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South Park “Tweek X Craig” Review

South Park “Tweek X Craig” Review
Season 19, Episode 6

I love when “South Park” goes back to its roots and is a show about kids being kids, and the problems and adventures that then arise. “Tweek X Craig” wasn’t about anything new or that happened in the headlines in the past week, but still managed to give a quite funny look at how societal pressures can make the developing sexuality of children all the more difficult and confusing for them to figure out.

The new Asian student population (Because “South Park” is diverse now!) has been drawing Yaoi art of Tweek and Craig, which led to a humorous scene with PC Principal who wanted to make sure,
even if they aren’t gay, that they know the importance of affirmative consent. Neither boy is actually gay, the art started confusing amongst all the boys in town, including Stan, who just wanted to know how the girls decided who they drew.

Randy — in an attempt to be PC and cool and the ‘hip’ dad — tried to talk to Stan about what was going on. Stan is of course only confused about why Tweek and Craig were picked (a plot line I thought would be developed more, but wasn’t really) but Randy, unwilling to show he maybe doesn’t know everything, goes along with the idea that the Asians pick who is gay. Of course they do.

The yaoi sight gags only kept getting better and better, up to the giant graffiti art of the two boys fucking spray painted on the side of the school. Even Cartman — always the bigot — decided that just because he doesn’t understand being gay doesn’t mean he shouldn’t support it. Perhaps one of the most progressive things ever to come from his hippie-hating lips.

If people thought last week that Reality was a stretch of a character, this week’s Cupid-Cartman was an even further stretch, with Cupid-Cartman trying to get Craig and Tweek to actually fall in love. It was pretty unclear where this bit was going for awhile, so far as to stretch it to have flowers being sent to Cartman, and then him going out to lunch with his own imaginary Cupid-psyche.

Instead of falling in love, the two boys broke out fighting (oddly without any ‘fighting is just straight guys having sex’ jokes). Mr. Tucker was so happy to hear that Craig had gotten into a fight, then to only learn that it was, as PC Principal said, with his boyfriend Tweek. PC Principal’s commitment to – no punishment, but instead sent the boys home with money (a gesture Tweek’s dad did earlier.)

The misinformation from parents about sexuality is a point the show has done, and done quite well, all the way back in season 5’s “Proper Condom Use,” but it just fits so well now with the personality that Randy has developed these past seasons. Randy called China, only to take away from the call that it was Japan, not China, who decides who is gay and who isn’t.
Of course, the central irony gluing everything together this week was the reversal on how the town’s pressure was on making the boys gay, not straight. It’s still societal pressure for the boys to be something they aren’t, and even progressive social pressure is still social pressure that isn’t supporting Tweek and Craig like they actually need to be.

This pushes Tweek and Craig to decide to actually come out as gay, and then to break up, in an attempt to stop all the pictures, instead resulting in more artwork being made, this time of the two breaking up.

Kyle is the voice of reason here, figuring out that yaoi is an art style that girls make because they like fictionalizing two guys together (I’m surprised none of the boys went ah! Like we like lesbians!), and that it doesn’t have anything actually to do with making Tweek and Craig gay. The break up happens nonetheless, with Tweek really selling it and making Craig out to look like the bad guy. The whole town mourned the break up (Even the Mayor, who for some reason visited a grave, which is an odd thread going through the episode and I wish had been explored more) of its first young gay couple.

Cartman’s Cupid-Me, unfortunately, came back again, with Cartman trying to get him to help get Tweek and Craig back together, in exchange for one date at least. Just because the show made fun of how odd it was (having Cartman sit there talking to himself) doesn’t really help that it wasn’t really working, and is a pretty big stretch when Cartman’s imagination actually started changing how people in town were thinking and feeling, resulting in a quite supportive talk between Craig and his father. Oh, and another hundred dollars.

The ending wasn’t great; Craig and Tweek just walked around with the episode’s third song-overlay montage, but it did leave the question if Craig and Tweek are actually gay, or are still just doing it because they feel they have to. More interesting though was the end bit with Cartman, who it seems the show may actually be setting up to realize he’s gay, or at the very least is starting to explore his own sexuality, even if it is through weird Cupid-me fascinations.

“Tweek X Craig” in a lot of ways felt more like classic-South Park — in a good way — and really was on a roll with the jokes this week. Bringing in the Asian student population also felt like a natural progression of the show’s serialization and “more progressive” arc this season, and a good way for the show to turn that into new ideas and plot lines. It was a smart and funny look at how a town turned PC can still push for the wrong things, and the play on being gay not being a choice — but a choice by Japan — was a pretty good “South Park” spin on things. Again, these aren’t new points or ideas for the show, but if they can still put a few new twists along and way and make them funny, it can still work, and work well.

Notes & Quotes

-“You need to say something like; Craig, is it alright with you if I touch your penis?”

-“Now Craig, would what you say if you wanted to take a gander at Tweek’s asshole?”

-“We’ve only had a Whole Food for three weeks and we already have our first gay kids. So cool.”

-“The Asians…the Asians decide who’s going to be gay?”

-“Yaoi, anal intercouse”, and whatever two made up words came after that

-“We thought you were such a spaz but to know you have so much going on inside”

-“I’m pretty sure Craig has seen my weiner…should I kick his ass?”

-“And my Dad days, like, Asians have always done this and they do make people gay.”

-Curious why the show went with Tweek for this one. Hasn’t seen him in awhile.

-“Apparently there were o affirmative consent issues as your son knows the right way to play with another boy’s penis.”

-“There’s not going to be any disciplinary actions since they are gay, we want to be supportive.”

-“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Asian.”

-“They’re so gay.”

-“We need to fake break up in front of the Asian girls.”

-“A lot of people feel that Asians decide who is gay or not…but it isn’t just Asians, it’s specifically the Japanese.”

-Nice touch to have Butters still in headgear from last week.

-Laughed at the “You Should Still” over the support your local artists sign.

-“You don’t get to decide. Japan picks who they pick and that’s that.”

-So many songs this season, and three song montages this episode alone. Pushing it a bit.

South Park “Safe Space” Review

South Park “Safe Space” Review

Season 19, Episode 5

He’s not fat, he’s big boned.

It’s a phrase that has followed Cartman through almost the entirety of the show. It’s somewhat fitting then, that it’s none other than Cartman who becomes the target when “South Park” takes on body shaming.

The episode kicked off with Cartman, in tears, in PC Principal’s office, after he was made fun of for being fat when he posted a picture of himself in his underwear online. Mr. Mackey quipped in – maybe Cartman shouldn’t have put such a picture online – before PC Principal decided that somebody should be required to filter every single comment Cartman gets, reporting only the positive ones back to him.

None of the other kids (duh) wanted to help out Cartman, and both Kyle and Wendy took detention over getting involved. This means the task, of course, fell to poor Butters, who ended up not only filtering social media for Cartman, but more and more celebrities as word started to get around that what he was doing was helping Eric, including Steven Segal, who seemed like an odd choice here, unless there’s something I’m missing.

The B plot fell to Randy…and Whole Foods. It’s an interesting bit for the show; by setting up and serializing plots and locations, the show is starting a bit to have more ‘normal’ plots based on reoccurring locations, more a la a traditional sitcom. But it was funny — and gave some of the best jokes this week — so I’ll allow it, even if it did seem weird to hang an entire B plot on what could have been a very one note joke about being asked to donate at the grocery store.

But Randy having to pull the change literally out of the little girl’s mouth? Hilarious. Break-out laughing hilarious.

I was waiting to see how the show would tie everything together, and it did with Randy’s #SafeSpace mock ad to try to get stores to stop asking for donations at the checkout line. It was a way to tie together all types of shaming, donation shaming included.

Everything culminated in another song, “In My Safe Space.” It’s a little interesting that we’ve now gotten two solid songs from the show two weeks in a row, in what might be a bit of YouTube culture rubbing off on Matt and Trey. This one also introduced Reality, a mischievous character that was hell bent on trying to ruin the safe space. It’s a little ridiculous of a characterization, but it works for the point the show is trying to make.

Really, it was Randy’s B plot with Whole Foods that ended up overshadowing everything else going on — both in terms of laughs — but also by hosting a charity dinner, that Reality tried to crash. I was a little worried that the show wouldn’t be able to bring this full circle, but it turned the point against the celebrities, not a new target for Matt and Trey, but one they are well used to pointing out the hypocrisies of.

“Safe Space” ended up being a decently strong episode, and one of the more cohesive we’ve seen yet this season. It did seem to miss the point that body shaming can have actual negative effects on people; using Cartman as one of the prime examples kind of shields away from this, as did the show’s targeting of mostly celebrities. There’s some other targets that could be misinterpreted to be caught in the crossfire here (like young children), and I feel that does hold back some of what the show was trying to say. “South Park” might not always take the high road, but it does tend to pick the appropriate targets.

It’s also kind of a dark resolution, even for a show like “South Park.” The world isn’t a perfect place, and that feeling shame is OK, especially when not feeling shame is rooted in the greed and ego that they seem to feel celebrity culture is based upon. Again, it’s not necessarily a new point of view for the show, but one it managed to hit home pretty successfully.

Notes & Quotes

-“I’m sorry, you don’t want to give a dollar to help hungry kids?”

-“Just pull the sandwich out of the little girls mouth”

-“it’s a pretty brutal job sifting through all that darkness.”

-“Because charity shaming hurts everyone.”

-“Oh no, not Reality. Somebody stop him.”

-“Tell the little hamster he’s not going to college.”

-David was back!

-“The world is darkness, the man is coming.”

-“”I’m sorry, the world isn’t one big liberal arts college campus.”

South Park “You’re Not Yelping” Review

South Park “You’re Not Yelping” Review
Season 19, Episode 4

Everybody’s a critic.

Last season, “South Park” had a running theme of going after … let’s call them Silicon Valley problems. Or at least, problems that skewed very tech heavy — the season skewed a bit away from the general populace, and spoke directly toward  the show’s young and tech savvy audience. It was an odd selection of ideas to skewer and lampoon.

This week fit in quite well with that theme, and actually probably would have made more sense last season, or even a few years ago. Yelp? Since when has Yelp really been a hot-button topic worthy of discussion? Is Yelp really something worthy of an entire episode of “South Park?”

I don’t want to sit here and say that I don’t think “South Park” can pull off light, fun, and untimely episodes, because that’s not true. Some of the shows best efforts are when the kids are simply acting like little kids. But Yelp…really? We’re going to dedicate an entire episode to Yelp? I guess so. This was one of the episode where SP just points out that something is silly, but never says anything else about it. Yelp is silly. We get it. It isn’t fodder for an entire episode.

The show started with Randy and Gerald going to a restaurant and getting special treatment, because, you know, Gerald is a Yelp reviewer. Gerald got probably the best stick in the lot this week, with his pipe-smoking and quite wordy descriptions of eating experiences being a decent bit for him. Cartman, of course, is doing the same thing, and abusing the “status” that comes with being able to share every thought at the click of a button.

The show also introduced us to a new character, David, who Cartman racially mocked by using his Yelp-power (just in case anybody was worried totally PC South Park was the norm, I guess). Everything mostly stayed focused on Cartman, to mixed effect (his poop-consistency jokes were solid, but the repeated Mexican bicycle joke was old the first time he told it).

Whistlin’ Willy was the first restaurant owner to take a stand, and kicked out all the Yelpers, causing Cartman to unite them, and uhh, behead Whistling’ Willy. The terrorist comparison really seemed forced, and the show attempted to dig it out for a few more jokes, but that idea never really landed, made sense, or worked.

Then, in order to quell the ongoing Yelp revolt, Kyle, David, and the Mayor decided to give each Yelp reviewer a gold badge to help them feel special, and the restaurant decided to…well,snot and cum in all Yelp reviewer’s food. The ending song segment was pretty good, and probably the best part of the entire episode. It almost justified the entire premise, weak as it was, and there’s just something about a catchy song about boogers and cum that only SP can pull off.

I do wonder though if they built this episode backwards, and started with the song idea and then built everything else up around it. The middle act especially was pretty messy, and it sees that most of the focus went to finding a way to get to the ending song. There was so much opportunity here: talking about the role of criticism, the chance to mock critics of the show, or even to draw comparison between real critics and Yelpers, but the show opted instead for a superficial splattering of events that instead all built to one – albeit strong – ending joke.

Somewhere in “You’re Not Yelping” there is the idea that perhaps everybody isn’t really special, and that Yelp actually causes more damage than it does good, but it’s hidden in a pretty lackluster 20 minutes just poking fun at the whole idea in general. Well, and boogers and cum.

Notes & Quotes:

-Oh God, now everybody thinks they’re a food critic

-The Yelp critic tee shirt was pretty funny

-Same with the “we don’t care if you’re a food blogger” banner. The visual jokes were stroke this week.

– Cartman complaining about the food giving him solid poops, not watery at all, was a great bit

-I wonder if David and Wendy’s new friend are sticking around

-Also a little weird that the show focused on Yelp reviewers, not the company or its existence in the first place.

– Officer Harrison also gets caught up in this, though he was mostly retreading ground that Cartman and Gerald already did, with a personality specific bits.

South Park “Where My Country Gone” Review

Immigration…again?

There are some topics that “South ParK” has hit several times, to the point where I wasn’t even sure why the show was deciding to tackle immigration again. It’s said quite a lot about it already, and it initially seemed like a well that the show had essentially run dry. But, in true South Park-ian fashion, Matt and Trey ended up taking an old idea and twisting it in such a way to surprisingly pull the whole thing off.

It also looks like “South Park” is sticking to its attempted serialization from last season. The show kicked off with President Obama inviting Kyle to the White House to recognize his brave speech about Caitlyn Jenner last week. This — for some reason — sets off Garrison, who is sick of the flux of immigrants in South Park of late.

Immigration is something the show has done ad nauseam- but this time it attempted to frame it in terms of Canadians crossing into America. PC Principal is also still around – and mandated that all teachers take Canadian language night lessons, which led to a decently funny bit about the Canadian alphabet (I wonder if there’s anything the show has skewered as much as Canada at this point).

Garrison’s immigrant problem is actually a pretty deep cut for the show (He used to bring it up every Christmas), and it at first seemed like he was the show’s stand in for Donald Trump, especially as Garrison’s anti-immigration rants started to gain him support at political rallies. It made me wonder why the show wasn’t just actually using Trump. I soon found out!

In the first little twist, Canada builds a wall before South Park can, and Garrison gets bit by the Cartman-land bug. What’s on the other side of the wall? It must be awesome! We must have it!

Meanwhile, the boys are trying to placate the Canadians, and came to the conclusion that one of them had to date (and probably have sex with!) a Canadian girl. Of course, this falls to Butters, who while eating dinner at his new girlfriend’s house learned that the Canadians didn’t actually want to move to America…and were running from something. Dum dum dum! Then the actual happened: Trump was recently elected president of Canada and everybody was fleeing the country.

It was a great twist, and the rational behind it — with Trump having just been elected in Canada because nobody was paying attention to the election — was great. It really made the whole episode work, and really felt more like classic South Park, where most of the episode was spent waiting to see what the big, extreme take on an event was going to be. This was another good pulling together of an episode for the show.

The interesting thing about this episode — and the shift toward “South Park” serializing itself — is that instead of building a joke up (and running it into the ground) over the course of one episode, it now is sprinkling the same ideas across a few. Last week we got Cosby jokes, and we got more this week, and even Jenner was brought back from last week’s initial mentions.

On the one hand, it’s a bit more how people actually communicate in real life, and I suppose it is one way for the show to try to spruce itself up and not become a one-issue attack each week. But it also means that the show needs to come up with a bit more material; spreading a joke out over one episode was already running it thin, and if they try to do the same thing here I’m a tad nervous about the longevity some of them will hold over the course of the season. Randy as Lorde was run so far into the ground last year, and I don’t want to see the show fall victim to the same trap again.

Much like last week, this wasn’t a perfect episode of “South Park.” The buildup wasn’t quite all there, but the end-game Trump reveal really did pull everything toether quite well. It reminds me of the old, classic South Park escalation throughout an episode, and it’s something that’s really working to help them pace out episodes and land on their feet. The Trump-Canada switch was a really smart move, and sold the premise of the whole thing.

And as for resolution? Garrison found Trump … and fucked him to death. So, while some things change in South Park, others always stay the same.

Notes and quotes:

-Oh man, the show’s personification of Caitlin Jenner.

-Did you forget that at 8:11 all Canadians face East and play Chuck Mangione?

-lol the boys being sick of Kyle’s speeches.

-“Is he seriously giving a speech right now?”

-Fuck them all to death

-OK, you just want a race war?

-Nobody cares about 40 years from now when she suddnly changes her mind

-LOL, maple fever

-In Canada, we call a slow Cosby…love.”

-I’m SO team Butters actually having a girlfriend

-Trump’s dance was great.

South Park “Stunning and Brave” Review

South Park “Stunning and Brave” Review
Season 19, Episode 1

Things are going to be different around here. Let’s face it, is IS long overdue.

Well, or so the show says. Welcome to Season 19 everybody. Let’s head on down to “South Park.”

As much as everything tends to stay the same in the town of South Park, this season started with Principal Victoria being fired and a new person being brought in to make South Park a more progressive place that fits in with today’s times. A better place. A less offensive place. A more welcoming place where everybody can just get along.

Enter PC Principal. Part PC activist, part fraternity bro, he started right off examining the show’s own history: Chef, Kim and his Mongolian Wall (wait, he ISN’T Chinese?), and even Cartman’s transgender past from last year’s “Cissy,” which I’m glad Matt and Trey addressed, given this is somewhat an extension of that same topic. It’s also a very apt subject for the show to tackle. It’s something that I’ve been wondering about a lot lately, and given how increasingly PC today’s world is, “South Park” came right out and reminded everybody where its place, even in such a world, is. If “South Park” started today, would it have succeeded?

The developed PC bros (though it took a second to figure out exactly where the show was going with the principal character) end up forming a PC fraternity, but the actual characterization of them was one of the weaker parts of the show’s argument. It can’t exactly lambaste the group – they are fighting for the right things – so instead the show tried to go after their personalities. It could have worked…but I really don’t feel that the whole PC and righteous attitude mashes well with bro and frat culture.

PC Principal started handing out detentions left and right, even putting Cartman in line. It was a little unclear why Cartman was so submissive from the get-go. Usually any time he comes up against an opposing force his first reaction is to immediately go on the offensive. Perhaps the dentition time was getting to him…or the plot just needed him to not react right away.

A little speech from the guys sets him loose (ironic, given it’s usually Kyle and Stan trying to stop Cartman), but it seemed that Cartman may have met his match. After trying to frame PC Principal for raping Butters, he gets his ass handed to him, and ended up in the hospital. It’s a pretty fast change for Cartman, who then decides to give up his old ways. No more fat shaming. No more calling Kyle a dirty Jew. He swears he won’t ever go back to the way that he was.

With Cartman playing things straight, it’s Kyle instead who is the one who comes under fire for being a bigot. It’s an unusual role for Kyle, but his point that Caitlyn Jenner isn’t HIS hero is a fair one. Reading between the lines you can see all of the other characters in agreement, but instead are speaking out of fear and are being bullied into saying the opposite in public. The show has made similar points before.

Once Kyle came under attack, Cartman then decided to go to war with the PC people…again, but just to save his friend Kyle. It was set up by the earlier hospital scene, but kind of a stretch all other things considered.

After an attack of complete offensive absurdity, (and a good laugh with the show bringing Jared back), Kyle came around, finally admitting the courage that it took Caitlyn Jenner to come forward. It was only after he saw Cartman taking things to such an extreme though, that Kyle was able to finally see that enough was enough,

This then led to the closing scene, which pulled things together:

“I would have never thought to use offensive imagery and outrageous stereotypes to provoke someone to open their eyes.”

“Sometimes joking about unPC things can be important because it starts a dialogue.”

That about sums what the show was going for, and really, a lot of what “South Park” has always been about.

For a statement of purpose, it does give the show a reason to exist still, and it also manages to – actually pretty respectfully – silence critics of the show’s no-holds-bar approach to humor. “South Park” never (at least rarely) does anything hatefully, and really, is on the same side as many people who might claim otherwise, it just goes about it differently, and it took the high road on this one, considerably speaking. It’s also worth poignant out the diversity that South Park does have: How many other shows – even today – have transgendered, handicap, or sexually fluid characters? South Park has always been about a high-level acceptance, a perfect utopia where everybody is equal and everything is fair game to make fun of.

The message wasn’t quite as poignant, clear, or laugh-out-loud funny as the show has made before (think of the free speech and freedom to joke tirades in Cartoon Wars), but perhaps 19 seasons in it’s good for the show to refresh its mandate without completely retreading it, and it probably fit here for the show to display a little maturity and restraint. Things got a little messy in the middle, but ultimately it ended up landing on its feet. And that’s more than could be said about most of season 18. So all in all, not a bad start to this season. Not bad at all.

And it will be interesting to see if – going forward – things have really changed in South Park or not.

Note & Quotes

-Hot Cosby is a pretty good opening line. Calls to mind the shock from the Jeopardy episode opener forever ago.

–“Well, we have Token, he’s black.”

-“Clittylitter”

-“She’s a hero. She’s stunning and brave.”

-“I’m PC UMass”

–You think Venezuelans aren’t Americans, brah?

-“By all means, keep your dick out.”

-spokesman, instead of spokesperson

-“They serve refreshments, yes”

-I’m pretty over the show doing Tom Brady and football jokes. Personal bias!

-“Dad, did you draw dicks on my friend’s face?”

-“Send in the pregnant Mexican women! Fire the taco launchers!”

-Is the drinking, working out PC Bro really a stereotype? Doesn’t seem to fit or be working. The PC chant was pretty good though.

-where was Kenny this whole episode?

South Park “Freemium Isn’t Free” Review

South Park “Freemium Isn’t Free” Review

Season 18, Episode 6

 

 

Sometimes even “South Park” sinks to easy targets.

This was one of those weeks. Free-to-play games aren’t new. They are annoying, and yes, they trick players into starting with a free game, and then charge them for microtransactions. But are they worthy of a full “South Park?” As the Canadians say: “Eh.”

Despite the ease of the target, the show opened fairly strong. Terrance and Phillip got a humorous breakdown of the science behind freemium gaming, trying to draw a hard comparison to the people making these games and the alcohol industry, as well as making a comparison between the people who get addicted to the games and alcoholics.

The show even threw in a bit of live action with a mock alcohol advertisement, pushing the parallel even further. The ad was great – a strong and hilarious attack on the alcohol advertising machine – and with a fierceness the show hasn’t really shown this season.
The alcoholism comparison is a bit extreme though. Sure, people can be addicted to gaming and people can – and do- have problems with keeping track of their phone bills on free-to-play and mobile apps, but comparing it to people struggling with alcoholism is a stretch.
Comparing the industries and the tactics they use (curious if that consumption number for alcohol is correct or inflated) is totally fair, but the show had a much better case to be against the industry itself than the product consumers themselves, be they gamers or drinkers. I have no problem with gaming as a topic for the show (South Park tends to understand and lampoon gaming culture quite well), but it just wasn’t the best decision to pick a lesser target, and then focus on an even weaker audience within that target.

Throwing in Randy’s drinking problem (or cultural wine drinking) was worth a smirk, but there’s still a big difference between being addicted to buying things on an app and being an alcoholic.

Perhaps the show was going for bigger moral implications here, especially when it brought in Satan to try to explain to Stan that anything that is fun can become addicting, so the moral of the week seems to be to not have fun ever? It’s an odd week – even in South Park – when Satan is the voice of reason here, explaining to Stan how dopamine and addiction work. When he finally gets his hands on the game (decrying that temptation should be nuanced!), he possesses Stan and goes off to battle the Canadian Devil and things start to unravel and fall apart pretty quickly. The show just can’t stick endings this season.

At least there was a one-issue focus here, something the show has drastically lacked of late. Picking one topic to stick to – even if free-to-play games are tiny fish in the pop culture ocean – works when the show is struggling to find its voice, as it is this season. It’s tried several multitopic episodes, and, well they’ve suffered as a result.

It just seems weird to dedicate a whole episode to free-to-play games when so many other topics have been scrambled into one unfocused episode, like last week. The mock ad was a rare glimpse into the fiery, opinionated “South Park” that has been missing this season, and hopefully it continues with scorn and focus on the (now) back half of season 18.

 

 

 

 

Notes and quotes:

“They see through the charade.”

“The mium is Latin for not really.”

-“Soon Canada will be as advanced and developed as Michigan.”

-Worth repeating, that drink responsibly ad was amazing.

-“We’d say we lost an arm and a leg, but they aren’t worth much.”

“I tweeted it. It’s trending.”

-OK, I laughed at Beezleaboot.

-Why did Satan need Stan’s body?

-Some continuity with Randy making money as Lorde, I guess?

South Park Season 18 Episode 05 “The Magic Bush” Review: Lots of bush

“The Magic Bush,” as the name implies, was a lesson in just how many pubic hair jokes “South Park” can cram into one episode.

The answer? A lot.

After the flop that was “Handicar,” this season really needed a constant laugh-a-thon, and this week delivered a near rapid-fire constant succession of jokes, even if they all came down to bush. It was solid and, for the most part, worked.

Drones were the original issue at hand here, after Cartman learned that Butters (well, his dad), had a drone and decided to give it a little fly around town. After being caught filming Laura Tucker (Craig’s mom) naked, the whole town is up in arms over privacy issues, thus tying together people’s privacy fears over drones to the massive celebrity nude photo leak in September. Pretty normal jump for the show to make, all things considered.

The leak connection itself made sense, but was woefully underdeveloped. Sure, both issues have privacy issues at their core, but tying them together didn’t really add anything to the whole premise (aside from a few oddly aimed Jennifer Lawrence’s butt hole jokes). Each issue almost seems worthy of a dedicated “South Park,” and deserved some type of social commentary here to sell the premise, tie a bow on the episode, and really pull everything together.

Juggling two issues together is tough, and then the show added on a third. The next twist was worth it though, when a police drone shot down the unarmed, and of course, black, community watch drone, leading to a hilarious drone candle light vigil and poor South Park turning into a police-drone state. I’m a little surprised it took the show this long to turn to Ferguson, but like the leak plot thread, the show just left it dangling unsure of what to say or how to say it.

The show’s hardest task this week was taking these three very complex and hot-button issues and giving them each their due while still generating laughs. The laughs here mostly came right from the original concept of Craig’s mom’s bush, but there were just too many other things going on plot wise that held the episode back.

Making the connections was clever, but what the show then continued to do with the tri-premise was nothing special. It needed to go deeper into the real crux of each of these issues. It wasn’t quite paint-by-numbers, but the show is really struggling with a defining voice this season. Rarely does an episode leave you wondering what Matt and Trey’s thoughts on a topic are, and yet that laser-sharp focus is still lacking, even half way through this season’s run.

Butter’s Dad’s plot got the weirdest arc this week, and the screen time could probably have been better spent fleshing out everything else going on. His ‘losing enthusiasm’ joke was solid…the first time, but the bearded crazy (No, not Craig’s mom) paranoia that came toward the end felt like the kind of escalation the show has done time and time again. It’s also a little out of character, considering he’s never had problems blaming Butters for misbehaving before.

That left bush jokes, and a few typical “South Park” delivery and situational moments to carry the brunt of the heavy lifting. And even though there was so much focus on Craig’s mom, there was oddly little of Craig. It seemed weird to not have him go after Cartman, and weirder still that Kyle didn’t actually tell anybody that he learned that Cartman, Butters, and Kenny were behind everything. It’s one of the strongest episodes the show has put forward this season – and yes, it was funny – but by trying to juggle too many balls this week, some got dropped and were left underdeveloped and discarded. Lost in the hedges, maybe.

Notes and quotes:

-“Your dad has a fucking drone?!?”

-“Kenny’s here. I told him all about it.”

-Pretty much every bush joke. Hedge clippers, Tarzan, forest ranger…

-“Fuck you, hypocrite dick-spy.”

-This episode probably couldn’t have been done a season or two ago before they finally figured out the South Park town map.

-Yup, looks like continuity for this season is, sadly, over.

-If I was a betting man, my bet is Gamer Gate next week.

South Park Season 18 Episode 03 “The Cissy” Review: Don’t be a cissy

“South Park” is probably my favorite show on television. And it’s been way too long since I’ve reviewed it.

I say that for two reasons. One, because when someone is starting a new review series on a new site, I think it’s important to set up a bit of context. (You can find my past South Park reviews here). Two, because I think it is important to stress the pedestal that I place SP on. It can be the best show on television…and then it can fall flat and not land as well as it could have.

But, enough house cleaning and dust settling. Let’s get cracking.

I knew this was going to be, at the very least, an interesting episode. Transgender equality is a very hot button topic, but it’s also something SP has tackled over the years albeit if not head on: Mr. Garrison has gone from being a man to being a gay man, then a woman trapped inside a man’s body, then a physically reconfigured woman interested in men, then a lesbian, and then back to a man again over the years. So in some ways, it’s an issue the show has had in its mind for years.

The more interesting thing this season is not as much what the show says, but how it is saying it. Ever since “You’re Getting Old,” where Matt and Trey actually flirted with mixing things up, there’s been a certain air of disappointment that the show hasn’t decided to break from tradition a bit and mix things up. It appears that SP is trying to stick to some level of continuity and actually (Gasp, dare I say it?) turn into a serial this season. Butters returns from his suspension from last week in the opening bathroom scene, where Cartman places a bow on his head and identifies as “transginger” in order to use the girls bathroom, setting the larger scene up for the week.

The A plot here focused – again, with continuity – on Randy’s dressing up as Lorde. The gag got some fire from Spin, which I found mostly unwarranted – I didn’t think the show was actually trying to say Randy was Lorde, and I can’t help but wonder if that was the plan last week before the article ran.

Actually bringing Spin into the joke was a great moment – and something SP can pull off with its timetable. I can’t remember the last time SP pulled off such direct commentary on the show’s commentary (The Family Guy trilogy, maybe?), but it’s the kind of smart – and timely – fire that only SP can play with.

The problem then lies on if SP can bring the same enjoyment and laughs from a joke stretched out over a few weeks instead of just one. More and more recently of late the show isn’t quite sure when to let a joke within one 20-some-odd minute plot (or even stretching jokes thin like in the Black Friday trilogy last year) go, so seeing so much time spent to Randy’s Lorde gag with only one real laughable joke (Randy showing Stan how the musical magical transformation process worked) is somewhat disappointing.

But, not making jokes was kind of part of the joke here. There was some heart when Randy was rejected by the other woman at work. Sharon’s speech at the end was a bit telling, and seems to be some quite honest and heartfelt commentary from a show that normally butters its bread on scathing satire. It’s not wrapped in a joke (but still a pop culture reference, through Lorde), but Sharon telling Randy that people who make fun of Lorde (and by extension, make fun of those who identify as transgendered) have “lost touch with being human” and that self expression is the ultimate truth here. This may come off as a whisper from a show known to shout, but that should speak even more volume to what is really being said here. This shouldn’t be an issue. There’s no joke here. Use whatever bathroom you want. A guy dressing up as a girl isn’t news, Spin. Move along.

The way the plots converge though also show something else new: a little foresight. Either there was a plan to have this episode follow last week’s in place and have Randy’s plot converge, or everything lined up really really luckily (I’m guessing its the former). Along with continuity it’s unusual for SP to do this, but it’s exciting that even in its 18th season it still have punches and surprises to pull. (Is being a serial really a surprise or change? For most shows maybe not, but I’d argue for SP it is).

I’m expecting mixed reactions this week (from people thinking SP didn’t go far enough on either side of the issue), and sure, the show is shaking off the new season dust and is still a little muddier in focus than usual. But the joke here seems almost that SP actually showed restraint and didn’t pull a joke: It subverted Spin’s expectations that they were poking fun at Lorde and instead used her to flick off people who are actually bothered at the thought of sharing a bathroom. “The Cissy” might not be quite as crude or funny as SP can be, but it’s trying on a tone it normally doesn’t wear, and just like Randy’s fishnet stockings, the show may take some time to get used to them.

Notes and quotes:

-Normally in any given week for SP once the credits roll, the set up and joke pay off balance has been taken care off. I’m just not so sure if that’s the case here yet. It’s not often I get to say this for South Park: Let’s wait to see where this all is going.

-“It’s more like a royal flush.”

-“He’s not a woman, he’s not a man, he’s something you’ll never understand. But he’d die for me.”

-Frozen poster in the background of Shelly’s room

-so with those whole continuity thing…weren’t Stan and Wendy broken up last week? Is Stan really going through a gender identity crisis? The b plot was pretty undeveloped this week.

-Who was the assistant Cartman had helping him design his bathroom?

-OK, Randy’s gluten free call back got a chuckle out of me.

-Still not sure why everybody was ganging up on Stan, or why Butters still was at the end.

-Similarly to last week, the end here just felt rushed.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Or the review? Be sure to let me know in the comments right here. Go ahead. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Revised 10/9 at 6:37 to fix clarity in the fifth paragraph.