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South Park “The City Side of Town” Review

South Park “The City Side of Town” Review
Season 19, Episode 3

“South Park” is starting to get caught up in its own joke, and while the last two episodes were funny enough to warrant this, this week resulted in one of the show’s more tame – and bland – offerings.

This week kicked off with a Jimmy Fallon monologue making fun of South Park…and the town taking it quite hard. Randy, now one of the more progressive voices in town, decided that the town needs a Whole Foods to help the image problem. How is South Park going to attract a high-end business like Whole Foods? With its own new fancy shopping and food district; SodoSopa.

Of course, this new planning development is set to go right where Kenny lives. But, in order to keep that original architecture that hipsters like, the new developments are built ridiculously close to and surrounding our orange-coated little friends abode. These new businesses are also pulling customers away from Tuong Lu Kim’s City Wok, who then decided to start using child labor (with Kenny signing up, because he apparently decided he needed a job) to try to put a stop to SodoSopa.

Meanwhile, a Whole Foods representative visited town, trying to go around and see if South Park actually is progressive enough to warrant such a chain to finally move in. Randy and the Mayor are on damage control, trying to make sure everything is spick and span and that nothing goes wrong.

To fight back, Kenny puts together a video for City Wok (which had one of the biggest laughs of the night), and Randy and the rest of the adults rush to try to stop things before the Whole Foods guy finds the child labor force. The advertisement for the Lofts (and then the Residences, and then the Villas at Kenny’s house) at SodoSopa was a pretty good bit, but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen the show do before, and it’s not really a surprise when everything backfires and the whole endevour erupted into a fight between the adults and Kim’s child labor force.

For some reason the Whole Foods guy decided the town putting in effort was enough, and still granted them a Whole Foods. Kenny used the money he made to buy his sister a doll; an oddly saccharine gesture, but one that also seems to be grounding the show in more down-to-earth moments.

The underlying concept that Kim represented an older (and more racist) part of the show was an interesting idea, but one that never really developed. And, while it spends a whole episode on the idea of gentrification, it never really dug into the issue, or said anything about it, aside from taking a few shots and pointing out how silly it can sometimes be. That’s pretty sub-par fare, as far as the show is concerned, and a disappointment after the wit the show displayed last week.

There’s a bigger underlying problem though, and one that is going to get riskier and riskier the longer the season wears on. The problem that “South Park” faces is that as it continues to develop the whole PC-ification of the show, it risks the joke no longer being a joke and “South Park” becoming a run-of-the-mill, more ordinary and PC-friendly, cartoon. Some may argue that South Park lost its fire some time ago, but either way it would be sad to see “South Park” so caught up in its own commentary that it loses what made it different and unique in the first place. Maybe – just maybe – that’s the point and what Matt and Trey are working for this season, but hopefully not. There are places the show could still take the joke, but it needs to be careful not to get too caught up in itself, and as a result actually creating a future where a tamer, and less funny, “South Park” is the norm.

Notes and quotes:

-Not a lot of laughs this week, but a few good lines.

-“We’re gentrifying, it’s all good.”

-No swearing, no weirdness, and no speeches.

-“from Colorado’s many oceans” may have been the best laugh of the week

-“Lets go child labor force, let’s go.”

-“Why do the economically challenged have to screw up everything?”

-the butcher scene (the reclaimed metals bit especially)

-wait, is Garrison not teaching anymore?

-“Are the Mexicans actually staying? Shushh.”

South Park Season 18 Episode 04 “Handicar” Review: Quite a car wreck

Well, that one was rough.

Lyft and and Uber have been in the news a lot, and given the ridiculousness both sides have turned to, and the attempts taxi cab companies have taken to try to shut them down, the whole thing should be rife with comedic possibilities.

The problem? Bringing back Nathan and Mimsy from “Crippled Summer.” The whole Rocky and Mugsy bit wasn’t that funny then, and it still isn’t that funny now. And the ice-on-top-of-the-water thin comparison between Nathan’s plans always backfiring and Lyft and Uber’s doing the same, well, it just wasn’t enough to fuel a whole episode.

Therese’s only one real plot this week, centering on Timmy. He has just started a brand new handicar service that allows the merry residents of SP to use an app and have Timmy pick them up wherever they need to go. Convenient? Yup. Timmy is using the money to fund-raise for summer camp, which Nathan doesn’t want to go to again, so he and Mimsy set out to shut down Handicar for good.

But, instead of centering on developing the taxi cab union, Tesla, or anyone else really, everything eventually boils down to Nathan and Mimsy coming up with a plan, trying to sell it with another snake and sheep herder metaphor, the plan backfiring, and Nathan getting raped in a bathroom (At least it wasn’t a shark?).

Of course, only Mimsy (and as Nathan put it, he’s mentally disabled) brings up the real point: Why don’t taxi cab drivers just make their service better in an attempt to compete with Timmy? Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to save the taxi cab companies after all?

It’s the only real clear message that comes through in a quite muddled episode. I’m not quite sure where the show was going with the whole special treatment because of a handicap thing. Was it calling out the ride share services for getting special treatment? The parody just seemed mismatched. SP brought it up several times, only for the show to then seemingly back away from it, leaving nowhere to land.

And then there’s “Wacky Racers.” The “Wacky Racers” segment took up quite a bit of time at the end of the episode, and as far a “South Park” homage goes, was pretty cut and dry. It never really elevated itself past a cutesy connection (and sure, it’s one that probably only “South Park” would make), but it’s something that probably seemed like a way better idea in the writer’s room at crunch time than one that nearly a half an episode should be based off of. There’s a certain crowd for a “Wacky Racers” throwback joke, but it was a bit of a reach and let’s be honest, it’s something most “South Park” viewers (myself included) are probably going to have to Google first to get any referential humor from. A smirk? Sure. Any kind of real humor or laughter? Not anything that couldn’t be gotten from regular Saturday morning cartoons.

Instead, the show takes its one good idea about the whole situation, shoves it early in the episode, and waddles around chasing a car parody for the rest of it. Throw in outdated pop culture references and a major lack of jokes, and what we got was one of the weakest episodes in some time. SP is running lesser episodes than usual now, so in theory it really shouldn’t have missteps this bad.

I mean, if even Matthew McConaughey couldn’t save an episode, it couldn’t have been that great to begin with. Timmy!

Notes and quotes:
-Timmy/Jimmy episodes are rarely my favorite, this being no exception to that.

-Got a few chuckles out of the Hummer salesman coming back, but does it really fit in with the rest of the stakeholders here?

-“And I thought a shark was bad.”

– OK, the president of Tesla hitting Mimsy was worth a chuckle, at least.

-“Driven by an angry Russian.”

-One one Lorde mention….is this season’s continuity over?

-I’m counting this as somewhat of a throwback to the Timmy Express in “The Stick of Truth,” even if that may be stretching it a bit.