by Michael Neelsen
The warrantless three-part “Imaginationland” series was one of the show’s worst over-reaches.
What the hell happened to “South Park”?
As it turns out, a couple of things. Number one: the show got too big.
I don’t mean too big in terms of popularity. I mean their stories got too big. It seems like every episode now climbs to a life and death situation on the cusp of Armageddon (or at least the end of the town). I mean, seriously… Imaginationland? Cthulu? This is not the same show that used to be about building club houses, bad parenting and learning to read. It’s gotten all wacky on us, and this is nothing new.
I would argue we’ve been on this path for the past four-and-a-half seasons, ever since Season 10 and the killing of Chef. In retrospect, Chef’s death symbolized the death of something else – the show we all used to love.
That brings me to the second problem with the show: It isn’t genuine anymore.
Remember back when the boys got all freaked out because they found a joint in the woods and nobody wanted to touch it for fear of becoming an addict? Or when they were convinced they had to build a ladder to heaven to find Kenny and get their ticket back for the candy shopping spree? And who can forget the countless classic Terrance and Phillip fart jokes? This was a simple show about simple characters executed with simple animation. One of the best elements of the show was that it depicted children as children really are!
Good luck doing that with episodes about battling a monster version of Tooth Decay or stopping a Comic Robot from destroying the planet. Those premises are too massive to allow any time for genuine moments between the boys. It all just devolves into, “Quick! We gotta stop them!” and “Oh, my God! Look out!” After a while, I think creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone forget they’re supposed to be funny, not creating genuinely perilous situations for their construction paper characters to survive.
The whole Cthulu thing was just boring and stupid.
The worst offender had to be the Britney Spears episode from Season 12, entitled Britney’s New Look. In it, the boys meet Britney Spears who soon kisses the barrel of a shotgun and blows her head off. She survives however, and her handlers pressure her to perform with only her lower jaw attached. The “message” of the episode (every episode needs a message now) was obviously that the industry and fans don’t know the stress they put on their pop culture idols. But if Trey and Matt would get off their soap boxes for thirty seconds, they would re-watch that episode and realize that literally half of that 22-minute episode is devoid of any humor whatsoever. It’s just making points. This show didn’t use to be about making points.
All of this is so disappointing as a long-time fan, because I remember hearing Trey Parker admit over and over again that his favorite moments of the show are always the moments in which they can watch and say to each other, “That’s a real kid. That’s the way a kid would be.” I can’t remember the last time I had that thought go through my head during a South Park episode.
The third and final problem with the new “South Park” in my opinion is that they got lazy. Three-parters? Really? Are you guys that strapped for content? In the past four seasons we have seen at least two three-parters on subjects that hardly warranted one episode, an episode criticizing the film Inception by plagiarizing another criticism of the film from an internet video (Trey and Matt later said they hadn’t even seen Inception before criticizing it – stupid – because they couldn’t find a theatre in Los Angeles that was playing the film – even more stupid), a 200th episode celebratory two-parter in which they literally rehash every old joke ever and the reinvention of tons of characters (from turning Kenny’s death every episode into a “superpower” to the Chinese owner of City Wok actually being a Caucasian man with multiple personality syndrome).
Not to mention the fact that every new episode nowadays basically consists of mercilessly beating the same two or three jokes over the head over and over again until you start to almost resent Trey and Matt for snookering you into watching their show again.
The show we used to know as “South Park” isn’t on television anymore and I don’t think it’s coming back. The last episode of that show took place in Season 9. After that, the show became a spotty, if sometimes very funny but mostly bizarre, cartoon that makes you completely forget about what once was and what geniuses Trey Parker and Matt Stone once were.