Thursday, April 28, 2011

South Park's decline in quality

Just earlier today, South Park premiered its new season. It's commendable that South Park has made it to season 15. Starting out as a short animated film about Jesus and Santa battling it out, the show has blossomed into a media empire. Pretty good for a show about cursing fourth graders. And while I still watch the show whenever it is on, I can't help but mourn the golden age of South Park. Though still amusing, the show is a pale of its former hilarious self. South Park used to be cutting edge. The kids were shocking and the topics outrageous. While plush versions of Cartman were being sold at Spencer's Gifts, parents were banning the show from their televisions, afraid of how the cartoon will affect their kids.

Proper Condom Use being the first episode my parents watched.

At one time South Park was on the edge of society. It was a cartoon on a channel that most cable subscribers didn't even get. In middle school I remember hearing about the show, but my parents never ordered Comedy Central. The first time I ever watched it was when my uncle from Mississippi (yes, I sang the song as I spelled the state) brought a tape over when he visited. The show was crude, disgusting and amazing. The fact it was on television in the first place was a revolution in itself. Those watching the show now forget just how groundbreaking those construction paper people were.

Who would of thought a kid dying would be so hilarious.

South Park had more bite then. They were actually rebelling against something. They were the underdog. Now the show is the one making the rules. Now it is the mainstream. Success has really brought the show down. And in that success, the show has just gotten lazy. Early in the series, the focus was on the the four main kids and how crazy their town was. Each character was colorful and hilarious. Now, each episodes feels the need to comment on something. While commentary has always been one of South Park's strengths (the 9/11 episode is legendary), each episode should not simply be able to be labeled "the one where they make fun of Facebook." Chalk it up to going on for 15 seasons, but the storylines use be more creative than that.

I miss these episodes.

By trying to stay relevant, they have lost all of the irrelevant charm that they originally skidded by on. Each little pop culture footnote is almost guaranteed to be commented on by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but is that really a way to direct a series? It's no longer about stories but figuring out which figure to draw and make fun of next. Just like with all television shows, when you have to rely on guest stars (even when you aren't using their actually voices, as the disclaimer addresses) you are past your expiration date.

Oh great, the Paris Hilton episode.

With its reliance on such satire, the satire doesn't even have any effect anymore. It's just satire for satire's sake. There was a time when Barbara Streisand was pissed she was turned into a mecha-robot beast in an episode. Now everyone that is lampooned in the show has the same tired, formulaic response. Something along the lines of, "You know you made it when you get made fun of on South Park." That lame excuse says a lot about the relevance of the show. Before the show was the kid in class that talked sense. Now, it's the guy that always yells for attention. South Park once rebelled against the system. Now it's its own institution.

There was once simpler, more hilarious times.

What I truly miss are the supporting characters. Each episode nowadays focuses on the kids being caught up with some outrageous characters and celebrities. But there was a time when it was just about a hick mountain town. Yes issues were touched on, but just listen to the theme song. That's why it's called South Park, because it's about the town. Where is Ned and Jimbo or Tuong Lu Kim? For gods sakes where in the hell is Officer Barbrady?

He was one of my favorites. Now we're stuck with that crappy red-headed cop.

In the early episodes, even though they cursed and went through hell, the kids retained some form of innocence. That's been lost now and the show has suffered for it. While it's hard to retain innocence when you go through 15 seasons worth of hijinks (yes, I just used the term hijinks, which has way too many dots in a row), the kids are now just as foul as those around them. It's no coincidence that Butters, the only kid left with innocence, is also one of the most consistently funny characters on the show. Cartman on the other hand is a pint-sized Hitler (which, then again, is why we love him).

During the "Which South Park Character Are You?" game at the lunch table,
I was voted Butters. I'm not sure how to interpret that.

There was a time when South Park meant something. The 9/11 episode and shit episode were legitimately groundbreaking. Now, it's just lost its edge. It's not about South Park or the kids anymore. Now it's about Randy's new obsession or whatever fad is sweeping the nation. Just because you can make an episode overnight doesn't mean it's a good idea. And while relevance has always been South Park's strength, it has now become its weakness. Its just gotten lazy with its success. And at this point I don't see that trend reversing. They are no longer jokes but halfassed commentary and pre-packaged catchphrases for that one obnoxious friend you have to spout at random times (they took your job! or anything to do with fish sticks). Don't let a cartoon on Comedy Central do the thinking for you. If you liked Family Guy before the Cartoon Wars episode then like it. Just because Cartman doesn't like something it doesn't mean you have to fall in line. In the end, I don't care about Matt and Trey's opinion on the iPad, I just want to spend time with my friends Eric, Stan, Kyle and Kenny.

Yes, I realize they aren't real people.


  1. I totally agree with you. These new seasons aren't good at all, they suck. I miss the good old South Park episodes, and I can't understand why many people praise the new episodes. The series should have ended many years ago. Thank God there's still people like you out there who realize the truth.

  2. Sweet God, the new season is awful...

    Today's episode? A joke about how German's aren't funny, while making fun of Tyler Perry (even to the point of comparing him to Osama Bin Laden?!?)

  3. I agree with your article. The new season is shitty and they're relying on current events way too much.

    I think it all went wrong when Chef was cut out of the show. He was pretty important and if they wanted him to say or do something, they had to be in school or at least in south park. So the stories had to be more about the town...

    good analysis.

  4. chef the voice actor issac hayes died.. dude.. and he quit the show after they released an espisode about scientogly.. as he was a scientolgist..
    agreed some of the new ones are lame but some of them are still magic! and the red hair cops kicks ass! brabrady was old hat.. things need to change to keep the show interesting.. if they were doing the same shit you would be bored aswell..and you would complain.. its just not as ground breaking as it used to be.. there the only ones still pissing on anyone they like.. and i still love that.. so fuck you all

  5. I decided to Google [decline of South Park] today. My word string came up on the autocomplete after the "u" of "South". Don't know how impressive this is, but it suggests this thought is on the minds of a few people. Your page was top of the hits :) There were 2650 if I put the phrase in parentheses.

    I don't know when it first started to run out of steam, but, excuse the dated meme, the shark has been well and truly jumped. Maybe every show has a finite life-span, a limited vein of material...once mined, it's best to abandon town. Now we get muddled, over-complex, desperate storylines replacing quality storytelling. As you say, an over-reliance on external characters, places and current events is part of it.

  6. The new seasons just don't have the same charm that the older ones did. There's a certain sense of surrealism to the comedy of the older seasons which is sadly amiss from the later seasons too.

  7. The show isn't funny anymore because the Matt and Trey got lazy. Rather than invest all that down time they have between their whopping ten episode seasons and actually write stories worth animating, they wait until the last second and then shit on all their fans with rehashing of current events that nobody cared about to begin with.