Release Date: September 25th 2019 – December 11th 2019
UK Release: Comedy Central
Another year passes and another year of South Park! It has now incredibly reached its twenty-third season and the energy, humour, satire and desire to surprise and shock is still very much there in the latest ten episodes. However, I think that in Trey Parker’s desire to reinvent and reinvigorate the format, he seems to have taken a few missteps along the way. Because, while containing some sublime moments of comedy and wonderfully grotesque episodes, the latest season does not consistently reach the heights of previous ones. One could argue this is the weakest season in a long time.
Don’t get me wrong, I am just a humble worker drone and totally respect Trey Parker’s satirical genius. Yet, having worked on South Park for over thirty years Parker has arguably moved the furniture around too much in Season 23. I can understand why he has re-jigged the format, but for me, concentrating mostly on Randy Marsh’s Tegridy Farm enterprise in the first six episodes, many characters we love like Butters, Kyle, Kenny, Mr Garrison, Wendy, and even Cartman are sidelined to mere supporting roles. Of course, they do feature, but not as much as I would have preferred. I guess Parker just wanted a change and in recent seasons this has garnered many fantastic episodes. In Season 23 though, the over reliance and prolonged attempts at stoner and weed humour just did not make me laugh. Plus, Towelie as a comedy character has never worked and I wish he had over-dosed permanently, never to return.
There are some fine comedic moments throughout, and the themes are as strong as ever. Parker takes many satirical swipes at all manner of sociological, political, gender, health, economical and media targets. Through some excellent writing he successfully lampoons: media censorship, China, the anti-vaccine movement, plant-based food, transgenderism in sport, the PC or ‘woke/snowflake’ generation, drug abuse, streaming services, Christmas greed, addiction, drunk drivers, immigration detention centres, and, very briefly, the Trump administration. Ultimately, the season features several very good episodes, but arguably only Band in China and Turd Burglars hit the heights of classic South Park episodes of past seasons. Nonetheless, Trey Parker on autopilot is still one of the greatest writers and comedic voices around. If only he had a little less ‘Tegridy’, this season could have been another classic.
Directed by: Trey Parker Produced by: South Park Studios Written by: Trey Parker No. of episodes: 10 Release Date: September 22 2018 – December 12 2018 UK Release: Comedy Central
scandalous and scatological satire South
Park shows no sign of slowing down in its mission of targeting the various sacred
cows, media, celebrities, politicians and fads of society. The shenanigans of
the small Colorado town reach their 22nd season, as the likes of:
Cartman, Sharon, Randy, Kyle, Mr Mackey, PC Principal, Stan, Mr Hankey, Butters,
Mrs Cartman etc. continue to be used as Parker’s conduits for comedy and social
started slowly but ultimately proved a hit for me. Nonetheless the show is
arguably a victim of its own formula and success. There are few surprises left
as the show bases most episodes on satirising current events and the cultural zeitgeist.
Plus, the characters are so well formed that we are rarely shocked by what they
do. However, the writing, gag-rate and thought-provoking narratives prove the
show is as strong as ever.
Arguably not as memorable as the incredible Season 19 (review here); there is a lot to recommend in Season 22! Below, I will now look at each episode in turn and consider their various merits.
EPISODE 1 – DEAD KIDS – Mark: 8 out of 11.
School shootings and the lack of reaction to them force Sharon Marsh to become apoplectic in her outrage. A solid episode which didn’t quite catch fire but had its moments; as Sharon’s PMT is ridiculed by Randy unfairly with Parker clearly stating gun crime something must be done about this horrendous stain on United States society.
EPISODE 2 – A BOY AND A PRIEST – Mark 8 out of 11.
“befriends” Father Maxi as the Catholic Church once again try and cover up
historical paedophilia. I was shocked but how unshocked I was by the episode
yet it contains many great gags. Parker ensures we do not forget the horrific
crimes committed by priests down the age; highlighting the hypocrisy that
continues to be presented by the Catholic hierarchy.
EPISODE 3 – THE PROBLEM WITH A POO – Mark 8.5 out of 11.
Talking turd Mr Hankey was never my favourite character, but the show literally gets loads of “shit” jokes out of him. Here, Parker satirises celebrity Twitter scandals but more interestingly focusses on Vice Principal Strong Woman giving birth to five PC Babies! This precipitates a fantastic running joke throughout the series involving PC Babies crying persistently at mention of something that does not fit their progressive agenda.
EPISODE 4 – TEGRIDY FARM – Mark: 9 out of 11
really started hitting its stride as Parker snipes at the vaping craze and the
legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. Typically, Randy Marsh driven episodes
are almost often classics and here he becomes a hemp farmer. Similarly, Cartman
has become a vape dealer and the two narrative strands combine to delightful
EPISODE 5 – THE SCOOTS – Mark: 9 out of 11
This was another brilliant and funny episode. It combines elements of Hitchcock’s The Birds, with satirising of human beings’ obsession with smartphones and Halloween. I loved the way the episode built from Mr Mackey’s panic with the E-Scooters as they threaten to take over the town. As this is South Park it all soon descends into disaster and brilliant anarchic humour.
EPISODES 6 & 7 – TIME TO GET CEREAL / NO ONE GOT CEREAL – Mark: 9 out of 11
In this hilarious two-parter the kids’ old “friend” Al Gore comes out of retirement due to a monster killing citizens of South Park. It turns out it’s the analogous beast ‘ManBearPig’; a demonic animal part-pig-part-man-part-bear. If you didn’t know ‘ManBearPig’ is an absurd symbol for the Environment, and here Parker depicts Gore as not just a figure of fun but actually smugly correct in his global predictions. Meanwhile, the authorities – including the police – reject the existence of ‘ManBearPig’ and blame the kids for the murders. Satan makes an appearance too as the two-parter amusingly critiques: Climate Change deniers, inept policing and addiction to video-games such as Red Dead Redemption 2.
EPISODE 8 – BUDDHA BOX – Mark: 8 out of 11
anxiety leads him to wear a cardboard ‘Buddha Box’ over his head to isolate
himself from society. Sending up further our obsession with mobile phones by
eschewing meaningful human contact is always going to get laughs and Parker
achieves that here. However, the PC Babies gags win the episode as taking the
piss out of snowflake millennials continues to be hilarious.
EPISODES 9 & 10 – UNFULFILLED / BIKE PARADE – Mark: 10 out of 11
The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the episode called Unfulfilled. Here South Park pokes its parodic tentacles at Amazon, never losing its grasp. Amazon open a warehouse in South Park, and after an accident, the employees go on strike. This industrial action leads to Jeff Bezos himself coming to South Park; with Parker depicting him as a cold telekinetic alien. The episode and the follow-up Bike Parade show the various ways the people of South Park deal with the lack of fulfilment from the Amazon non-deliveries. Here Parker combines Marxist doctrine and consumer culture satire with absurd comedy and horror parody to amazing effect. These episodes once again show that South Park retains the balls and strength to make us laugh and think in equal measures.
In this stinking cesspool of a world run by greedy corporations, bringers-of-war and crazed megalomaniacs it’s important one finds some solace with which to hide from the slings and arrows of this venal society. Indeed, one has to keep an eye out from the barricades and parapets, holding out a shield to deflect, and mirror to reflect, the emotional barbs of every day existence. One such means of deflection is to laugh at the world and its leaders, gods, physicians, media outlets and political snake-oil salesmen, who twist and dance and continually sell us bullshit on a daily basis.
Television is a valuable tool with which to cocoon one’s heart and mind against the stream of negativity and injustice brought down up on us within the oppressive capitalist system. It gives us a chance to laugh and cry at the world through comedy and drama. One such longstanding shield against the tide of money and war is the always-relevant South Park. For twenty-one seasons it has now poked, prodded, electrified, boiled and defecated on the sacred cows of civilisation such as: religious figures, moronic yet dangerous politicians, gluttonous fats cats, media whores and narcissistic plastic celebrities.
After the incredible satirical and narrative success of Season 19 (review here), where showrunner Trey Parker committed to a superlative serialization structure the bar was raised very high. Thus, Season 20 (review here), suffered in comparison as it over-egged the pudding somewhat with a convoluted multi-stranded plot dominated by internet cyber-trolling. Nonetheless, South Park, even firing at three-quarter’ capacity is funnier, on-point, and more scathing than any show out there.
As South Park is a phenomenal staple of my televisual calendar I was very happy when: Cartman, Stan, Randy, Cartman’s mum, Wendy, Butters, PC Principal, Kyle, President Garrison et al were back in Season 21 with satire of the highest order! Moreover, gone was the complex interlinking plots and in this run we experienced some wonderful stand-alone episodes which ran a zeitgeist hyper-link to many of the cultural, political and social events of 2017.
The one thematic web which was woven through the ten shows was Cartman’s dysfunctional and destructive relationship with his girlfriend Heidi. This narrative found Heidi actually becoming a female Cartman much to the other kids’ horror. Here, the writing mined some familiar, almost soap-operatic, but mature story lines to much satisfaction overall; especially in episode 7, Doubling Down, and episode 8, Moss Piglets.
Season 21 was, in keeping with the previous 20 seasons, crammed to the brim with references to media and socio-political culture, while also being fucking hilarious. The opening episode White People Renovating Houses poked humour at the latest Alexa culture and the hailstorm of “flipping” property shows. While Randy, the hare-brained addict, became obsessed with genetically re-correcting his heritage in the hilarious 3rd episode: Holiday Special.
Of course the kids took centre stage in many of the shows, notably Franchise Prequel, where their superhero alter egos – scurrilously led by Cartman’s ‘Coon’ – attempt to get their own Netflix and movie franchise off the ground to rival Marvel and DC. Mark Zuckerberg makes an appearance as a goofy, geeky Scott Pilgrim-type-video-game-end-boss too. Here the seeming bottomless pit of money that is called Netflix is also amusingly slated; mainly due to apparently green-lighting any project irrespective of its’ quality.
Trey Parker and his team took many swipes at the egregious political and, arguably hysterical social media “movements”. In episode 6, Sons of Witches the Harvey Weinstein “situation” was skewed, with all parties involved: men, women and social media keyboard warriors critiqued with much humour. Of course, based on the evidence presented in the media, Weinstein is a stain on humanity, a sexual animal exploiting his powerful position and money-balls! But Sons of Witches was keen to point out that while many men are dicks, they are not ALL bad witches so perhaps some calm and perspective is also required.
While the final two episodes Super Hard PCness and Splatty Tomato ended with President Garrison gone into hiding due to the bombing of Canada, the episodes also had some fine gags on recent horror adaptations It (2017) and Stranger Things (2017). But my favourite episodes of the series were Put It Down, which put the boot into that moron in the White House and his inexplicably dumb twitter feed that spews out an inordinate amount of bile and idiocy. Finally, episode 5, Hummels & Heroin, brilliantly satirised prison movies by transplanting the genre tropes to an old people’s home; advocating ire for pharmaceutical companies pushing drugs on old people and damning poor medical practices.
What makes South Park great and still valid is it does not takes sides. The liberal left and fascistic right are all shown to be, in certain circumstances, controlling and hysterical. Trey Parker and his team do not respect authority or celebrity or media fads or political correctness or social bandwagons; so long may their intelligent, crass, scurrilous, scatological, offensive, all-singing, all dancing satire continue! With Trump in the White House some may say satire is dead but we need the South Park team alive to protect us from this slew of never-ending societal insanity and above all else: MAKE US LAUGH!
THE FRACTURED BUT TROLL! SOUTH PARK – SEASON 20 REVIEW
The latest season of South Park ended mid-December time and so I’m a bit tardy with the review. This is mainly because I decided to watch all ten episodes back-to-back over the Christmas holidays, and in some ways, this was a mistake. I say this because I think sometimes as viewers we have to take some criticism too. In hindsight I definitely should NOT have binge-watched this season as it was so complex and plot-heavy with many themes and interlinking plot strands. In fact, similarly to the more satisfactory Season 19, this season transcended the usual mix of puerile and satirical comedy it’s known for, to become something much more.
**SCREW YOU GUYS – THERE ARE SPOILERS!”
Over ten episodes South Park once again became a huge mirror that reflected many of the events occurring in the USA and the world in general. The biggest event was of course, the Presidential elections which saw Mr Garrison and Caitlyn Jenner representing the Trump/Republican side and Hilary Clinton, of course, representing the Democrats. Amusingly they were referred to as Douche and Turd Sandwich respectively; calling back the classic episode where Stan is banished for refusing to vote.
Garrison soon realises he’s made a terrible mistake in running as he has NO policies and tries to extricate himself from the race. Thus, much of the comedy deriving from this narrative strand was brilliant and made me laugh throughout the season; especially during the episode Oh Jeez when Garrison won and went into full Trump mode. By the end of the season he’s shown to be a complete buffoon open to manipulation by Mr Slave and Kyle Broflovski when it comes down to the bombing of Denmark. But, hey, that’s a whole different story!
A TROLL IN THE PARK
The second major narrative line in this season was Gerald Broflovski (Kyle’s Dad) being revealed as an uber-Troll online called Skankhunt42. He begins by trolling his son’s school before moving onto cultural icons and then the whole of Denmark itself. Gerald, who usually represents the liberal side of the show, is seen becoming a vicious sneak who enjoys bullying for the humour. However, being the intellectual hypocrite he distances himself from the nerdy-no-life-outcasts he ultimately gets lumped in with.
Gerald’s actions eventually spiral totally out of control by the end and, while South Park itself has been a massive critic of celebrities and government figures in the past, it is quite justified in lampooning the cowardice of online trolls. These sad individuals hide under the bridges of social media feeding their tethered egos and weak personalities for the benefit of either humour, revenge or to obtain some idea of power.
In the episode The Damned, Gerald is literally pissed on by his wife in order to extricate himself from being rumbled as an online troll. That online bullies are shown to be mainly shut-in losers as opposed to Jocks, demonstrate that bullying can be done by anyone and needs to be pissed on from a great height. Lastly, the monstrous rise of Garrison to power also highlights the fact that hair-brained Trump has become the biggest troll in the world.
The theme of hyperbolic social media behaviour was supported by the further strand of South Park Elementary School students committing “suicide” by leaving Twitter. A character named Heidi is even mourned by her class during the episode Skankhunt even though she is actually in the class! Also, believing Cartman to be the troll ‘Skankhunt’ the kids gang up and ‘kill’ his electronic devices, burying them in an Evil-Dead-Cabin-in-the-Woods-horror-film-homage. The internet and social media is therefore cast as an extension of the playground; with kids and adults giving their social media live’s more importance than real life and move away from actual intimacy and human contact.
Consequently, Cartman himself goes the other way and falls in love with Heidi and their relationship is quite touching over course of the season. It’s especially funny as it plays with the audience’s expectations and the other kids think it’s all part of some Cartman uber-plan. Indeed, Cartman’s arc in this season is interesting as it seems they tried to make him more sympathetic. At first his feminist leanings are part of some scheme to undermine the girls’ sit-down protests during the opening Member-Berries episode. But eventually it turns out he does find Amy Schumer’s “vagina” comedy actually funny. Alas, the storyline kind of runs out of steam by the episode 9, Not Funny.
Gender politics and the boy-versus-girls dynamic further complicate the narrative when Butters leads a protest against the girls. Butters and the boys who have all been revenge-dumped by the girls because of ‘Skankhunt42’s vicious actions decide to protest too. So, they get their dicks out during the U.S. national anthem; which in itself satirized last year’s “sit-down” protests that occurred during U.S. college sporting events. I myself was not as educated about these particular occurrences but as usual Parker and Stone went to ridiculous lengths to demonstrate that however noble the cause, once everyone jumps on the bandwagon the protests become diluted and lose their power. Moreover, such stands against authority can also be wiped by a simple rewrite of history or rebooting for the future.
‘MEMBER WHEN. . .
Rebooting the present or future was yet another thematic present within this packed season. The “Member-berries” introduced in the first episode are a super-food which while innocent at the start become evil-humanized-nostalgia-fruit hell-bent on ensuring humanity lives in the past and doesn’t move on with any new ideas. Indeed, in the final episode The End of Serialization the “Member-berries” even end up in the White House. While not always convinced by these turn of events I can see the satirical point being made that living in the past remembering: Star Wars, Chewbacca, Tie-Fighters, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon, Superman, Reagan, the 80s, sugar from your neighbour, feeling safe, Stormtroopers etc. can be culturally dangerous and lead to the excavation of archaic politics hence the rise of Trump and the perceived right-wing Brexit vote.
Yet, nostalgia can also be a positive thing too and paradoxically I do at times hanker after the simpler, yet brilliantly effective South Park episodes which were perhaps more focussed and arguably funnier. But one cannot fault the programme makers for aiming higher than the usual shit you get on television. Plus, the “Member-berries” plot line did rightly put the boot into the ridiculous eulogizing of J.J. Abrams and The Force Awakens which definitely wasn’t as good as people made out. So, in that respect, the show made a very valid cultural point. But while going back can be a negative force it can also help us learn from our mistakes, however, given President-Trump’s about to enter the White House it seems humans just love making the same mistakes over and over again.
CONCLUSION. . . FRACTURED BUT NEARLY WHOLE!
While Season 19 became arguably the most coherent, incisive, funny and complex narrative out of all Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s previous work, Season 20 had a lot to live up to. However although the riotous narrative strands represented a major strength I don’t feel, overall, this season had as many gags or classic episodes. I would say that it worked best as an accomplished serialized conceptual satire with a few piss and dick jokes as opposed to the fast-paced-gag-filled-stand-alone-episode format of the earlier seasons. Still, while it may not have had many stand-out classic episodes, Season 20 was still a blast of wonderful filthy satire and due to the complex density of the storylines will no doubt improve with further viewings.
As I have attested on this blog many times, South Park is the greatest comedy of all time and shows no sign of losing its comedic and satirical power. The bar was raised SO high by Season 19 that perhaps ambition to beat that was always going to be tough. Still, I still respect Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s multi-skilled “authoritah” in using the inhabitants of South Park to rip into the world, media, politics, culture and religion with hilarious effect.
My favouritest ever episodes up to Season 17 can be found here:
20 YEARS OF SOUTH PARK – TWENTY GREAT TV & MOVIE-BASED PARODIES!
South Park, incredibly, has been going for 20 years now! Yet, up until 2013 I had only watched a handful of episodes of the irreverent and scurrilous animated show. Since then, however, I have caught up and it has become one of my favourite ever TV programmes. As such any new season of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s potty-mouthed satire is usually a highlight of my cultural year.
South Park is more than just a crude animated show now; it is a socio-political tour-de-force which spikes sacred cultural cows and pokes fun at the ridiculous nature of the world; the rich and famous; and the political and religious and social leaders who profess to run the place. It also features some wonderful, bizarre and astute characters who are utilised to reflect society and our modern and post-modern times.
South Park featured on my blog a few times. My review of Season 19 can be found here:
Plus, my favourite episodes up to Season 17 can also be found HERE:
“CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE”: SOUTH PARK – SEASON 19 REVIEW
**This contains massive spoilers and offensive language**
Up until 2013 I had only watched a handful of episodes of the irreverent and scurrilous animated show South Park. But since thenI have caught up with a hell of a lot of episodes and it has become one of my favourite ever TV programmes and a new season of Trey Parker’s vicious satire is always a highlight of my cultural year. Moreover, one of my most efficient and extensive blog articles was Respect My Authoritah which listed my favouritest seventeen episodes up to Season 16. Which if you can be arsed can be read here:
Seasons 17 and 18 have come and gone since I wrote that and they had some terrific episodes including my own personal favourites: Informative Murder Porn, Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers, Game of Thrones parodies Black Friday/Song of Ass and Fire, Freemium Isn’t Free, Grounded Vindaloop and #Happy Holograms. What these and many other previous episodes contained was a keen knowledge of cultural, social and political issues with two parodic fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist, ripping into many media and political targets. This of course was done while continuing the misadventures of Kenny, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, Randy, Sharon, Mr Garrison and other inhabitants of South Park.
What Season 18 did especially well was to link the episodes with call backs to previous events forming a narrative continuum as opposed to just funny stand alone episodes. This allowed for much joy to be had through individual and connected gags as well more satisfying storytelling. Trey Parker obviously felt this worked so he continued this trend with the whole of Season 19. In fact I felt that this season was the most complete and satisfactory in regard to the humour, themes, continuity and narrative. My teenage son says the earlier ones were much funnier and ruder and less political and perhaps he is right, but I defy anyone to find a more scathing and funny satirical show on TV at the moment.
Season 19 began with Stunning and Brave; and we got a brand NEW character in PC Principal. It’s risky to bring in new elements to an established show but this character hit the ground running with his muscular Jock-look, frat-boy speech and aggressive politically-correct motivations. The writing illustrated the apparent rise of left-leaning-liberal-movements in society and social media which while having decent motives, have become as fascistic in their application of their ideologies as much as right wingers. Indeed it could be argued people have become scared of saying anything in case it’s racist or sexist or offensive and positive discrimination has become so prominent to blind us to character deficiencies. Indeed, the episode parodies transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner who has been proclaimed a societal heroine. However, one may argue she is essentially just another media whore seeking attention in any way they can.
Caitlyn Jenner would pop us a running gag and mate of Garrison in the next episode, Where has My Country Gone. The disgraced teacher Garrison is in despair at the Canadian immigrants spoiling his country, so he politicizes himself vowing to fuck all immigrants to death. Eventually he ends up in Canada where it has been revealed that Canadians have fled their country because a Donald Trump like “joke” politician actually won the Presidency. Garrison fucks fake-Trump to death and this “policy” propels him forward as a Presidential candidate with Jenner alongside him.
What Trey Parker does so well is highlight the ridiculous but dangerous nature of soapbox politics and so-called immigration perspectives. Of course, freedom of speech is important but when a wealthy man shouts loudest we must be wary that apathy and inaction by the majority are his weapons too. The use of the Canadians as the whipping boys of South Park is a recurring theme and of course they are merely symbols for attitudes toward all non-Americans. There’s also a touching “Romeo and Juliet” subplot involving the ever-innocent Butters and his Canadian love.
Having Garrison run on an anti-immigration ticket causes South Park to be ridiculed on television. The shamed residents led by Randy and the Mayor then attempt upward mobility and get a Whole Foods opened in the town. Such social snobbery satirizes the preposterous idea that where you shop makes you a better person. As such within the episodes City Part of Town and You’re Not Yelping we get some brutal satire at the expense of gentrification and narcissistic individualist behaviour in which people attempt to give their life meaning by elevating their social shopping status or writing pretentious restaurant reviews. As someone who writes reviews for their own enjoyment I did find it particularly hilarious when Gerald Broflovski (Kyle’s Dad) disappears up his own arsehole while writing his Yelp review.
I personally loved the scathing critique of apparent “hipster” culture and gentrification which invaded this season. I don’t think it’s because I am old and the hipster is supposedly new and cool. No, it’s because they seem to try too hard to be right on plus why should SOMEONE else’s idea of style be all pervasive. Indeed, the episode Safe Space also rabidly attacks charity and the guilt-induced tactics used on Randy; can it not be free choice rather than a system of control over who one gives money to. Meanwhile, poor Butters suffers once again as he hallucinates via sleep deprivation having had to edit the social media accounts of Cartman, Vin Diesel, Steven Seagal and many more celebrities because of fat shaming. Of course, bullying of any kind is a wicked thing but what Safe Space says is that it’s part of reality and we must change our reality rather than simply edit out all that is negative about our lives.
The next episode Tweek x Craig (which calls back to the 3rd season episode Tweek vs. Craig) finds Trey Parker innovatively incorporating satire of Japanese yaoi art while examining the different parental perspectives when an offspring is thought to be gay. The episode is hilarious in the stereotypical portrayals of the Chinese but more importantly the ridiculous lengths people will go to appear non-homophobic. Cartman also ends up in “love” too as he finally falls in love with himself; not a pretty sight in the bathroom.
What the season arguably lacked was a great ensemble episode of the boys and their particularly brutally honest and funny interactions; however, we got that with Naughty Ninjas. Here Kenny and Token then Stan, Kyle, Butters etc. and then Cartman (and then not Cartman) become Ninjas but get mistaken for ISIS by typically idiotic and ignorant South Park residents. The subplot involving police brutality is hilarious as police methods are seen as barbaric and over-the-top in these times of tolerance. Yet, when a tough job has to be done such as clear junkies and homeless away from the Whole Foods, understanding will always needs a baton and jackboot to do its dirty work.
The final triptych of episodes — Sponsored Content, Truth & Advertising and PC Principal: Final Justice — dovetailed all the characters and themes of the previous seven into a wholly satisfying end to the season. Trey Parker’s main target was the oppressive and aggressive nature of advertising which, while a necessary industrial evil has become so sneaky it brainwashes us subliminally reading our search engines and attacking us at every window. The episodes had satirical digs at social-justice warriors and gun control, with a plot that revolved around Leslie a “human” advert that has gone sentient and was attempting to control South Park and the world. Full of fun surprises and nods to sci-fi classics like Bladerunner (1982) and The Terminator (1984), PC Principal ultimately ends up being a kind of action hero. Overall, the message seems to be that in controlled bursts political correctness is appropriate but we must be wary to avoid following trends and always retain an individual perspective.
Season 19 was a triumph of savage satire, cogent narrative, zeitgeist references, brilliant songs and of course, some gloriously offensive humour. It poses many questions in relation to political correctness and trendsetting progressivism. I personally feel that with the amount of morons and ignoramuses in the world who like nothing more than to oppress people due to their race, country of birth or colour of their skin, political correctness is necessary. However, it is important that such ideologies are not used to make everything homogenized and bland and that freedom of speech is permitted. Ultimately, we can check our privilege but definitely not check our humour because what’s life without it? Indeed what’s life without South Park: no life at all?
“It’s the end of the World as we know it – and I feel fine!” Michael Stipe
Driven by a romantic fog and a momentary lack of aforethought I bought tickets for a Singlonga Sound of Music (1965) event for my girlfriend’s birthday recently. It’s her favourite musical and I thought: try it – you might enjoy it. Well, I liked the film: an opposites-attract-love-story tied up with a formidable musical presentation beautifully performed, choreographed, directed and lit.
But what I did not enjoy was the preposterous introduction/warm-up compered by a rubbish Drag Queen plus a plethora of drunken morons dressed up as: nuns, Maria, Austrians, brown-paper-and-strings, and a goat! Actually, I must say, some of the costumes were impressive; but, call me a stick-in-the-mud, I don’t need to fancy-dress up to enjoy something because I have no desire to externalise my personality. I can actually use my brain and a thing called imagination. Still, each to their own I suppose.
Anyway, once the awful horror-show introduction was over the film itself – even the Singalonga aspect – was pretty bearable! The Sound of Music is a good film! But my underlying memory of the night is of a drunken man dressed as a Nun shouting at the Prince Charles Cinema employee complaining that a member of staff had been rude to his party because they were texting during the film. His exact words were:
“Your staff are out of order! I want a full apology or we’re going on Social Media to complain. We’re going on Facebook! THIS WILL GO VIRAL! THEN YOU’LL BE SORRY!!”
And at that moment in time in the Prince Charles Cinema Foyer, as I sipped my Hobgoblin ale from a plastic cup, I recalled idiot global governments bombing hell out of Syria while viewing this over-lubricated Man-Nun yelling; and I just thought we’re doomed as a species aren’t we?! Perhaps not today or tomorrow but, irrespective of all the great things humans have achieved, Judgement Day is inevitable.
What kind of future do you want, Paul, I asked myself? Why not have a look at some visions of the Apocalypse as seen on the film and television screens. I mean you have to hand it to humanity; it’s able to distract itself from the possible end of the world by creating stories and entertainment ABOUT the end of the world! Here’s some of the best I could think of.
**THIS CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**
PLANET OF THE APES (1969)
Poor old Charlton Heston never had much luck with the future as his characters often ended up as dystopic visions of hell. Such films included: Soylent Green (1973), Omega Man (1971) and the classic Planet of the Apes where simian humanoids are running the place enslaving the savage natives.
MAD MAX: ROAD WARRIOR (1981)
In between the road-raging original and this brilliant sequel there was some kind of global nuclear meltdown hitherto bringing about a dusty wasteland where fuel is God and humans will kill to get their hands on it! Mmmm. . . doesn’t sound like now at all does it?
THE TERMINATOR (1984)
Bloody Internet, sorry Skynet! We create these wonderful computers to help us with everyday life including our Missile Defence Systems and they turn on us! Only one man – who hasn’t been born yet – can save us from a life of death and slavery at the hands of the machines. What do you mean: it’s better than your current life?!
THE MATRIX (1999)
Damned Artificial Intelligence enslaving humanity and feasting on our fluids and organs for energy in some sick, twisted vision of a futuristic Harvest festival. Then again, compared to some of the shitty office jobs I’ve had I think I’d choose the Matrix over those; just don’t tell me I’m in the Matrix so I can use films and TV to distract me from my physical torment!
SOUTH PARK – GO GOD GO/GO GOD VII (2006)
Pissed off that he cannot get the latest Nintendo Wii, impatient Eric Cartman accidentally freezes himself and ends up in a no-religion 2546 future where talking Sea Otters and humans battle it out in a wickedly-funny-Richard-Dawkins-bashing-Buck-Rogers-parodying-classic-two-parter.
In this future we will basically live in the water, grow gills and dirt will be our most priceless commodity. Well, that’s what will occur according to this apocalyptic-polar-ice-caps-melting-earth-swimming-pool-with-pirates movie. At the time it was one of the most expensive film flops in history but actually wasn’t bad with Kevin Costner playing a soaked version of Mad Max.
TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)
Seeing someone close to you die in front of your eyes as a child is not a future you really need is it? Following the opening of this brilliant film prisoners are sent back in time to find the cause of the deadly viral apocalypse. The awesome mind of Terry Gilliam filtering Chris Marker’s classic short La Jetée makes this an intelligent and exciting end-of-the-world blockbuster.
DR WHO – THE END OF THE WORLD (2005)
Of course, up and down and across the years the Doctor and his companion(s) have witnessed the end of Earth and time itself on many occasions. In this episode though Rose, in her first adventure with Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor, sees the apocalypse via a satellite station called Platform One. The Sun has expanded yet the destruction of Earth has never looked so stunning, sad or beautiful.
I always had doubts about being a parent and wondered if anything good would come of it, how…ever, in early 2013 something finally did. Indeed, I must say a massive thanks to my near-teen son Rhys for reintroducing me to the comedy genius of SOUTH PARK. I used to think SOUTH PARK was an uncultured TV show, populated by foul mouthed, crudely animated and squeaky voiced characters spouting an incessant stream of poo, pee and dick jokes. The latter is of course true but SOUTH PARK is also one of the most subversive, intelligent and satirical shows that’s ever been on telly. In fact, it is the greatest TV comedy show of all time.
A bit of a lofty claim given the great many classic comedies that have been on the goggle box since that Scottish bloke Logie Baird stuck a tube into a thingy and said, “This invention will one day kill Rod Hull!” Indeed, for sheer consistency and quality of ideas, jokes, plots, characters, satire, sociological and political incorrectness, SOUTH PARK deserves so much praise. It doesn’t just push the boundaries but absorbs them anally before taking a massive hilarious boundary crap into your brain.
Being an obsessive I have, since early 2013, watched nearly every episode of SOUTH PARK at least twice. And with the seventeenth season almost upon us in the UK I give you my favourite – at time of writing – seventeen episodes. Please raise your glasses to Trey Parker and Matt Stone – the Gods of SOUTH PARK – because I, “Respect your authoritah!”
**Btw – this list was more difficult to make than Sophie’s choice in the film Sophie’s Choice (1981). So I am definitely wrong with some of these. Listed in Season order.**
MECHA-STREISAND – (Season 1)
DEATH is probably the best episode of the first season but I love this one because Robert Smith from The Cure is in it. This is one of those crazy episodes which combines a fantastical plot concerning the Triangle of Zinfar while plundering modern culture with references to Godzilla movies, a passionate hatred for Barbara Streisand and film critic Leonard Maltin all combined to create a hilarious monster mash-up. Streisand was picked upon because she criticized Denver and whether she was right or wrong the writers really go to town on her personality, tortuous singing and vain pursuit of agelessness and power; a truly great monster in a show which is full of great monsters.
CHICKEN LOVER – (Season 2)
This, I think, is the first episode where Cartman utters his classic catchphrase, “Respect my authoritah!” The plot revolves around imbecilic cop Officer Barbrady being discovered as “illegitimate” – i.e. he can’t read. Barbrady must learn to read and solve the mystery of the sicko going round raping the South Park chickens. The reason this episode rocks is because the boys are made deputies by Barbrady and what ensues is a baton-wielding Cartman dishing out violence to anybody who commits even the most minor of misdemeanours. The scene where Cartman smashes Kenny’s parents while Kenny laughs his parka off is particularly hilarious. Although, it’s more Stan and Kyle’s investigative skills which capture the Chicken-fucker even though Cartman’s police brutality assists his demise.
CAT ORGY – (Season 3)
South Park not only packs filth, gratuitous violence and satire into the show but also has ingenuity in the structure of its silly stories. A great example of this is the cross-structured ‘Meteor Shower Trilogy’ incorporating this episode, ‘Two Guys Naked in a Bathtub’ and ‘Jewbilee’. I love ‘Cat Orgy’ because it is packed with brilliant gags throughout notably Shelley the babysitter’s many turd puns – e.g. Turdman of Alcatraz – in reference to Cartman. Indeed, Cartman very much meets his match in borderline psycho Shelley and their battle of wills powers the mirth and plot. I also love the fact that Cartman is shown to have terrible taste in popular culture such as his love of ‘Wild Wild West’ and this becomes a running gag throughout future seasons. Mr Kitty on heat simply adds to the hilarity, especially Cartman’s rage at the pet when he utters with incandescent rage, “Shut up, Mr Kitty!!”
THE SUCCUBUS – (Season 3)
Chef (Isaac Hayes) was a great character who provided consistent laughs and funky inappropriate songs during his tenure in South Park. As such he became a surrogate father to the children and it is much to their dismay when he decides to marry. The episode also throws in Cartman’s battle with his Teutonic optometrist who refers to him as “Piggy”; Chef’s bewitching fiancé Veronica who has romanced him with the love theme from ‘The Poseidon Adventure’; and most hilariously Chef’s parents who regale the kids with bizarre, yet amusing, stories of the Loch Ness Monster’s attempts to cash hustle them for – “about tree fiddy”. Naturally, all these elements are woven together skilfully enough to return things to the status quo with the children ultimately defeating Chef’s demonic intended.
HELEN KELLER THE MUSICAL – (Season 4)
The show has never been shy of breaking taboos and to feature, not one but two, prominent disabled characters in Timmy Burch and Jimmy Valmer is challenging on the writers’ part. Challenging because it doesn’t patronize the disabled but makes them positive characters with desires and emotions. The plot of ‘Helen Keller – The Musical’ has Timmy playing Helen Keller (he’s the only one who knows the words) in a rather splendid children’s stage version of The Miracle Worker. Usually Timmy’s vocabulary is limited to just his name but here it’s extended when he forms a bond with ‘performing’ pet turkey Gobbles. Timmy’s relationship with the lame turkey is actually very touching as Timmy fights for Gobbles’ place in the play despite efforts to kill him off. Aside from being chockfull of gags the episode is ingenious in the way it both presents the disabled in a positive and humour inducing light while sending up precious theatrical types at the same time.
TRAPPER KEEPER – (Season 4)
I love this episode because it contains sci-fi film references to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘The Terminator’ AND satirizes the drawn-out Bush-Gore American election farce of 2000. It is both silly and serious balancing two very distinct plot strands with some fantastic gags to glue it altogether. In one strand a cyborg called Bill Cosby is sent back to destroy Cartman’s Skynetesque school folder and in the other the kindergarteners find it impossible to decide on a Class President. By the end the monstrous hybridized Cartman is pitted against the equally monstrous celebrity Rosie O’Donnell. Celebrities often take a hit in South Park and quite right too especially the ones who think they are important just because they act and sing songs. I really hate those guys!
SCOTT TENORMAN MUST DIE – (Season 5)
Eric Cartman is venal, vile, selfish, corpulent, controversial, racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic, petty, childish, vain, arrogant, money-grabbing, spoilt, deranged, and devious – name a negative word and he is IT! He is, however, the greatest comedy character ever created. And probably a genius too. Because when Cartman sets out on some task or scheme be it: Hallway Monitor, News Anchor, Theatre Director, Dead Foetus Salesmen, Christian Rock Band artist etc. he is invariably brilliant and professional at it. Of course, his plans generally end up with him getting his comeuppance, but, in ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’ he enacts a Shakespearean revenge so brutal on the eponymous older boy it literally takes the breath away. All throughout Tenorman gets the better of Eric but the ending is something else. This was the first episode which used a singular plot and while Cartman’s revenge is heinous and above reproach you cannot hide how ingenious it is.
MY FUTURE SELF AND ME – (Season 6)
I’m a sucker for these “futuristic” type plots and this episode is wonderful. Following a thunderstorm Stan is confronted by a future version of himself. The Future Stan is a train-wreck of a human being having succumbed to alcohol and drugs. This forces Stan to commit to a drug-free life. Eventually, Stan (and Butters) realise they have been victims of an ill-judged attempt by their parents to warn them about the dangers of substance abuse by using actors. What I love is that, as in many other episodes, the parents are shown to be cowardly and dishonest when it comes to actually speaking to their kids about social issues; even when Stan finds out the truth and pretends to cut his own hand off, idiot father Randy, cuts the actor playing Future Stan’s hand off rather than tell the truth. Cartman’s “Parental Revenge Centre” which involves smearing poo on walls merely adds to the hilarity and the final payoff involving Future Cartman is just dandy.
CASA BONITA – (Season 7)
It all starts when Kyle denies “fat-ass” the chance to attend his birthday party at the legendarily themed restaurant Casa Bonita. Cartman tries to get back in Kyle’s good books by being less Cartmanesque but when that fails he is told the only way he can attend is if someone else drops out. And so hapless Butters is convinced by Cartman that a meteor is about to hit Denver and he helps Butters to hide out. The Cartman/Butters character axis has all the hallmarks of a Master/Servant dynamic. Butters is generally the target of some heinous Cartman schemes and in ‘Casa Bonita’ the poor boy suffers more than ever. Moreover, what makes Cartman’s plan so evil is that Butters actually thinks Eric is helping him. This devious plan actually works because Cartman gets to visit the restaurant even though he ends in juvenile jail for it.
AWESOME-O – (Season 8)
In many episodes the cute, naive Butters ends up being the victim of some horrific experiences. However, in ‘Awesome-O’ the writers of South Park finally give the boy a break and allow him to get his own back on Cartman. It all starts when Cartman wears a poorly designed robot costume as a prank on Butters. The prank backfires when Butters admits to having an incriminating video showing Cartman dressed as Britney Spears. What makes this episode hilarious is Cartman is really made to suffer when he must remain in the costume while in pursuit of the said videotape. There are also some brilliant digs at the Hollywood scriptwriting system and the generic nature of their output especially the moronic, yet unbelievably successful films of Adam Sandler. Incredibly, this episode was produced in THREE days – the shortest ever production in the series history!
GOOBACKS – (Season 8)
‘South Park’ like many fine comedy shows has recurring catchphrases. “Goddamit!”; “Oh my god, they killed Kenny!”; “Screw you guys, I’m going home!”; “Respect my authoritah” and “I learned something today. . .” are just a few. One of my favourites – featured prominently in ‘Goobacks’ – is “They took our job!” which eventually becomes just a high-pitched cock noise, “Dey turk err jurbs!” Amidst this pronunciation tomfoolery is a spot on satire of the nature of immigrants and the impact they have on the town. The immigrants in this case are people from the future who come back using “Terminator rules” and work for peanuts knowing if they save money now they will be worth a fortune in the future. The episode satirizes both sides of the argument and the men’ solution to the Gooback problem is to have a massive male-on-male orgy to ensure there will be no more children or future people. It is a memorably sick and stupid ending and once again it is left to the children to come up with a more sensible answer.
DOUCHE & TURD – (Season 8)
‘Douche and Turd’ is another triumph of the writers using the children of South Park to highlight their views on America’s political system and voting in general. They also take the time to satirize Animal activists PETA and arrogant uber-star
P. Diddy. When PETA object to the South Park Elementary School’s use of a costumed cow as their mascot the kids must then decide between a Douche and a Turd Sandwich for the replacement. Stan thinks this is ridiculous and refuses to vote. He is then banished from the town. He is, ironically, taken in by PETA and begins living with them as they cohabit and breed with animals. Stan does much soul searching and is advised by a PETA colleague that “an election ‘is always between a douche and a turd’, because they are the only people who suck up enough to make it that far in politics.” I love this episode because Stan’s dilemma is one I feel every time an election comes along. I mean who do you vote for when they are all either giant douches or massive turds.
ERECTION DAY – (Season 9)
Like many stand-up comedians Jimmy Valmer is an attention-hungry, vain and ambitious performer but overall remains a very positive character. In Erection Day he gains our sympathy when he battles unwanted erections while in public. Stupidly, Jimmy seeks the advice of Butters who tells him that he needs to have sex in order to vanquish the unwanted boners. With Cartman acting as a young, fat Cyrano De Bergerac, Jimmy eventually seeks the help of a STD ridden prostitute but ends up in a ‘turf’ war with a local pimp. What I love most about this is the basic comedy misunderstanding of naive Jimmy taking a hooker to an Italian restaurant to “woo” her and then the determination he shows to try and win her back from the pimp; even involving himself in a car chase and shoot-out. Jimmy’s “romance” results in a brilliant finale capped off by the oft-used but never-more-fitting parody of THAT ‘Officer and Gentlemen’ final scene.
MAKE LOVE, NOT WARCRAFT – (Season 10)
This is an Emmy award winning show and probably the funniest ever! I love it because it features all the children actually joining together to defeat a common foe; namely the guy with “no life” who is going round and killing all their characters in World of Warcraft. The show was made in conjunction with the team who make World of Warcraft and there is both gentle affection for and ribbing of the game and its’ players. The comedy flows thick and fast notably from hearing the kids voices emanate from Dwarves, Knights, Mages etc.; especially the stuttering Jimmy. There is a lovely reverse parody of sports movie montages where instead of getting fitter the kids get fatter and more ill through their continual playing of World of Warcraft. Indeed, they are so chained to their computers Liane – Cartman’s mum – even holds a bucket for him while he takes a crap. The episode has the whole cake and eats it with a mild warning of the dangers of videogames to children, but it does it in the most fun way possible. Brilliant title as well!
HELL ON EARTH (2006) – (Season 10)
The show has, over the years, had some really near-the-knuckle plots including: Cartman infecting Kyle with H.I.V; Christopher Reeve using stem cells to become a super-villain; Cartman using Crack Baby’s as athletes and many more. But in this episode to use murderers Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy as latter day Three Stooges killing and screwing corpses is really sick but bloody funny as well. Ironically, that wasn’t even the most controversial part as there were more complaints at the time about the incredibly bad taste Steve Irwin gag which really took the cake. Talking of cake, in this episode, it’s Satan’s birthday and he’s having a “Sweet 16” birthday bash with loads of dead celebrities invited and Satan is determined the party is going to be “the bomb”. I wasn’t aware of these horrific MTV “Sweet 16” shows until I saw this and the fact that the show deems these spoilt American teenage brats WORSE than Satan is fantastic satire. Throw in a brilliant ‘Candyman’ spoof involving dead rapper Biggie Smalls and a coven of Catholic Priests upset at not being invited to Satan’s party and this glorious episode has something to delight and offend everyone.
CANADA ON STRIKE – (Season 12)
South Park has pretty much offended every major country and some minor ones over the years with its’ crude stereotyping and the Canadians have been lampooned mercilessly in many shows as well as the musical movie. In this episode the poor Canucks get all upset about not receiving their share of the World’s wealth and thus call a bemusing strike to stake their claim to something or other. The kids get involved because Stan’s adopted brother Ike also goes on strike. The Canadians demand some of that “internet money” and the boys set out to earn it by doing a stupid skit of THAT “What-wat in my butt” using “that gay kid” Butters. Butters becomes an internet star and the children become theoretically rich. When they go to claim their money they come across all the internet “hits” from the last decade including: Tron Guy, Chris ‘Leave Britney alone ’Crocker, Sinister Beaver-thing, Afro Ninja, Chocolate Rain and other dumb things millions of idiots watch on the internet. Chaos and a massive bloody fight ensues and it turns out that it’s very difficult to monetize profit on the internet. Both funny and satirical this episode went up in my estimation when I found out the writers were also sending up the Writers’ strike in Hollywood.
MARGARITAVILLE – (Season 13)
This episode should be shown to children as it’s as educational as it is funny. I think here the writers are at the top of their game as they take on the economy and the global recession and distillate concepts surrounding these mysterious entities to great effect. It’s not always laugh out loud funny but really connects with the cerebral funny bone as the economy itself is compared to another enigmatic thing namely religion and: GOD! As Stan follows his way up the economic ladder trying to take back a Margaritaville machine, Kyle tackles the economy in his own way and eventually becomes its’ saviour as a latter day Jesus figure. Obviously, Cartman becomes a Jew-hunter and tries to get Kyle killed in the story for GTA: Chinatown. I like many people am very simple and do not understand the economy as well and what this episode does is show you the layers and layers of stupidity present in a system which is patently out of control. The stand-out scene is representatives from the US Treasury “checking the charts” using a colourful board and a chicken to determine the value of things. To be honest, this is probably the most sensible explanation of how the economy works I’ve seen.
FAITH HILLING – (Season 16)
South Park delights in spoofing stupid stuff on the Internet. This one is brilliant for that as it mercilessly sends up the craze for ‘memes’ and delights in highlighting how ridiculous humans are. It opens with the boys actually working in harmony together to pull off a “Faith Hilling” prank at a Republican conference. It’s quite a light episode but it mines the laughs continuously as the boys move from one ridiculous memetic performance to another such as: “Tebowing” and “Taylor Swifting”; even getting involved in a gang fight because of it. The main subplot involving the idea that cats are now becoming as intelligent as humans is hilarious as we get repetitive shots of THAT internet cat saying, “Old Long Johnson” over and over again. If this is what makes us laugh as humans then it deserves the ridicule this episode gives it. Indeed, while the Internet is a wonderful tool it has also given a format to not-so-wonderful tools and crazes.
CASH FOR GOLD – (Season 16)
Great art whether it’s comedy, painting, television, cinema, sculpture, dance and so on should always hold a mirror up to humanity and say, “Hey, what the hell are you doing you idiot humans?! Stop it!” This episode is a perfect example of that. Stan turns investigator when he’s given a crap piece of jewellery by his Grandfather bought from one of those exploitative TV shopping channels. At the same time Cartman sees a way of making money and starts his own business buying and selling tacky items. The satire is damning of humanity as we get an ingenious montage which shows the cycle of stupidity involved as the jewellery is sold online; sold back to Cash For Gold stores; dismantled; smelted down; sent to Asia where kids in sweat shops make the jewellery; before it finally gets sent back to the QVCesque shopping channel to be sold yet again on TV. The final image of a TV shopping channel host blowing his brains out off screen is satire at its’ most brutal and artistic.