This South Park review contains spoilers.
South Park Season 23 Episode 9
If you told me at the start of South Park’s 23rd season that an episode centered on Scott Malkinson would be the season’s high point… I would have totally believed you. More often than not, when Matt Stone and Trey Parker give a one-note character a “very special episode,” they turn in a self-contained story that either humanizes the subject or takes us on a wild adventure—multiple episodes that follow Jimmy, and the harrowing golden standard, “Butters’ Very Own Episode,” come to mind.
“Basic Cable” is Scott Malkinson’s long overdue star turn. Mostly relegated to background roles and the occasional one-liner, the character is most notable for A) having diabetes and an aggressive lisp B) being ripped on for those ailments. Scott’s episode is titled “The Scott Malkinson Show” in accordance with how each episode this season has been stylized and introduced as something other than South Park. It’s part spy thriller, part diabetes love story. It has absolutely no business being as good as it is, which illustrates a key joke in the episode about niche television prevailing as a preferred artform in 2019.
Scott Malkinson’s dad, a cable TV repairman, would strongly disagree with that sentiment. His kind is losing business to cord cutters. The window of time for cable TV may be dwindling, but in the short term that means longer windows of time for cable repairmen to stroll in the park, watch a movie, hit the tanning bed, and, eventually, check your cable box. All Scott wants is to watch The Mandalorian on Disney+, but Mr. Malkinson, in an effort to preserve his livelihood, rejects bringing streaming into his home. It’s a bummer for Scott for sure, but one he’ll get over. That’s until a new girl in school, who also has diabetes, wants to watch The Baby Yoda Show with our protagonist. Scott, a diabetic punching bag, finally has a chance for a “normal” childhood. “You’re totally my type…” Scott says to his new crush, “Type 1 diabetes.”
The fact that I can quickly recount or summarize the plot of an episode without confusion or rolling my eyes is a first for South Park season 23. So “Basic Cable” has that going for it. It also, for the second episode in a row, feels like it gets back to the basics of South Park. Give the kids a goal, and let them do silly kid shit to get there. They want a new video game? They have to open the pipes in Kyle’s basement and collect her sloppy mud pies in a bucket. Scott wants a girlfriend? He’s forced to hit the street corner to trade his insulin for a Disney+ password… from Nathan of all people. That is the good stuff. That is the South Park we love. For all the complaints we’ve had in our reviews this year, the show thrives when it expands its universe and lets minor characters share the spotlight. We’ve spent so much time with the main boys and characters like Randy; it’s become a welcome sight when they’re reduced to supporting roles and can pitch in one-liners from the sidelines.
My only real criticism of the episode stems from the overall direction of the season. The “episodic” format of the season is a gag I really enjoy. The results have been middling at best and it felt like only this week did they figure out how to tie it all together as a commentary on peak/niche/streaming etc. TV. It’s simple, creative, and super fun. If they want to spinoff The Whites & The Blacks on Hulu or Crab People on HBO Max, I’ll be ready to stream it. Hell, I already downloaded the Canada Ploos app to my Roku.
With more planning and production time, this idea could have rivaled any recent season of the show. As great as it is that South Park doesn’t take two and a half years to produce five episodes like other (phenomenal) animated shows, there needs to be some middle ground. Matt and Trey continue to be stubbornly hamstrung by their own format. It’s a small gripe this week, though, since The Scott Malkinson Show feels like it was made for me. What more can we ask for from a dinosaur show that still airs weekly on basic cable?
“Basic Cable” was also the best episode of the season for screengrabs. See my favorites below.