2001
“Professor Chaos” – Episode 85, Season 6 – 2002
“The Simpsons Already Did It” – Episode 86, Season 6 – 2002
“Raisins” – Episode 110, Season 7 – 2003
“You got F’d in the A” – Episode 115, Season 8 – 2004
“Awesom-o” – Episode 116, Season 8 – 2004
“Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset” – Episode 123, Season 8 – 2004
“Marjorine” – Episode 134, Season 9 – 2005
“Cartman Sucks” – Episode 155, Season 11 – 2007
“The Ungroundable” – Episode 14 of Season 12 – 2008
“The Coon” – Episode 183, Season 13 – 2009
“Butters’ Bottom Bitch” – Episode 190, Season 13 – 2009
“The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs” – Episode 197, Season 14, - 2010