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Podcast 113: South Park: The Fractured But Whole Preview, Mario+Rabbids

Well, Ubisoft seems to have taken over the podcast this episode. Will and Willie combine their magical energies to talk about the amazing Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and Willie talks about his recent hands-on demo of South Park: the Fractured But Whole. Listen in!

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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 “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 “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 “#Rehash” Review

South Park “#Rehash” Review

Season 18, Episode 9

 

I knew this was going to be a tricky episode to distance myself from, because I really don’t like PewDiePie.

After 18 seasons and celebrity upon celebrity requests to guest star (especially in the early days) it just seems like a weird olive branch to a segment of the population that already laps up “South Park.” His appearance was pretty innocuous,  but also seemed unnecessary. Is it a South Park-ian way to handle cameos? Perhaps, but it’s also a weird one.

Continuity returned this week – randomly – after not showing up for the past few episodes. I’m not sure if this is on purpose or something they are taking on an episode-by-episode basis or what, but SP needs to pick a direction. If it’s a new format the show wants to stick to then it should do so consistently and not half-ass it like they have been doing so far. It’s inconsistent and its best and haphazard at its worst.

Additionally, if the show is going to bring back and start to serialize plots, it needs to make them stick. Nothing worthwhile really came out of Randy being Lorde, again, and I’m scared to see the show’s attempts at freshening up become just another way for them to stretch jokes out even thinner than usual. Randy rubbing his clit on stage felt much like Randy chopping his dick off last week and, while chuckle-worthy, it wasn’t worth dedicating the entire B plot to him. The show just can’t seem to decide if it actually wants to make fun of Lorde or not, and the song-and-dance is running thin.

Also, does everybody BUT Shelly know that Randy is Lorde?

The main story (story is a strong term for it) saw Kyle not being able to connect with Ike, who decided he would rather watch PewDiePie (and later, Cartman) comment on games than actually play them. It felts somewhat reminiscent to Stan’s journey in “You’re Getting Old,” but also never really got off the ground. The scenes all felt disjointed: Kyle’s “living room is dead”scene was out of place and felt like a joke without a punchline. The celebrity talk show was a rare moment of parody that landed, but was also short and abrupt.

In the past, the show might have turned these moments into big laugh payoffs, or even turned them inward. Perhaps have a nice speech about how there’s more to life than just commenting on stuff, even though that’s all that the show really exists as. Instead, we got another unfocused, haphazard, and tangled mess of an episode that could barely pull off a laugh.

The performer cameos were somewhat humorous, I guess, but when SP tackles an issue that I agree with (that being Let’s Play-ers) and I still don’t find the episode funny or enjoyable, there’s clearly something not working. There are so many aspects of the “Let’s Play” debate to discuss, but the show, which ironically doesn’t have much to say about anything this week, focuses on nothing beside the generational gap LPs are creating between children. The hologram bit isn’t exactly something new – and the show has to work quite a bit harder to sell the music industry is making money off of comments plot still. Sticking to the rehash title of the episode, I’m not really sure why they bothered to bring Michael Jackson back (via hologram) at all. It’s something the show has done twice now and so far, the pay off just isn’t here.

When I’m nearing the end of a strong episode, I often find myself hoping the show makes it a two-parter.  Given how messy this week was though, I can’t say I’m looking forward to another episode of this plot next week.  It is the finale, but eh. It’s going to take one hell of an episode to save this arc, let alone this season.

 

 

Notes and quotes:

 

-Another pretty light week here folks.

 

-This season is really turning into quite the gaming-focused season isn’t it?

 

-”We could go play the game downstairs. Isn’t that better than watching some guy on YouTube play it?”

 

-”Video games are meant to be played in a living room not something to watch people comment on.” (AMEN).

 

-”Why’d you have to rub your clit on stage Dad?”

 

-Wait, so how was Cartman commenting on live events in the show? I know SP logic isn’t real world logic, but it still didn’t make any sense.

South Park “Grounded Vindaloop” Review

South Park “Grounded Vindaloop” Review

Season 18, Episode 7

 
Gulp. Well. That just happened. And just when it looked like season 18 couldn’t sink any lower.

Apparently even when “South Park” doesn’t have much to say, it can still find a way to say nothing for a whole episode. Cartman tricks Butters by making him think his cardboard Oculus Rift sends him into a virtual world, but really Butters is in a virtual world or maybe all of the boys are or maybe the show just took the best idea it had (and it wasn’t a very good one) and just ran with it as long and far as possible.

What resulted was what happens when “South Park” finds one joke and then decides to do it over and over again and stretch it out over the course of 20 some odd minutes and then what happens when “South Park” finds one joke and then decides to do it over and over again and stretch it out over the course of 20 some odd minutes and see isn’t that just really annoying?

Yup. What may have started as a “Total Recall” or Oculus Rift parody comes out the other end of the show’s quick turnaround time as a weak, repetitive, and lazy effort to stretch a thin premise into an entire episode.

Someone pointed out to me a few episodes ago that the show has been picking very “first world” problems to get into this season, and there’s an argument to be made there. Oculus? “South Park’s” main audience segment has probably heard of it, but is it something that a lot of people are talking about? Not really. I’d wager most people still don’t have a clue what Oculus is.

The same could be said for Uber and Lyft. Ride sharing is a problem in big cities and large areas, but there’s a lot of people in the country who probably haven’t heard of them either. I’m not saying “South Park” has to water down its appeal or pander to the lowest common denominator, but there needs to be some relevancy to what it picks each week. Especially with its new and shorter once-a-year run.

There were some good moments – Steve’s dedication to hearing that he had done a good job, and everybody eventually thinking someone else was in on the joke and giving their big drawn out “Fuck you’s,” but that’s not enough to anchor an entire episode on. And an Indian customer service joke is pretty much shooting fish-in-a-barrel at this point.

At the end it turns out that Stan was the one who had the headset on the whole time, not that any of it really mattered. I don’t hate this episode quite as much as I feel like I should – maybe because it does somewhat succeed in creating the mind loop that it was going for – but unlike other shows or movies where the loop matters, here it just really didn’t. It never mattered what was real or what was virtual, giving us another weak and mostly forgettable episode.

 

 

Notes and quotes:

-Not a lot here this week. The show had small chuckles sprinkled throughout, but not much worth noting.

-The show seems really keen on the Cartman/Butters pairing this season

-He doesn’t care, I can continue!

-Little real Butters at the end was kind of cute, I guess.

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.