Coming off the first Mr. Garrison-focused episode in seven seasons, the town of South Park needed a cleanse. After the season opener swung far left with the reign of PC Principal beginning and episode two swung back right, where the town historically belongs, with Garrison fucking immigration to death, “The City Part of Town” gave residents something they could all get behind: Gentrification.
It was the third step of a refresh process for South Park in 2015, where Whole Foods is preferable to City Wok and the low-income part of town finally gets its cultural makeover. As these changes sweep over the town with few dissenters, South Park as a show is changing with it, and it’s changing for the better. Sorry to all the cheesy poof purists, but this South Park is every bit as good as it’s ever been.
Last season’s continuity was a welcome wrinkle to an old formula. The theme of adapting to new technology (and the running Lorde joke) threaded a season that was arguably the show’s weakest. Season 19 thus far has taken continuity a step further, connecting the first three entries like swanky new nightlife spots and hipster eateries link revitalized downtowns. Through the lens of gentrifying solely Kenny’s house, we not only see that Matt and Trey are still finding important topics they have yet to put their spin on, but it makes clear that this season’s main target is themselves.
Sure, it may take an exaggerated display of social consciousness to get a Whole Foods to an ignorant Colorado town, but it takes an even more exaggerated display of self-awareness for Matt and Trey to admit even they need to tinker with the format if they want to stick around. Just look at how we don’t hear a peep out of The Simpsons or Family Guy unless someone huge is making a guest appearance for us to not watch. For South Park to stay relevant in 2015, Matt and Trey recognized that being topical will keep them in the news, and shock us in ways that will get the media talking, but to truly evolve as a show, they’d have to take risks. Season 18 was the testing ground and now we’re seeing a serialized South Park hit home in ways we haven’t seen since the boys were looking to replace Kenny.
They’re no longer looking for new characters to step up like they did when Kenny died. No like when he really died. First it was Butters, then Garrison, then the Randy Marsh era. Those days of secondary-character storytelling are gone in favor of a town united. Even when Historic Kenny’s House is the foundation of a new dawn, we get a side plot worthy of waiting around in a Chinese resturant for. City Wok and its owner, who we learned in the premiere is just a white man who acts like he’s Chinese, are “a lost relic” of a less-PC time. That City Wok, like some critics say of South Park, overstayed its welcome is a silly notion.
It’s going to be fun to see the kind of episodes Matt and Trey come up with when the show actually jumps the shark, even if the stellar start to season 19 confirms that no shark will be jumped for a long, long time. I get the feeling that South Park will revert back to its old ways by season’s end, but for now let’s embrace the change. Even with “Sodosopa” putting South Park on the map, there’s room in town for City Wok, just like there will always be swearing, weird stuff, and silly little Kyle’s speeches.