Zero here. I know I normally cover video games, but I’m coming at you today with some more TV content. Got a problem with that? Whatever! I do what I want! And that’s more than just a reference I made for my own pleasure (not like that, you sicko!), like it normally would have been. I have something I must get off my chest. Please bear with me, as this isn’t easy to say. *Inhales deeply* Gooooooooooldust! No, that wasn’t it. *Inhales deeply* South Park sucks now. I know you already saw the title (and maybe even clicked through it to get here!), so this doesn’t come as a surprise to you, (Gooooooooooldust! I bet that did, though!) but it’s really hard for me to admit it. I’ve loved South Park for years now, and, battered wife that I am, I still tune it to every new episode, even though they’re generally crap now.
If you watch the commentary (guilty), you’ll hear Mr. Parker say that the episode isn’t about their growing dissatisfaction with making the show, but, honestly, I don’t believe him. The episode ends on the lowest of notes, with the Marsh family falling apart and Stan’s descent into cynicism (if not full on nihilism) showing no signs of changing course. It’s also worth noting that their musical, The Book of Mormon, just opened three months prior to this episode, proving that, at the very least, their energies were diluted, if not fully diverted. I know they’ve previously worked on other projects without hurting South Park, such as when they made Team America: World Police, a movie I shoehorninto my videosway more often than I should. But back then, the quality of South Park remained despite their work on the movie, as opposed to today. Now, we have the fucking Memberberries. God damn, I hate them. Memberberries AREN’T FUNNY! That “joke” is Family Guy tier shlock and it deserves to die in the dumpster fire that is South Park Season 20.
So why even bring these up? Other than a reminder to myself of what I used to love about the show, it also illustrates a point about using absurdity to make cogent arguments. If a 40th trimester abortion sounds crazy (AND IT SHOULD!), then where do we draw the line? If the child is considered alive at 8 years old, what about at 7 years? 5? 1? A month? The day before delivery (or, perhaps, the day before abortion)? The moment of conception? If you don’t like the issues in the last few paragraphs, don’t worry. Matt Stone once famously remarked, “I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals.” This statement shows that the show really does target both sides. In a few episodes, you’re bound to find some you agree with.
Or could it really just be that I’ve missed the most important point of all from South Park? You know, I’ve learned something. South Park taught me not to take anything too seriously. But don’t blame me. That’s just my shtoyle!
It’s truly painful watching the slow slide into shit this show is on. Believe me, we’re way past the point of mere mediocrity. But, like so many other things, Simpsons did it. I used to feel the same way about The Simpsons. I used to watch the show religiously, but I haven’t tuned in in years, and I’m better off for it.
Every time I watch one of these new episodes, I can’t help but run the opportunity cost in my head. I could have, instead, watched a half an episode of Stranger Things. I could have played through Contra III: The Alien Wars again. I could have watched a rerun of King of the Hill. Hell, at this point, I think I’d come out ahead choosing an extra 20 minutes of sleep…
We are only a year removed from a Presidential election that honestly lampoons itself simply by happening! Our choices were an incompetent boob and a vindictive cunt (equal opportunity. After the dicks and wieners above, gotta let the ladies have their turn)! And even now, somehow, the incompetent boob was still the better (bad) choice! Look at all those sexual trysts coming to light from Hollywood, the media in general, and in politics! I’d bet when you read that list above, you probably thought to yourself, “Yeah, but he forgot (name of pervert).” And you’re probably right! I honestly wonder who will come to light between the writing of this article and when it actually gets published! How on Earth (the planet, not the reality show that Joozian Harvey Weinstein is being blackmailed into keeping on the air) can you possibly amplify what is going on now and still be funny?
5. They ARE the establishment, so they no longer rebel against it
What are your top 10 favorite episodes of South Park? “Good Times with Weapons” and “Make Love, Not Warcraft” are in them. Either that, or you haven’t seen these episodes yet, in which case, as soon as you finish reading this article, go watch them. Seriously, they’re amazing. Why? Because they’re just the boys being boys, completely oblivious to the world around them. South Park is famous for lampooning real socio-political events, and I don’t want that to change, I just don’t want to give up the simple brilliance of episodes like these in the process. I don’t want fried gold offerings like “Lil’ Crime Stoppers” to wind up being relegated to “Treehouse of Horror” status, but at this point, they’re well on their way.
And I’ll be totally honest for a second. I missed an episode this season (“Doubling Down”). But other than research for this article, I can’t really say I truly missed watching it (there’s that honesty again). I’m not the first person to write an article trashing South Park, but I am one of the first two decade loyalists to do so. I am one of those diehard fans they aren’t listening to.
7. We live in a hyperbolic society now
For the longest time, South Park’s MO was to take some socio-political event going on at the time and blow it up to a ridiculous degree, then basically ask, “Do you still believe this?” Take episodes like “ManBearPig” or “Smug Alert!” These episodes put environmentalists in the crosshairs, in Al Gore’s case, by name. In “ManBearPig,” the Goracle is reduced to the status of a bleating street preacher predicting doom and gloom as he makes repeated calls to fend off the forces of the eponymous threat, an obvious allegory for global warming. The master satirists even double down (no, not the episode) in a later episode called “Imaginationland.” In this three part mini-series, ManBearPig (remember, he’s a stand in for global warming) is depicted in Imaginationland itself, along with Santa Claus, Aslan, Zeus, and a litany of other imaginary characters. Parker and Stone are simply exaggerating Gore’s claims to an absurd degree to make a point. His modern day “the sky is falling rhetoric” is just silly.
At least the recent South Park video games are still great!
1. They don’t seem like they’re into it, and they have even signaled this themselves
These aliens are known as the Joozians (make of that what you will). Despite the boys’ best efforts to save the show, and thus the planet, Earth, the Joozians stonewall. In an insightful bit of wit, they say that after 100 episodes, tv shows tend to decline in quality, so it’s really not surprising (this episode was the 97th episode of South Park). It’s worth noting that one of the Joozians looks suspiciously like Harvey Weinstein, to the point that it’s clearly not a coincidence. Yep, we’re going there! As the episode unfolds, Totally Not Weinstein and the other Joozian take some drugs and sexually abuse Kenny, which the boys document through photographic evidence. They then threaten to go public with it unless Earth is allowed to continue unabated. This was in 2003, by the way, and this story was well known even then. The New York Times spiked the Weinstein story for 14 years before coming forward with it now (ask yourself why…).
4. They’ve clearly lived in Hollywood too long…
Or at least it used to.
Most television shows live and die by the ratings. Knowing how many people are watching a program (and who they are demographically) is key to generating ad revenue. As a ratings juggernaut (bitch), it makes sense that South Park is one of Comedy Central’s flagship shows.
Actually, if you’ll indulge me in a quick aside, it’s tragic that King of the Hill isn’t still running. That show is perfectly suited to our world right now. Just think of the opportunities! There’s absolutely, positively no way that Hank would have even considered voting for Hillary. But he already dislikes New Yorkers, and when he finds out that Trump eats his steak well done (“We ask them politely, yet firmly, to leave”) and with ketchup on it? That would be a funny episode. Or what about the kneelball protests going on in the NFL (National Felon League)? Or what about a Dale-centric episode about the recent release of the JFK files? And if you’re a fan of the show, just my mentioning these ideas is enough for you to envision the outcomes because the characters are so perfectly developed. But let’s wrap up my South Park ramblings.
3. They rarely have episodes of just the boys being boys now
For most of South Park’s existence, every single episode included a celebrity of some sort, often in an extremely unflattering way. For example, in the episode “Fat Butt and Pancake Head,” Ben Affleck (more on him in a second), unable to distinguish between Jennifer Lopez and a crude drawing on Eric Cartman’s hand, starts some heavy petting with the boy. Cartman ends up giving Affleck a handjob before the scene is finished. These critical portrayals of celebrities were so common, that the warning/intro even refers to it!
By the way, don’t listen to any of these phony assholes expressing outrage at all of this now. It’s been An Open Secret for years. It’s not like they didn’t know. Frankly, the posturing they’re doing now is clearly just that, as less than a year ago, these same sick fucks were heaping praise on the likes of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. They were involved in sex scandals in Hollywood before it was cool… And another quick aside, if I may, remember these names: Bryan Singer and Dan Schneider. There’s a very good chance you’ll be able to add those names to the above paragraph soon. I bring all this up because it makes it abundantly clear that Parker and Stone now value Hollywood over humanity, and this season proves it. And there’s a reason for that…
Finally… (The Rock has come back to South Park!)
Even worse were the seasons where they attempted (key word) to maintain a narrative throughout an entire season. They only did this for seasons 18-20, with each getting progressively worse. Honestly, 18 wasn’t that bad, with only minor elements carrying forward from episode to episode. It’s 19 where they decide to make it important, and 20 where they went absolutely apeshit with the idea. I really don’t think it’s the case that Parker and Stone are incapable of good narrative writing. Their movies are great (Cannibal: The Musical ftw!), and they fairly frequently have 2 and 3 part South Park episodes, both of which are proof of their prowess. I just think this show really isn’t designed to do that. And when you look up the ratings, I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Honestly, I’ve been so upset with the poor quality of these last few seasons that I set out to write this article absolutely full of venom. And it shows. This is the first article on this site to use the word fuck! And cunt! And Jennifer Lopez! And make no mistake, I really am mad at the trash that’s currently masquerading as South Park. But as I’ve been going back through old episodes to make my points in this article, it has rekindled my love of the older, far superior content. No matter how bad the show gets (and since the current contract runs through Season 23 with 304 episodes, it WILL get bad…), nothing will take away from the brilliance of classic South Park.
Way back in season 7 (you know, when the show was still good…?), we are treated to a fantastic episode called “Cancelled.” This episode starts out remarkably similar to the first one, offering some delicious commentary on reboots and remakes in the process, but that’s not why I’m bringing it up. This time around, the boys wind up aboard a spaceship where they meet some aliens. These aliens are the producers of the reality show, Earth, which, due to declining ratings (more on that in a second…), is about to be cancelled (roll credits).
But look around you. How can you possibly exaggerate the world today? Every possible action is already dialed up to 15 out of 10! Trey Parker and Matt Stone did nothing wrong this time. Instead, it’s, well, the rest of the world, which has steadily become the absurdity that older South Parks warned us about. It’s even within the realm of possibility that this very issue is at least a partial cause of some of the other glaring flaws I’ve already brought up!
2. The format change isn’t doing them any favors
Let’s start with the obvious: the episode “You’re Getting Old.” In this episode, Stan celebrates his 10th birthday and finds that everything in the world is just crap now. He can’t see things as he used to. Instead of seeing movies as they are, he sees nothing but shit on the screen. The parallels are obvious. Matt and Trey themselves were in their 40s by this season (15).
Fast forward to 2017. We all know about Weinstein now (and if you somehow don’t and you want to remain in your delusional blue-pilled world, don’t look it up). So Matt and Trey are sure to have the long knives out now, right? I mean, come on. They’ve been in the know on this for 14 years now! So what’s their take? This season, their offering was “Sons a Witches,” and, trust me, the title of the episode is the best part of it… The takeaway of the episode, which they beat over your head without the slightest hint of subtlety, is that we shouldn’t turn the Weinstein sexual scandal into some sort of witch hunt. Given Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Louis CK, Marty Weiss, Jeremy Piven, Bill Cosby, Marc Collins-Rector, Brett Ratner, Dustin Hoffman, George Takei, Ed Westwick, James Toback, Charlie Sheen, Jeffrey Tambor, Steven Seagal (real life inspiration for Dan Hibiki!), Matthew Weiner (what is it about this last name that drives people to sexual illegality? Anthony Weiner says “hi!” Feel free to look up his own child sexting scandal some time, among other things), Ben Affleck (told ya!), Andy Dick (really?), Mark Halperin, Danny Masterson, and a whole slew of other creeps have various levels of allegations against them at the moment, this episode REALLY isn’t aging well, and it’s not even that old yet…
South Park’s meteoric rise up the ratings was truly impressive. At its peak, the show garnered over 6 million views per episode. Of course, this was unsustainable, but the show settled for a happy medium, averaging about 3 millions views per episode over the next several years. But the last time the program pulled ratings like these was season 15. Since then, it’s been a steady slide down, to the point that the show can’t even promise 1 million views per episode any more. In fact, the series has experienced about a half a million view drop off from last season (bad in its own right) to this one (even worse). But by all means, don’t take my word for it! Look up the ratings yourself! I’ll even provide you a link with which to do so (http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/daily-ratings/wednesday-cable-ratings-october-18-2017/). And, as is so often the case, Matt and Trey seem to be aware of this. While the recent episode “Moss Piglets” is about the declining ratings of the NFL, it’s not a stretch to compare that to the dwindling ratings of this show. Speaking of which, that episode did break a million views, but just barely.
Also consider the show’s treatment of Trump. Trump is the embodiment of anti-establishment. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make fun of Trump (far from it), but contrast last season’s vicious treatment of Trump with the kid gloves they used for Hillary Clinton (whom they actively propped up this season). It’s tantamount to a tacit endorsement! Everyone everywhere in pop culture dumps on Trump, to the point of it becoming boring background noise. South Park used to sustain itself on its outsider approach to politics and going against the grain, but now they’re happily falling in line with everybody else. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have become the embodiment of Stan, textbook hippie man. Once you wanted revolution; now you’re the institution (Hat tip Ben Folds).
For years, I used to go back and forth between Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Mike Judge as to who was best, particularly through the lens of being anti-Hollywood. There’s no more need for vacillation, as Parker and Stone are not only rapidly destroying their once great iconic show, but they’re also cozying up to Hollywood. And that’s never a good thing.
As you can probably guess, now these sentiments seem to be disappearing. Season 19 started strong with the addition of PC Principal. Annoying by design, he was an excellent representation of the speech policing PC culture. The problem is that the big payoff to the season wasn’t what was wrong with political correctness (and the Orwellian through crime that comes with it…). Instead, it was that political correctness could be hijacked by corporate interests. The season even ends on the heavy-handed note of PC Principal vowing to double down on his efforts to make South Park as politically correct as possible. Sadly, it seems that he has succeeded. Perhaps Matt and Trey got marched off to “The Death Camp of Tolerance” while nobody was paying attention.
This is a show that prided itself for years on being a blatantly anti-establishment show. And that was when it was at its best. The show began during a climate of political correctness and it was instrumental in defeating that abomination. For the first few years, the boys regularly threw around the word “fag.” At no point do I think Trey and Matt intended to slight gay people. Rather, I believe they were using the word as a bludgeon against the PC police. They even have multiple episodes devoted to free speech, such as “It Hits the Fan” and “The F Word.”
6. They aren’t listening to their fans
Remember the good old days when you got 6 or 7 South Parks, waited a few months, then got 6 or 7 more? I do! It was just 5 years ago, but it feels like an eternity. Now we get a single run of 10 episodes with a few “blackout” weeks where no new content runs, then we have to wait an interminable 40ish weeks for new South Park! The old way saw us waiting half as long for more (and better, see above) content.
Or at least I used to be.
Another of my favorite examples of this is from the episode, “Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut.” You gotta love South Park episode titles! This one takes a jab at the pro-choice lobby when Liane Cartman visits Unplanned Parenthood. She explains to the receptionist that she just can’t raise a child in this screwy world. As the conversation unfolds, Ms. Cartman reveals that her “fetus” is 8 years old. When Unplanned Parenthood refuses to perform the 40th trimester abortion (known to anyone with sense as murder), Liane screams, "Keep your laws off my body," then sleeps her way up the government chain of command all the way to Bill Clinton in order to legalize 40th trimester abortions.