Episode 1405/1406: 200/201

South Park’s 200th episode proved to be one of the most controversial of all time in addition to being an incredible milestone for the show. The writers pulled out all the stops for such a landmark moment in the show’s history, bringing back every celebrity they’ve ever made fun of. Led by Tom Cruise (who is this time slandered as a “fudge packer”), they all decide to bring a class action lawsuit against the city of South Park for the humiliation it has caused them over the years.

Tom Cruise, Rob Reiner, Mel Gibson and other celebrities on South Park over the years

To fully understand the satirical and comedic power of these two episodes, you have to understand a few important points in South Park’s history. Aside from needing to know about the identity of Cartman’s “father” and Eric’s history with Scott Tenorman, to fully appreciate this episode, you need to watch “Cartoon Wars Part I” and “Cartoon Wars Part II” first, which were a response to Comedy Central censoring the image of Muhammad despite the fact that in a much older episode, “Super Best Friends,” Muhammad was fully depicted. This new rule by Comedy Central of not showing the prophet of the Muslim religion came about after seeing the threats generated by the controversial cartoons in some European newspapers in 2005 and 2007. Matt Stone and Trey Parker thought it was ridiculous to censor new images of Muhammad when viewers had already been able to see Muhammad fully before those controversies erupted, and made a statement about how ridiculous and cowardly it was in those episodes, even suggesting that it infringes on First Amendment rights and borders on censorship. All in typical, satirical South Park fashion, of course.

Although Muhammad appeared fully depicted in "Super Best Friends," this is how he appeared throughout "200" and "201"

“200” and “201” reopen that topic and make the statement even stronger than before. The plot revolves around the celebrities agreeing to withdraw the lawsuit if the people of South Park provide them with Muhammad’s goo, which will allow them to never be made fun of again. The ginger kids interfere with the town’s plans and reveal they will blow the city up if Muhammad’s goo is not given to them. “200” ends on quite the epic note as Mecha-Streisand is released while the city is set to explode. The satire is at its strongest, possibly in South Park history, in these two episodes. One example is the people being afraid after Randy Marsh draws a stick figure picture of Muhammad to show how ridiculous it is to fear these threats of terrorism for depicting him. Another is when the writers show Buddha snorting cocaine and Jesus looking at porn on his computer to show how ridiculous it is that it’s okay to make fun of religions as long as extremists aren’t threatening you.

Is a depiction of Muhammad really offensive?

The writers originally intended to show Muhammad fully in “201,” but the episode was censored beyond belief by Comedy Central in response to threats Stone and Parker received after “200” aired. Muhammad’s entire body was blacked out, his name itself was bleeped out, and the characters’ traditional “I learned something today” speech about not giving in to fear and terrorism at the end of the episode was bleeped out in its entirety.

The return of Scott Tenorman, the Super Best Friends, Mr. Hat, Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand, Jennifer Lopez/Mitch Connor, and all those other celebrities would have been enough to make South Park’s landmark 200th and 201st episode great, but when coupled with learning the true identity of Cartman’s father and satire promoting free speech, these episodes are necessities for any South Park fan to watch.

It is a shame that these wannabe terrorists and censorship won, and that Comedy Central gave in to fear, but Matt Stone and Trey Parker should be commemorated for that commitment to free speech and the message about the whole situation, as well as the criticism of Comedy Central it sparked. These episodes are a prime example of what happens when free speech is infringed upon and terrorism is allowed to win. I’ll end with a disgusting fact:  “Super Best Friends,” “200” and “201” are not available to watch on the South Park Studios website and the Season 14 DVD is still completely censored for episodes “200” and “201”. Censorship and terrorism should never be allowed to win, and it’s in moments like this that we realize the greater value South Park’s satire has for society in addition to the simple ability to make us laugh.

Advertisements
Posted in Episode 1405, Episode 1406, Season 14 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Episode 1514: The Poor Kid

In the season 15 finale, South Park’s knack for nailing current events with satire is on full display. Matt Stone and Trey Parker leave no joke untold as they mercilessly attack the Penn State/Joe Paterno scandal that unfolded just days before the episode aired. The satire here is not at its finest, as most of the jokes are direct attacks on the awful events that transpired at Penn State, but episodes like these remind us how funny the show can be and that events like this are going to be met with the appropriate, scathing response.

The episode starts with Kenny and his siblings being taken into protective custody after his parents get drunk and start fighting again (the Pabst Blue Ribbon + white trash = getting arrested gags are great here). The Penn State jokes quickly erupt and don’t let up for the remainder of the show. Some complain that South Park has a tendency to run some jokes into the ground, and while that is certainly true in some instances, the Penn State jokes don’t stop being funny in this episode because of how big of a scandal this was; it’s good to see a pop culture juggernaut let everyone know how wrong this was and what better way than to make unrelenting inappropriate jokes?

With Kenny out of school, Cartman learns that he is the new poor kid, and his “yo momma” jokes that turn into “my momma” jokes at his own expense are classic. It was also hilarious to see someone finally make a comment about how Cartman says “Kyle” and “mom.” Meanwhile, Kenny and his siblings move into a new home with his agnostic foster parents, and South Park displays its ability to make fun of a group of people, even when the group of people being made fun of isn’t currently making news. The agnostic jokes about only drinking Dr. Pepper (“It is neither root beer nor cola, nobody is sure what flavor it is and nobody can be sure”) and the kids being correct when they respond with “I don’t know” to everything are great.

The Agnostic jokes are fantastic

This episode also sees the return of Mysterion, who acts as a guardian figure for Karen, Kenny’s sister. It will be interesting to see how often we’ll see Mysterion and the Coon in the future, but for this episode, it was a nice touch to see Kenny so protective of his sister.

Mysterion - "Some sort of Agnostic Angel"

At this point, Cartman has gotten his mom arrested and heads to protective custody to be placed in a foster home to avoid being the poor kid in school. There he engages in a battle of “yo momma” and Penn State jokes with the protective custody guy (the best one is “On a scale from 1 to 10, how old do you have to be to stay away from Penn State?”).

A battle of cheesy, yet hilarious jokes

All these jokes showcase South Park’s ability to take both old and new material and make it entertaining in inventive ways. Kenny’s death and the increased level of humor are all signs pointing to South Park returning to its old and successful comedic formula that fans have come to love over the years, while still finding ways to keep it fresh. A season finale like this should only increase fans’ faith that the future still looks bright for this 15-year-old show.

Posted in Episode 1514, Season 15 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Episode 1508: Ass Burgers

South Park’s midseason premiere for season 15 wasn’t the funniest episode I’ve ever seen, but it gave me and most South Park fans faith in the future, if only for the simple message it conveyed: Matt Stone and Trey Parker aren’t going anywhere.

After an incredibly somber midseason finale, a lot of South Park fans were concerned the writers were going to call it quits once they had finished out the season. With Stan seeing shit everywhere he goes and Randy and Sharon expressing their discontent, Stone and Parker made it extremely obvious that they were aware of how mediocre their show had become and even implied that it might be the end. But after “Ass Burgers” and the news that South Park has been renewed through 2016 (that’s 20 seasons), it’s safe to say Stone and Parker are about to go back to their winning ways as kings of comedy and satire.

Stan is still seeing shit everywhere and has become disenfranchised with the world, while Cartman learns of Asperger’s disease and tries to get out of school by putting hamburgers in his underwear and going to the nurse. The humor is not the focal point of this episode (although the cracks on Terranova, Jack and Jill, Two And A Half Men, Dolphin Tale and the Zookeeper are all welcome), but rather showing Stan’s attempt to move on. Nothing seems to be right in the South Park world as Wendy and Kyle don’t know what to do about Stan while Kyle and Cartman become friends selling Cartman’s delicious burgers thanks to his secret ingredient (his ass).

Stan is then made a part of the Secret Society of Cynics, a Matrix parody, who say the world really is shitty, but no one notices because they are being controlled by aliens (“or genetically-altered humans, whatever, fuck you!”). They reveal the only way to see the world as the happy place it used to be is Jameson, or basically, getting wasted. Stan getting drunk was a humorous addition, as were the heads of fast food chains meeting up to figure out how to take Cartman’s successful burger stand down (Dutch oven jokes aren’t new, but they were still inventive enough to be funny).

The secret behind Cartman's tasty burgers

The episode boils down to the drunk society members massacring the fast food chain heads before Stan stops all the madness with a potent speech about accepting change and moving on as he realizes he doesn’t want things to go back to the way they were. His speech says a lot about the writers’ own feelings on the show, but then, in typical South Park fashion, Stone and Parker pull a fast one as Randy reveals that he and Stan’s mother are getting back together again, just as Stan has come to fully accept change. Things go back to normal as Wendy and Stan are together, Kyle explodes when he realizes Cartman’s secret ingredient and the Marshes become a family again.

An interesting and humorous twist at the very end shows Stan taking a swig of Jameson to help get him through the day, serving as a metaphor for the writers buckling down and delivering the content we’ve been waiting for. What fans can take from this episode is that the writers are aware season 15 hasn’t been up to par and that they were sick of doing the same thing over and over again. However, fans can also be assured that South Park isn’t going away and that as happy as we are to see Randy and Sharon back together, we should be even happier about the metaphor behind their reunion: South Park is back to its normal winning ways, and we should fully expect it to return to the humorous and satirical juggernaut it once was sometime soon.

Stan's solution to dealing with the world now....Jameson!

Posted in Episode 1508, Season 15 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Episode 1507: You’re Getting Old

I know it’s been WAY too long since I’ve updated this blog (shame on me) and I know this is a little bit out of order but this post may be one of the most important that I ever do on here so it needs to be published now.

Last night was the midseason finale of South Park. South Park has been on the air for 15 seasons now, and it’s safe to say that Season 15 has been extremely inferior compared with the rest. The writers just haven’t had very many original ideas, the humor has been slacking, and the satire just isn’t clicking as it was in the past.

As a HUGE fan of the show, I’ve always thought of South Park as infallible. Family Guy is hit or miss and The Office is very inconsistent (and replacing Steve Carell is next to impossible). South Park has been my go-to show for years because of the humor, the satire and how nearly every opinion Matt Stone and Tre Parker convey in their episodes about celebrities, events and society in general usually matches up with my own.

Season 15 has been incredibly disappointing. Sitting in silence watching an episode of South Park and realizing I haven’t laughed in about 10 minutes is a new and unpleasant experience that I’ve had to live with for the past few episodes. Fans all over have been disappointed and uninterested lately, a fact that the writers are clearly aware of after last night’s episode.

In short, last night’s episode rattled the foundations of the show. I have never felt like I was going to cry after an episode of South Park until last night. What started off as a slightly uninteresting episode soon developed into a direct statement from the writers to the fans. A seemingly unnecessary and repetitive toilet humor metaphor of seeing and hearing shit everywhere soon served as an extremely important device for conveying the creators’ thoughts on their own series. The shocking events and dialogue between Sharon and Randy along with the sentimental closing song left me sitting in silence for a good ten minutes after the credits.

All the happy memories of these smiling faces may haunt me if South Park is over

Why? Because even if you exclude Randy and Sharon getting a divorce, Stan not being able to find any enjoyment in life and the hint of Cartman and Kyle actually becoming friends, the central metaphor throughout the show of everything turning to shit was a direct message to fans that the writers know they’ve been off their game and that the reason they have been off their game is because making this show might not make them happy anymore. Those three examples mentioned above are outright signs that things are not right in the world of South Park, which would normally not be a problem; the writers have redefined the boundaries of their show many times. But what truly made these events disturbing was the dialogue between Randy and Sharon near the end. It echoed the sentiment that South Park has been off its game, but it also outright revealed that the writers just aren’t happy with doing the same old shit anymore. Randy and Sharon both expressed that it might be time to move on to new things because they are different people, a feeling that I’m afraid is exactly how Stone and Parker feel about their show.

South Park still has at least seven episodes left. What would be great is if this whole dramatic setup were just another joke by the writers, who would return for the second half of Season 15 refreshed and ready to go to work again. But somehow, after such a somber finish last night and after the success the writers have had with their hit Broadway musical, The Book Of Mormon, I seriously doubt it. All signs point to the series finally winding down as the writers look to move on with their lives. As much as I hate to say it, and as impossible as it once seemed for this perfectly satirical powerhouse to fall…we could be seeing the end of South Park.

Please, South Park. Don't be done.

Posted in Episode 1507, Season 15 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Episode 1411: Coon 2: Hindsight

The second half of season 14 has been less than impressive so far, and unfortunately, the streak continues with the first entry in a trilogy continuing the storyline of Cartman’s superhero alter-ego, the Coon. While the first episode on the Coon and Mysterion was funny because it poked fun at The Dark Knight and Watchmen, movies that had created a buzz during that same time, at this point, it feels recycled and unfunny. I was excited about South Park tackling the BP oil spill, but I feel that their concentration on the comic book aspect of the story was a mistake considering the things they could have done with such a controversial issue.

The inclusion of a superhero called “Captain Hindsight” and the BP owner’s ridiculous apologies are amusing, but this is an example of yet another episode this season that started off with a great concept and simply fell short of expectations.

Overview

The episode starts off by introducing the boys as superheroes in a group dedicated to fighting crime known as “Coon and Friends.” Then a real superhero, Captain Hindsight, shows up, providing “wisdom” by showing up after every disaster and revealing what should have been done to prevent the problem. This is a great metaphor for the BP disaster, but the execution doesn’t produce as many laughs as it should.

The struggle between Cartman and the rest of the group doesn’t really go anywhere until the Coon viciously attacks the Mosquito, which is done as a tribute to “A Clockwork Orange,” but the joke was probably lost on the majority of the show’s audience.

As with any South Park episode, there were moments that had me dying laughing, including the BP owner’s apologies, the change of the company’s name from BP to DP (Double Penetration), and a Louisiana accent that is absolutely hysterical.  Professor Chaos in the holding cell, the return of Timmy, Butters dressing up like Courtney Love, and the allusion to previous episodes with the deceased Tom Cruise and killer whale Willzyx on the moon were all humorous inclusions as well. There is definitely promise that the next episode will improve with the dark god Cthulhu being unleashed and Cartman’s funny and ominous ending, but overall, I was unimpressed.

Why?

South Park will never run out of material for satire, but lately it seems like the episodes have been underdeveloped.  The first entry in the trilogy is probably the weakest one (the Mintberry Crunch jokes won’t reach their full potential until the very last part of the trilogy), and they do get progressively better, but I kept waiting for some cathartic scene to bring everything together and make it funny.  That scene never happened.

Once again, great concepts and ideas are at work, but the execution was a bit off for South Park standards.  Attacking BP is a no-brainer, but at the end of the episode, I really didn’t feel like the writers went as hard as they should have, even if watching this or any episode of South Park is still entertaining.  I’m hoping Stone and Parker remember sometime soon that good satire directly attacks the source, rather than just alluding to it every now and then.

Coon and Friends

Posted in Episode 1411, Season 14 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Episode 1410: Insheeption

South Park is pretty good about choosing subjects for satire, and although the mid-season summer break hurts the timeliness of this particular episode, I’m really glad Matt Stone and Trey Parker decided to use Inception as their latest subject. Personally, I agree with 99% of the world that Inception was incredibly awesome, but it was too big of a phenomenon to ignore and I was really looking forward to what the writers could come up with

Unfortunately, this episode comes up short. Ever since Episode 200 & 201, it seems like the writers have lost a little bit of their steam. That’s not to say that the second half of season 14 hasn’t been funny, but the jokes don’t sting as much as they did a year ago.  It’s hard to come up with jokes about something as successful as Inception, but the effort here feels a little underdeveloped, especially considering the controversy with CollegeHumor. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything good to be found here; even when South Park is not at its finest it’s still better than half of what’s on TV, but I’m really hoping Stone and Parker revert back to the clever satirical jabs I’m used to sometime soon.

Overview

The episode starts off parodying the Hoarders series, with Stan and Mr. Mackey having a hoarding problem that can only be solved by having their dreams infiltrated.  Seeing Mr. Mackey as a kid was funny, but it wasn’t as funny as I was hoping for.  The presence of a random sheep herder was a funny joke at first, but after awhile I had to question why he was still being used in the episode at all (until he was brutally killed for humorous effect).

Yes, Randy Marsh as a frisky butterfly was pretty entertaining. And yes, the random inclusion of Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck was hilarious. But the jokes got kind of stale after while.  Poking fun at the Inception characters constantly shooting and explaining things away was amusing, the dream infiltrator mimicking the Inception soundtrack definitely had me laughing, and the inclusion of the prolonged horn sounds that anyone who has seen Inception will immediately recognize was great, but the jokes didn’t feel very inventive.  This episode felt kind of rushed and underdeveloped, and the situation with CollegeHumor only reinforces this notion further.

Why?

Poking fun at the summer’s biggest hit is a no-brainer, but the satire is limited this time around.  Sharon Marsh’s comment, “Just because an idea is overly convoluted and complex doesn’t make it cool!” is about as edgy as it gets this time around. So instead of asking “Why?” maybe I should be asking, “Why not?”

This episode is still worth watching, and it definitely has its moments, including some hilarious one-liners from Cartman, a cameo from Freddy Krueger and a disturbing yet equally hilarious scene with Mr. Mackey and a giant owl.  But for the most part, it seems uninspired compared to what these guys are capable of.

Little Mackey, Mmkay

Posted in Episode 1410, Season 14 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Episode 1409: It’s A Jersey Thing

All I have to say about an episode of South Park bashing on Jersey Shore is FINALLY. As an Italian, I can’t stand these disgraces to Italians; as an American, I can’t stand this disgrace to television. Too long have Snooki and The Situation been able to run around virtually untouched, and I was thrilled when I first learned that Matt Stone and Trey Parker would be bringing their stupidity to the spotlight.

“It’s a Jersey Thing” is not as brutal of an onslaught as I was expecting or perhaps, hoping for, but maybe that’s just my extreme hate for the show that went unappeased, because this episode really is extremely well-done. Featuring a better depiction of Snooki than I could ever dream up and a vintage South Park ending, this episode is one of the best of Season 14.

Overview

The plot is not too difficult to follow here, following the typical South Park format of a problem being introduced that steadily escalates until it reaches the point of a full-on battle of some sort with the whole town of South Park at stake. People from Jersey are slowly taking over the country and South Park soon becomes the last stand for the West Coast of the United States.

The depiction of women from Jersey as self-centered, makeup-enveloped, egotistical skanks is amusing, especially when Kyle’s mom Sheila reveals her ties to Jersey. Kyle’s struggle with his Jersey roots is also funny, and Cartman has a few great one-liners as well. I was a little disappointed that they never brought up fist-pumping, the epitome of Jersey Shore idiocy, but seeing Snooki depicted the exact way I feel about her and seeing The Situation get the crap kicked out of him by Randy made up for a little bit of that disappointment.

Then the controversy kicks in. South Park would not be the show it is if it played by the rules, and this episode is no exception. Yes, the inclusion of Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the short quip referring to the Islamic community center being built near Ground Zero are going to turn some heads, but the extreme nature of the humor here is so extreme that it almost can’t be taken seriously and can be chalked up to raw satire.

Why?

Of course I can sympathize with people being offended at the image of Al Qaeda flying airplanes into the ground, even if it is with the intent of eradicating an army of people from Jersey. But the humor is meant to make a satirical statement about how this terrorist organization carries out its terrorism, not to offend Americans. Insensitive maybe? Definitely. Irreverent enough to be funny? Depends, but I think so. Here’s why.

Yes, the subject matter is intense, but using an extreme subject like Al Qaeda allows the writers to make a hyperbolic statement about how truly disturbing the fad that is Jersey Shore is to American society: it is idiotic enough that the citizens of South Park would turn to their “greatest enemy” in order to protect the world from people from Jersey. Look at that concept and try and tell me that is not even slightly funny, despite its irreverence.

And even if you disagree, another perfect, quick ending will appease many as Bin Laden is promptly shot in the head at a ceremony honoring his service to South Park, to which Randy cries, “We got him!” This ending is not only hilarious, but it saves the creators from looking unpatriotic. Pure gold.

SNOOKI WANT SMOOSH SMOOSH!

Posted in Episode 1409, Season 14 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment