South Park began in the 90s. Let that sink in a little bit. Some of you may have watched it then. I probably came to the series about four seasons later. Over the years it has provoked and insulted. It has plumbed the depths of pop culture and made fun of almost everyone at this point. And because of that, you may have given up on it.
Some people get turned off by the sophomoric humor. Sometimes it can feel a bit up its own ass. Sometimes, in its attempt to stay current and relevant, it’s absurd weekly schedule doesn’t always allow it to connect the dots all the way. And in the past, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have tried to do the Seinfeld thing of seamlessly merging two or three unrelated topics into one cohesive idea. And, honestly, sometimes it doesn’t work. People like me have stuck it out more because of what it attempts than what it actually achieves. Even on its worst day, the show attempts to question, provoke and illuminate. It’s often scatological and immature, but if you can see past that (or like me, enjoy it) there’s always a message that you can accept or attempt to refute.
Last year in Season 18, Trey and Matt started using a serialized structure. It was pretty effective, lampooning crowdfunding and drones and TwitchTV.
This year, they’re killing it. I mean, just absolutely killing it. The format is so tight. They’ve reeled in the crazy and now it’s easy and accessible. I feel like these guys were ushered into a new tier of the cultural landscape when The Book of Mormon won everything on Broadway and they were like “maybe we don’t have to try so hard on South Park anymore. Maybe we don’t need six-level commentary. Maybe we just pick one preposterous thing and poke fun at it every week.” And they’re annihilating it. It’s social commentary at its finest. It’s This American Life turned on its ear.
But be warned, Pajibans. Many of us, myself included, are in the crosshairs this season. We begin with the tumultuous event of South Park Elementary getting a new principal: PC Principal. From there we explore Caitlyn Jenner, the Trump immigrant platform, Yelp reviews, gentrification, body shaming and more. Not everything is wrapped up with a perfect bow. As Dustin rightly points out, in the body shaming episode a possible takeaway is a tacit acceptance of bullying. But I challenge anyone to watch “The City Part of Town” and not enjoy the hell out of it, and appreciate how the show has changed and grown.
Right now, the best show on television is the second season of Fargo. Period. But right behind it, in it’s goddamn nineteenth season, is a show that may sting a little to watch, and even more to consider, but is as relevant and powerful as the first time we ever laid eyes on Stan, Kyle, Kenny & Cartman.
Episode 1: Stunning and Brave - The boys express their utmost respect for Caitlyn Jenner.
Episode 2: Where My Country Gone - Garrison wants to build a wall to keep out all of the undocumented immigrants.
Episode 3: The City Part of Town - The town of South Park is gentrifying and Kenny thinks it’s time to get a job.
Episode 4: You’re Not Yelping - Cartman considers himself the top on-line restaurant reviewer in South Park.
Episode 5: Safe Space - Cartman is the latest victim of Body Shaming.
Episode 6: Tweek X Craig - The Asian girls in school are drawing dreamy pictures of Tweek and Craig.
You can view them all for free via Hulu at South Park Studios.