jason stives goes on down to south park to meet some friends of mine…
If there is one thing to be said about South Park it’s that it remains consistent after all these years. A show once designated as being the most controversial show on cable television has conquered in its timeslot for 16 seasons and went from being the thorn in the side of parent groups to being an expected look at today’s issues through a filthy lens. Many say that the show’s best days are behind them but the show is still capable of delivering a firecracker of an episode even if a great episode is few and far in between the good episodes and the so so ones. Tonight’s first episode of the second batch of Season 16 episodes “Sarcastaball” showcased the show’s best hallmarks while displaying a bit of age in how the show creates jokes only to bury them throughout the show’s running time.
South Park has always reveled in current social commentary and this episode was no different but it relied less on what’s happening in the now than usual allowing for some original and very funny moments. Tonight’s episode dealt with Randy Marsh’s sudden detest of the no kick off ruling of South Park Elementary’s football team and after sarcastically recommending that the school’s team should wear bras and compliment the opposing team, the school enacts ultimately what is referred to as sarcastaball, where balloons are tossed instead of pigskin and opposing teams hug instead of tackle. The result is a nationwide sensation that goes all the way up to the National Football league. The boys hate the sudden change but the constant persistence of teammate Butters to show how great they are reenergizes their doubts.
Months back IGN.com did an article ranking the Top 30 characters on South Park and to no surprise Randy Marsh was Number 2 behind Cartman. A character that once started out as a generic father morphed into an overdramatic, youth seeking father capable of being just as ridiculous as the boys on the show. The antics have become a little more reserved but the constant stupidity is still there and tonight was no difference. Some of the sarcasm was so spot on including a fan rant about the constant TV presence of soul singer Cee Lo Green.
For those quick to be grossed out by Butter’s bottling and eventually marketing his “goo” this isn’t exactly new territory for the show as we have seen Cartman profess to indulge in some very weird consumptions and that includes said “goo” (I’ll give you a hint…the goo is semen!). Butters has in many way become the fifth Beatle of the South Park gang and rightfully so. His childlike innocence plays great in contrast to the vulgar bluntness of the main four. Here it’s his innocence that takes center stage as he quickly becomes the unofficial coach of South Park Elementary Sarcastaball team when Randy Marsh becomes the head coach of the Denver Broncos, now a scarcastaball team themselves.
As demonstrated in the excellent TV special from earlier this year “Six Days to Air,” South Park is written and produced in less than a week allowing time for the jokes and trends of that week to fit squarely into the bulls eye of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Two of this past week’s jokes were placed perfectly into this episode, the mockery of NFL alumni with health issues and the current replacement refs debacle, and both were done only briefly to avoid being stale jokes by episode’s end but that didn’t work for all the themes running through this episode.
The one fundamental flaw that runs in South Park’s ability to create episode trending jokes is they run it squarely into the ground. Take tonight’s two main themes of sarcasm and Butter’s unnecessary sports goo. What worked for the bulk of the episode’s first two acts fell flat the more it was explored and in this case culminating in the sports approved use of the goo and Randy’s diagnosis of terminal sarcasm made the show’s set up run out of steam. This happened at the beginning of Season 15 with the “HumancentiPad” episode with Cartman and his constant belief that his mother was screwing him over. It’s the risk you run with this show but it trends and normally pays off initially and in remembrance down the line.
Like it or hate it for its inconsistencies, the 14 episode season orders of South Park are far fresher than most animated sitcoms in this day and age. Sure, not every episode is a classic or even that good but what do you expect from a show produced in six days. Better yet, how many shows can you think of that can pull out quality that good in six days? Most shows are done over months and the final result can be just as crappy as even the worst episodes of South Park. Bottom-line, this was an entertaining episode for the most part despite some staleness towards the show’s climax. Here’s to another 6 weeks of potential glory or animated misfire.
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)
All Images Credit: Comedy Central