After the show’s awful sixteenth season, I honestly thought South Park was going to die. However, the seventeenth season was announced, and before the first episode aired, it sounded very tantalizing. The creators of the show had unveiled the new title sequence, indicating promises of new life being breathed into the dying classic. The other two good signs were the announcement of additional writers, and the show being scaled back to a full season of only 10 episodes. All that was great, except for one thing, it didn’t feel any different.
With the impression I got three months ago, I honestly thought that this would be the year South Park finally crawls out of its rut after a string of bad episodes. While there’s definitely less emphasis on gore for its own sake (which is an improvement), there are many ways in which I felt that the new series has failed.
The new series started on a very weak note with “Let Go, Let Gov”, which was supposed to be a reaction to the NSA surveillance scandal. I honestly thought that they went somewhere with making Butters look like Jesus, but it wound up going the completely wrong way, with absolutely none of the jokes being funny except for the very last scene.
Immediately following it was “Informative Murder Porn”, which, again, is a weaker episode, but perhaps not as weak as the first episode of the new series. I felt that its heart was in the right place, but I think they’re coming off really desperate in a search for subjects to take the p*ss out of, though the ending was definitely enjoyable.
“World War Zimmerman”, on the other hand, simply took the George Zimmerman trial (which I frankly wasn’t interested in) and used it to make a belated movie parody seem relevant, and while some of that episode was funny, I highly doubt that it was that great. The following episode, “Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers”, featured a radical departure from the usual structure, placing the goth kids as the main characters. Though I didn’t like the “goth” version of the title sequence, I felt that they were genuinely being creative with that episode, even if the jokes were a bit “hit or miss”.
After that comes one of the best episodes of the new series: “Taming Strange”. This is the episode where, due to an Intellilink screw-up (kind of like the Obamacare website), Ike receives hormone medication and starts lashing out against Kyle, and setting children’s TV mascot Foofa on the road to being a sex symbol. This, I feel, is among the strongest episodes of the new series, mainly because of Mr. Mackey’s genuine incompetence, and how well the jokes worked. However, it’s sad that it was followed by perhaps one of the worst of the new episodes: “Ginger Cow”.
In “Ginger Cow”, there was nothing that was really enjoyable (except for that Van Halen concert), and it basically creates another stupid “Kyle vs. Cartman” scenario, except Cartman gets everything he wants and is never punished for his actions. Just the fact that Kyle is basically surrendering to Cartman for peace was just intolerable, and it wasn’t even funny.
At that point, the new series had only four chances to redeem itself, and it almost did with the Black Friday trilogy.
“Black Friday” sees the kids preparing to go to war over the next-gen consoles as they try to use the Black Friday bargains to get them for cheap, all while parodying Game of Thrones. The trilogy is actually very well done, to the point that it’s as though the writers focused all their efforts on those three episodes. “A Song of Ass and Fire” (which is my favourite in the new series) pushes it even further, by deconstructing George R. R. Martin as a wiener-obsessed author who likes to delay things for it’s own sake, and all in hilarious fashion. The last part of the trilogy, “T****s and Dragons”, while definitely the weakest in the trilogy, manages to keep the same spirit. However, I can’t help but think that they just let Microsoft win the console wars with absolutely no qualms, even in spite of their obvious desire for a monopoly over the games industry.
The Black Friday trilogy was good, but I think the thing that ruins the whole series once again is the last episode.
In “The Hobbit” (not to be confused with Tolkien’s famous novel), the writers attempt a belated look at photoshopped images of famous women, all while giving no funny jokes to the main plot, with the only funny jokes going to the Kanye West side-plot.
For me, “The Hobbit” is the worst episode, and it’s not even because of the jokes. First of all, it’s a pretty lousy way to end the series, especially since it comes right after “T****s and Dragons”. Secondly, the issue of photoshopped images damaging the self-esteem of young girls is something that they could have handled earlier, and in a better fashion. And third, the ending sees Wendy surrendering to the media just so people will stop hating her, even after she said that she didn’t care what people thought of her.
Overall, there were only four episodes of the new series that could really be considered good. The rest are either mediocre or terrible, and I think that’s bad news for South Park.
I guess it’s time to finally accept that South Park will never go back to its glory days, and that it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation, because let’s face it, a TV show shouldn’t really get as far as seventeen seasons anyway, and now that South Park has gotten that far, the age is definitely showing. However, if there really is going to be an eighteenth season, then I think it’s only fair to give the writers one more chance.