Almost twenty years have passed since “South Park” first began airing on Comedy Central. What began as a spin-off of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s cut-out animated short, “The Spirit of Christmas,” has evolved into a long-running series that combines off-color humor with biting social commentary on current events and popular culture. Now, the series continues that tradition with its milestone twentieth season, which began airing this past September.
Much like the previous season, while there may be fewer episodes planned, the ones that do air have stronger continuity as part of a longer story arc. This time, the people of South Park are the subject of mockery by an internet troll amid this year’s upcoming presidential election.
The early episodes have already proven to be a goldmine of satirical comedy. The season opening episode “Member Berries” addresses controversies such as the backlash to the female-led reboot of “Ghostbusters,” as well as the current climate for franchise reboots in general. The episode also tackles the protest method of sitting out the national anthem, resulting in the U.S. government asking none other than director JJ Abrams to reboot it after the massive success of “Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens.”
The newest episode as of this writing, “The Damned” features a savage mockery of the initial presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (the latter represented by the character of Mr. Garrison). In the show’s intentionally-crude animation style, everything from the candidates’ inflections to Clinton’s incredibly loud, red pantsuit are spot-on.
Yet even amidst all the vulgar parodies of our current political and cultural situations, the show still manages to be a surprisingly earnest look at life through the eyes of its citizens. A very sad scene in the second episode has the female students of South Park elementary break off their relationships with the male students in response to the cyber bullying they endured. The treatment of online bullying is played fairly realistically, from students shutting down their social media accounts to the culprit being an individual not many would expect.
With the season’s milestone firmly in place, it’s clear that “South Park” has definitely left its mark on popular culture. One of the advertisements for the season depicts how the series has grown and changed to meet the needs of its audience. Even when very few things about many current events are funny, “South Park” has always found a way to make people laugh. It’s bound to keep people coming back for years to come, no matter what happens.
Review by Steven Pryor
Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars