South Park series 14 started badly. The first 3 episodes struck me as suitable to air after the mid season break, when the show inevitably returns with lesser offerings. I had started to lose my impatience when it came to watching the program and could imagine myself missing it. And then there was episode 4.
The episode opens with Butters offering a view on the messy dissolution of Maria Shriver’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s marriage. Unlike recent topical jokes on the program it is neither lazy nor obvious: it manages to poke fun at the situation, make fun of Schwarzenegger’s career and future career choices, take in pop culture references and make fun of Shriver’s appearance. In about 20 seconds. While staying true to the characters involved in the joke and being genuinely funny. My faith in the series was restored within the first minute.
If the joke had existed by itself, without any other good jokes within the episode, it would have been a reasonable episode. It had the audacity to get better: Cartman is a reactionary idiot, Randy Marsh is a bigger reactionary idiot, the mass public is stupid, government is out of touch, Cartman gets a moment of purity and his comeuppance, and there are lots and lots of jokes. Some of the episode is very clever, some of it is strikingly puerile. These two extremes are frequently evident in the same joke. I finished the show and immediately went back and watched it again.
I wouldn’t say that the episode is up to the heights of things like the Losing Edge or Scott Tenorman Must Die, but it is certainly worth watching and shows that South Park can be relevant, incisive and very, very funny. Which is all I really want from South Park and something that sets it apart from most television available for consumption.