I was hoping last week’s great episode of South Park was a turning point. It was an episode that wasn’t trying to do too much and felt like it could work in any season (well maybe not early on because of the whole internet troll theme). But unfortunately, it looks like the show is back to what we have seen lately. It’s almost like Trey Parker and Matt Stone are trying too hard to incorporate current events, and because of this, the jokes have become too predictable.
For example, this week we saw the return of Mr. Garrison and his bid to become (or not become) president. His lack of experience and knowledge of politics has forced him to try and throw the election without dropping out. His latest attempt involved a stand-up like rally where he focused on insulting women with jokes about grabbing them and what not. This is clearly a spoof on Trump’s latest scandal, and to me, felt too easy. Trump is an easy target and all, but I think everyone saw this coming.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a hilarious scene. In fact, it was one of the best scenes this week, but it lacked the creativity we have come to expect from Parker and Stone. Going into this season everyone wanted South Park to lampoon the current election. People wanted to see the outrageous things they would come up with. I, however, was hoping the show would avoid this topic because the election has been outrageous enough on its own. How could they possibly come up with jokes funny enough to make the election seem even more ridiculous than it already is? As we have seen, they can’t. Everything involving Mr. Garrison, while obviously satire, has not been too far off reality. This story arc doesn’t have much to it which is why we haven’t seen it in every episode. Instead, it feels like Parker and Stone included it out of obligation to the viewers.
Another problem this week was they were trying to cram too much into a half-hour show. Every episode this season that includes every story arc has been subpar because there isn’t enough time to properly develop it all, leaving things to feel incomplete. Last week was so good because it had focus. This week, on the other hand, featured Mr. garrison, the feud between the boys and girls, Randy’s memberberries, and Gerald’s trolling quests, and because of this they all suffered.
The boys and girls of South Park Elementary finally came together and decided to bake Danishes for Denmark. When the plan failed, though, they went back to hating each other. That’s it. When you can describe an entire part of the show in two sentences you know there’s a problem. Cartman’s good guy shtick has gotten old and it just wasn’t very funny. That’s the whole point of the show, right, to be funny?
Gerald has been the best story all season. I love seeing him with the other internet trolls, and the fact that they chose him of all people is perfect. This week he and the other trolls finally went to work and in the cover of darkness trolled the entire country of Denmark. Because this episode was packed with other stuff, though, there wasn’t much to it. It felt rushed. Gerald’s part in the season will continue to shine, but this week we didn’t see it at its best.
If there was a redeeming part of the episode, it’s that we finally got an explanation to what memberberries are. In a memberberries anonymous meeting, Randy tells a saddened Mr. Garrison, “Every great empire reaches a point where going backward can seem more appealing than going forward. When the world is changing so fast, it makes us yearn for the old ways when life seems simpler.” Of course, he was referring to the new Star Wars not being as good as the old, but it was still because of the memberberries. Civilizations eventually get lazy and start to remember the good times. According to Randy, even the Romans suffered from the effects of memberberries, which ultimately led to their demise. This is also supposed to explain why people want a guy like Mr. Garrison to be president.
I haven’t lost hope in the season because I know Trey Parker and Matt Stone can make an episode like last week. South Park will always be watchable because Parker and Stone are just that good at what they do. They will always be capable of creating a great episode or even a great season. I have, however, come to terms with the fact that this season will not be one of their best.