South Park returned with it’s 23rd season, making it the second longest running animated series to date, but that hasn’t stopped Trey Parker and Matt Stone, series creators, from writing new and controversial material. In fact, this may be one of the strongest seasons yet.
After writer fatigue, the show had it’s episode count slowly limited over the years to nearly half, to keep up with the current topics and focus on better quality episodes and these 10 episodes did not disappoint.
The season launched with a mashup of the hit movie Joker and I.C.E. detention centers. What initially seemed like an odd mix, quickly shined a light on the well written genius of this show, adding strong social commentary that reflects highly on current social divide. Of course, this is done in typical South Park fashion, never really letting you know who is the butt of the joke, which is arguably what makes the show work so well in such a triggered society. This is just one episode, while other episodes cover social topics like plant-based meat in schools, vaccines, and transgender athletes, which I personally found to bring up some interesting questions I wouldn’t have thought of. The show was even banned in China, after the second episode was deemed inappropriate by the country, which continued to be an ongoing joke throughout the rest of the season. I can’t wait to see how they tackle China next season, given the pandemic nightmare we are all in currently.
An interesting shift in the show’s formula was the use of a strong character focus on Randy, the father of one of the 4 main characters, the opening sequence was even changed for a portion of the season. While he has been a prominent staple in the series, Randy has lately been pivoted to a character for the audience to relate with in a hyperbolic manner. With his newly acquired pot farm in the last season, a lot of the focus is on his character becoming a successful businessman running the farm, at times, crossing the lines which seemingly ties in the hot topic commentary. His story arc adds a lot to the character we grew to love as the idiotic drunk dad and opens the door to see the same treatment for some of the many other characters. Randy’s arc lasted most of the season, but the show shifted back to the more traditional formula, concentrating on the trademark characters like Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Butters, who all have episodes with scenarios that tailor to their personalities.
The show has even expanded on some characters, while adding some new. Scott Malkinson tries to win over the attention of a new girl at school, solely because they both share the experience of living with diabetes. To do so, Scott needs to get Disney Plus so he can watch The Mandalorian with her. Unfortunately, his father is a cable technician and refuses to “stream” anything. It was a fun and humorous play on the war between video on demand and cable.
Disney was seemingly promoted a lot in this season. Other aspects included Disney’s Winnie the Pooh being banned in China and the boys impatiently waiting for the new Star Wars game, which was released around the date of that episode airing. It was hard to tell if Disney was intentionally doing product placement for these products or if they were simply that relevant to the current topics. Both Disney Plus and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order make marketing sense, but Disney possibly associating with an adult show like South Park, felt like it would be contradicting their family branding. Nonetheless, the plots worked, whatever the reasoning.
South Park’s newest season provides fans with humor and a new approach to it’s storytelling. Definitely, go down to South Park, you’re going to have yourself a time!