South Park just aired the fourth episode of their 20th season and this season is living up to be exactly what has come to be expected from the animated series. Elements from pop culture are still relied on heavily for many jokes and overall plot.
However, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone keep the series fresh by bringing back an overarching narrative that links episodes from this season together from last season. While they are re-using the idea from the previous season, this is something that isn’t seen a lot and feels refreshing when compared to other adult cartoons.
Upon watching the first episode, it was clear that this season would be unimpressive. The same elements that had been used in the series just seemed to be reused. There seemed to be no originality in the plot with everything just being plucked from pop culture and forced into an episode. Even the Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich were irritating, one of the few original elements that the writers could come up with was just reused from a season eight, episode, “Douche and Turd.”
Overall, it was sad. A show that I’d watched in middle school as I was just beginning to get more into adult television was just down the toilet. I was mad that the writers had just run the show into the ground. I thought it was shit. I was so mad I decided I was going to write an article and tell UMBC how bad this show had become.
Then I re-watched it. Giving the show another watch, season twenty started growing on me. The seemingly lazy insertions of pop culture into the world of South Park, Colorado, while still used very heavily, are done well. They aren’t just done well, Parker and Stone do pop culture better than most other shows partly due to their last minute production of every episode allowing the current episode of the show to reference events that may have only happened a few days earlier.
The laziness that was perceived on the first run-through was replaced after re-watching the episode. I now realized that the pop culture references that we see on any other television show are given a twist and play off both each other and other jokes made in the show to create a new, fresh commentary on social issues.
For instance, Clinton and Trump’s presidential debate is a main plot line of the episode. Rather than Trump running against Hillary, South Park’s own Mr. Garrison in the Republican nominee making more of a statement about the qualifications needed, the nature of the support of Trump’s supporters (Mr. Garrison is blindly followed despite numerous blatant attempts to sabotage his own campaign.)
Also, the return of the title, “Douche and Turd”, returning from season eight parallels the current presidential candidates to these characters. Furthermore, every single person in South Park’s America realizes that the candidates are just a douche and turd but yet does not even mind and just accepts this as their norm.
Episode two and three however contain much more original content than episode one and this makes them the stronger episodes thus far in the season. Member berries, a fictitious super fruit sold at Whole Foods, for instance, are an interesting recurring theme in the show that represents people’s desire to relive what they look back at as the good old days where things are better but then come to realize weren’t all that much better than what we have now just with different problems.
Overall, I am enjoying the commentary that South Park is providing us with this season. While we might not see the same type of random, crazy, misadventures that we saw back in earlier seasons I anticipate a good season that will definitely create laughter.