Unlike those pesky dragons that never seem to come, another season of South Park has come and gone. Every year the show enters our lives and forever changes how we view popular culture.
Our South Park reviewers, Chris Longo, David Crow, Nick Harley, have taken a step back, re-watched and re-assessed and they are ready to dish out a few superlatives on the season that was.
Let’s not waste any time here, fellas. Which episode is the best of the season, and therefore makes all the other episodes “jelly”?
Chris Longo: I’m a sucker for episodes where Cartman turns larger-than-life issues, you know, the ones that he has no grasp on whatsoever, into world-stopping theater. Combine that with goofing on a Brad Pitt movie and the anticipation for South Park to finally make a comment on the Trayvon Martin trial, and you get the season’s most complete work, “World War Zimmerman.” I can’t say that I laughed harder all season than when Cartman is found out to be just a fat white kid laying in a pool of his own blood on George Zimmerman’s lawn and as quickly as Zimmerman is lauded as a hero, he is sent to the electric chair. As Cartman awakes from his restless classroom slumber, he rips the “terrible” ending to World War Z. In South Park, Cartman writes his own endings. The final moments of “World War Zimmerman,” with Cartman suggesting that black people were again about to go “nanners,” and a sight of a doomed plane furiously discharging smoke, were perfect.
David Crow: There are two standouts in my mind as classic examples of the South Park perfection, “World War Zimmerman” and “The Hobbit.” At first glance, both are crude, politically incorrect and unapologetically offensive. However, what makes them each bitingly hilarious is how bluntly honest they are (at least from Matt and Trey’s perspective). In “World War,” the rapidity with which we jump from George Zimmerman standing over a blackface-wearing Cartman’s wounded body, and saying, “He’s not black; he’s white,” to Zimmerman being found guilty and executed with extreme Florida prejudice 14 seconds later is an all-time great South Park joke. As is their mockery of that awful, awful Brad Pitt zombie movie. Still, that episode must remain jelly, because I have to give the edge toward “The Hobbit.” Beyond reuniting us with our eternally confused gay fish, the ending of Wendy photoshopping her soul away was not only funny, it was actually somewhat moving. When South Park chooses NOT to throw away an emotion for a punchline, it should be celebrated.
Nick Harley: The only thing I can think about is all of the symbols of the world’s religions morphing into the Van Halen logo. How can the best episode of the season not be “Ginger Cow”? I love how goofy the initial set up is with Cartman putting a red Afro and some freckles on a cow. It was nice to see Cartman in a more childish role and not completely engineering this whole chaotic mess, just simply lighting a small spark and doing nothing to put out the flame. Kyle’s transformation into a religious fart martyr is pretty hilarious and the final reveal of the actual “prophecy” had me laughing into the credits. But still, Van Halen playing “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” to a chorus of “No way, now waaaaay!” is comedic gold.
With another successful three-episode arc completed, would you like to see South Park try more storylines that drag out across multiple episodes?
CL: I much as I enjoyed “Black Friday,” “Imaginationland” and one of my all time favorites, the two-part “Go God Go,” I can’t say that I’d like to see these preconceived arcs take up nearly a quarter of the new season. That being said, I think South Park should mix things up and have themes run throughout entire seasons as they’ve done in the past with Kenny’s extended death, or Mr. Garrison’s sex change. A return of those lingering storylines could help retain those people on the fringe who clamor for “classic South Park.” Though I think this season went a long way in returning to what made the first ten or so seasons so great.
DC: Definitely! In recent years, some of my favorite South Park episodes have been those involving multi-episode arcs. Obviously, their failed crusade against censorship (and the dreaded Family Guy) is always well-remembered, but I also equally love Cartman’s time-quest for the Wii and consider “Imaginationland” to be one of the series’ greatest highlights. I’m even willing to risk another two-part dud like “Pandemic” to get it. While “Black Friday” didn’t reach the levels of “Imaginationland” or “Go God Go,” as a Game of Thrones fan, I will never be able to hear that theme song again without thinking “floppy wiener,” so South Park must be doing something right…you bastards.
NH: Though the Black Friday trilogy had some really great moments, I don’t know if I needed the story to continue for that long. It feels like one of those things where if the writing staff had more time to flesh out ideas they would have been able to fit in everything they needed to say about the Console Wars, Game of Thrones, and Black Friday in one really great episode, instead of using three to get it all out of their system. I just felt by the third episode I had kind of had enough. I don’t know if I really need trilogy episodes every season, especially with the new 10 episodes a year format. I’d rather see more topics get the South Park treatment.
From Alec Baldwin and George R.R. Martin to Foofa and Kayne West, South Park had some memorable celebrity appearances this season. Who was your favorite?
CL: The show is on another level when Mr. Aquaman, I mean Mr. West, is in the building. I loved hearing Alec Baldwin’s terrifying inner thoughts. I rolled off my couch when George R.R. Martin dangled his wiener in Butters’ unsuspecting, innocent face. When it comes down to it, Ye is South Park royalty. Hopefully Matt and Trey’s attempt to ruffle Kanye’s feathers lands their names on a future track. Maybe instead of failing to take a joke, he’ll embrace it this time and release a single called “Gay fish.” Wouldn’t that be something?
“It wasn’t no dragon, so my girl ain’t no hobbit!
That was a Quiznos, and my bitch went to rob it.
Because they got that ham that she rubs on her cellulite,
While she drinking her grog and singing those…merry songs at night?”
NH: Well since I already talked up the Van Halen cameo and everyone knows how great the appearance of those listed in the question were, I’m going to have to show some love to Alec Baldwin. The impersonation from Bill Hader was spot on and his connection with Cartman via Shitter was priceless. Hearing those deep inner Baldwin thoughts, like his recollection of sex with the Queen of Monaco, in that gravely voice just gets me every time.
The MVP award for best character of the season goes to…
CL: As the season finale made clear, inner beauty takes a backseat to surface appearances far too often. Kenny really hasn’t gotten much attention since being the poor kid in school and taking shelter with an agnostic family courtesy of his parents’ affection for Pabst Blue Ribbon. Kenny is glossed over, underappreciated and viciously murdered all the time in South Park. For once, Kenny had his day. Or should I say Kenny had her three days of glory as the beautiful princess with a set of perky titties. Not to mention the Princess Kenny anime scenes win everything. With Randy, Stan and Kyle not on their games this season and Cartman as a strong, but distant second choice, Kenny takes home the trophy.
DC: Princess Kenny is so cool that she can win all of Japan to her side without dying or need of subtitles! We all may enjoy “playing as the chick” from time to time in video game form, but like a defiant pet rat raving for a cliffhanger, Kenny completely owns this idiosyncrasy and becomes a real, honest to R’hllor Anime Princess. He/she may just be cute, but it is one joke that never got old, especially for fans of Game of Thrones or just about any anime ever drawn.
NH: I like Ike. Ike is like a sleeper cell on South Park, you forget all about him for a while and then he’s just dropped on you perfectly. His little bout with steroids this season was definitely one of the funnier things of the year for me. His quest to tame some strange and his incredible attraction to Yo Gabba Gabba characters had me dying, but nothing was funnier than agro-Ike egging Kyle on to kick the baby. Most Valuable Player? Arguably. Most Valuable Canadian? Definitely.
We’ll have to wait a year for new South Park. What are your thoughts on the new 10-episode format?
CL: After 16 years of doing something one way, it can be a refreshing change of pace to take a step back and re-assess the process. It was an uncomfortable transition for longtime fans that grew up with the Fall/Spring format of the series, but after looking at the 10-episode run Matt and Trey just put together, I have to believe this was the best decision for everyone. Season 17 was a significant upgrade from the last half-season run in quality of writing, celeb cameos and overall direction of the show. Maybe it was more time to develop a set direction for the show, rather than come up with ideas on the fly each week. Maybe they just needed an extended break away from these characters. Either way, I was starting think South Park was losing its grip the last few years. This season has restored my faith in the future of South Park. In a perfect world I’d like to see 14 episodes a year but if that means sacrificing the quality of the show then less is more in this case.
DC: Terrible. Admittedly, Season 17 felt a little tighter than last year, and I enjoyed all but two of the episodes this season (though I’m still glaring at you “Goth Kids 3”), but I don’t care; I’m greedy and I want more South Park! Waiting 10 months from now for the return of a series that has cut 4-6 episodes off its season is worse than walking in on your parents watching True Crime docudramas.
NH: I hate it, only because I want more South Park. It’s definitely going to seem like a long wait till the next season, but if the time off allows Trey and Matt to refresh the creative process, then so be it. Less South Park is better than no South Park at all.