Reviews: South Park
Season 19 - Broadly on-point, but funny?
I must say, as a native of a major East Coast city that I've felt South Park's story this season resonated. Whether it was urban gentrification, to strident attempts by various groups to alter language and current societal norms to fit their view of proper societal values, I've been witness to all of that firsthand. I also appreciated the They Live-esque nod in the finale. But is it FUNNY? (Or, at least, did I only find it funny because it broadly agreed with my political views?) I couldn't answer that question. There seems to be a trend in television comedy these days to find the humor in the mundane and "relatable." Shows such as Master of None use this quite successfully, but South Park has shined and shines because it found humor in the transgressive, rather than the bleeding edge of current events or the mundane and relatable. It has become harder and harder to do that as more and more shows have taken this tack, as more and more critically-acclaimed TV is online (outside of the purview of the FCC), and as the cable environment itself has become more liberal. It's also possible that they couldn't bee too transgressive due to decisions from the suits to avoid damaging Comedy Central's image, given the topics they were discussing. That said, though, South Park's notorious image was what made it unique. Don't read this as me not suggesting that you watch the show, because I found this season well-thought-out. Perhaps, though, this season shows that almost 20 years on South Park's mission is accomplished, and that now it is part of the establishment it rails against.
I have seen all but 3 episodes of season 6 and I can safely say that I enjoyed all of them, other than this episode. I don't know what this episode was supposed to parody, or even if it did parody anything, but it wasn't funny. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Butters go on a ski trip and meet this dick who targets Stan for no reason and is dating somebody who he thinks is Stan's ex-girlfriend, even though he never met her. He challenges Stan to a ski race, and beats him. And there's this community center that's about to be taken down, so Stan rematches the guy, wins, saves the center, get's his not girlfriend back, yada yada. The point is why? What was the episodes point? I never smiled when I watched this episode. It seems like it's just a bunch of older people focusing on Stan because he exists. The whole main plot is just one joke. Stan and some of his friends lampshading that he doesn't know these people, and it got boring fast. The sub-plot is also lame, but not nearly as bad. There's these two insurance guys for time share who repeatedly get the parents into meeting into buying a condo. They try to leave reoeatedly, but always fail. And then when they call the police, it turns out they're working for time share also, and threaten Randy and the other parents with guns. Next scene they appear in, they're perfectly fine. They bought the condo out of force, but my problem with the sub-plot is that it feels rushed all together, and the only real comedic aspect is the parents getting annoyed. Also, what is up with one of the community center people and her mutant breasts? What's that supposed to mean? My recommendation, don't watch this episode. See the other episodes of season 6. They were hilarious. This was not. It's probably funnier if you know what they're supposed to be parodying, and maybe if I saw the thing they parodied I would like this episode, but since I didn't, nor did they even bother to add jokes outside of it, it feels more like a bunch of idiots focusing on Stan for no reason. This is an episode that's about as lame to me as the season 1 and 2 episodes. Rushed, unfunny, and overall, boring. 2.5/10 Note: I probably didn't explain the plot enough, but I don't know how to put it in any other word, and with the word limit on tv tropes, I'm pretty limited.
It's lost it's touch.
While people might debate on whether the later seasons are as good as the earlier ones, for my part I can find a lot of later episodes that I like. But for the past couple of seasons, the show just doesn't feel as funny as it used to, and I say this as someone who went for a decade without watching the show. I've thought about it, and I think I know what the problem is. Earlier episodes had a good blend of social commentary along with the wacky antics of the characters. Lately, the episodes feel like they're all about the social issues, and no longer about the characters. For example, when I read the plot summary of "T.M.I", I assumed the focus of the episode was going to be about Cartman in anger management, not be a spoof of the Body Weight Index. There are some episodes where it feels like you could switch out the entire cast for new characters without the story losing anything. Trey and Matt have said that fans took the meta commentary of "You're Getting Old" too seriously, but it does feel like their hearts aren't into it anymore. The show's not going anywhere soon, so I hope that somewhere along the lines they'll regain that spark they once had and be able to balance their plots better. Until then, the show just feels like it's going through the motions without any genuine passion behind it.
Infinitely better than it looks.
I enjoy South Park a lot since I started watching it, although they have their off days. I don't like seeing Randy Marsh having episodes devoted to him that much because unlike the boys, he never learns anything, even temporarily, and while Cartman is a fun character he needs to be balanced with the other boys even in his own episodes... But if you're not expecting to be stimulated visually, you can concentrate on the plot and the lesson and the way Adults Are Morons, which is part of the Fridge Brilliance. If the show was a feast for the eyes, even if they could produce it in the same timeframe, you wouldn't be able to think about the Aesop. Heck, sometimes the wrong voice comes out of the wrong mouth, making you actively think, "Who really said that?" Characters are expanded on all the time, which also makes South Park gradually bigger; lately Stephen and Linda Stotch (Butters' dad and mom) have become part of the regular adult circle of stupidity showing that perfectly normal-looking people can be asswads too. And if somebody leaves the writers aren't too gutless to kill them off properly. They had exhausted Kenny's usefulness; they didn't try to drag him out, they just killed him. Well, for a while, until they could use him for more than one joke (which was getting old). It's a new approach to cartoons; The Simpsons isn't really for kids either but they stil try to pretend your whole family can watch it. South Park just kicks moderation out the window and says, "We know we're not aiming at kids; why try?" I'm GLAD they dropped the Toilet Humour. I'm GLAD it's not filled with worthless cutaway Manatee gags like Family Guy. I'm GLAD they make fun of those who are excessively left-wing (it's about time somebody did). I'm GLAD there's not always a happy ending (although I really hated Stanley's Cup; that just felt... well... kind of overboard and face-rubbing). I'm GLAD the kids swear, because a lot of kids DO swear. And I may be pretty liberal but I like South Park making fun of people who give liberals a bad name. Ban this, ban that, when are people going to learn that you can't get rid of a problem by just banning or ignoring it? And I may be going on 27 but it's good to see them pointing out that no, kids are not as stupid as you think, but if you don't educate them on life, they will be.
Should have ended a long time ago
I am going to be perfectly frank here. South Park is, and for a long time now, has been trite, unfunny shit that would have been shot down if it had come from anyone other than Matt and Trey. The early episodes were, for the most part, fairly infantile but at least they were funny in the sense of a group of foul-mouthed kids learning about the world. Not only that, at least, for the most part, the people around them had two working brain cells to rub together when push came to shove. Nowadays, it's so predictable it's sad. They pick some random subject in the news or entertainment, make it seem like something else, and then do an episode in the space of a few days. Fuck, it's essentially taking their beef with Family Guy with the Manatee Balls and just taking it to a larger level. Brittney Spears + Harvest. The Recession + The Death and Rebirth of Jesus. It's just one joke stretched over a whole episode, with pretentious ramblings, Cartman screaming at Kyle, and Stan's father being a bigger and bigger idiot each episode filling in the numerous gaps. This also makes their episodes insanely dated. The issues they cover are often just fads everyone will forget about soon enough, making me roll my eyes when they decide to cover some random thing I stopped giving a fuck about over a year ago. When Matt and Trey decide that isn't enough, sometimes they decide to just make jokes about their own formula too, calling attention to it and acting like that somehow makes it funny. And perhaps it would, if it wasn't beaten over our heads without even the slightest shadow of subtlety (Runs With Premise/Premise Running Thin being the saddest and most blatant example off the top of my head). And fuck, they couldn't even manage that for their Inception episode and just decided to steal lines wholesale from College Humor. This kind of shit would not fly if a show was starting out today. The only thing keeping Matt and Trey employed is that, Islamic issues aside, Comedy Central's executives would pretty much kill their own firstborn children if Matt and Trey asked it of them. They've built up goodwill from their early seasons and rely entirely on that nowadays, expecting people to laugh because they laughed at them years ago, when their fanbase wasn't even in high school. At least the Book of Mormon took years to write. Maybe it's better.
Certainly it's own type of humor
South Park has it's pros and cons, but overall, I do enjoy the show. It has a different type of humor than most shows: the comedy is based almost entirely around the situation rather than dialogue and physical humor. Really the plots that are so funny, that make it enjoyable. There's one where the kid's parents hire actors to pretend to be their children from the future, but all burnt-out, so their kids would stay away from drugs. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues. The humor is less on making snarky comments and more on the absurd things that happen. There's another episode where Cartman puts a wig on his hand and goes around pretending it's Jennifer Lopez. Again, Hilarity Ensues. The animation is pretty bad, (okay, REALLY bad) but the sheer crudeness of it does serve to make it funnier. The show uses a lot of gross-out comedy that a lot of people (including me) find immature and unfunny, but some of you (again, including me) may be able to look past it and enjoy the good aspects of the show. If you can handle the many, many offensive and tasteless parts (seriously, it makes even the latest seasons of Family Guy look tame by comparison) and like social satire, you may want to give this show a chance.
Not For Everyone
South Park is not for everyone. You definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the rapid-fire satirical pop-culture references. To enjoy South Park, you need a good understand of pop culture, you need to set aside your ability to be offended, and you need to have a good sense of sarcasm. These are the staples of South Park shows: Political and social commentary, parodies of other TV shows or movies, the Kyle/Cartman dynamic, and just plain craziness. South Park's strength comes from its ability to take the completely insane concepts and have them make perfect sense in context. Explaining a South Park episode to a friend is nearly impossible. The series, while often disliked for its crude humor, foul language, and offensive qualities, is actually incredibly deep. The characters have arcs and they visibly change. The plots are rarely repetitive. The themes actually relate to every day life. Every episode is something new and mind-screwing. This show has given me a morbid sense of humor. And that's just the way I like it.