Thursday, October 08, 2009

South Park, "Dead Celebrities": Ignorance, not bliss

Some thoughts on last night's "South Park" mid-season premiere coming up just as soon as I buy some new underwear...

The "SNL"-style writing schedule that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have chosen to use on "South Park" (which Stone described in great detail when he was on Bill Simmons' podcast a couple of weeks ago) can keep the episodes feeling fresh, but it can also leave them feeling half-finished. Sometimes, it's as if Parker, Stone and company needed to take another few passes through the script to really nail the jokes; other times, the entire idea seems like the wrong approach to the story, but perhaps there simply wasn't time to go back and start from scratch.

Given some past celebrity-skewering "South Park" episodes, opening the back half of this season with a look at all the famous people who died over the summer seemed appropriate. Unfortunately, "Dead Celebrities" mainly turned out to be a rehash of the Michael Jackson jokes they told give years ago in "The Jeffersons" - then randomly turned into a kiddie beauty pageant parody (and a predictable one, at that) halfway through. Because the most recent "Simpsons" episode (one of the strongest in a while) was able to tell a single story from beginning to middle to end with no major digressions, I was probably a little more sensitive to abrupt story shifts in my animated comedies this week.

I did get a kick out of the running gag about Kyle's disbelief that Cartman would keep eating Chipotle, but overall, "Dead Celebrities" was a misfire. It happens. "South Park" misses about as often as it hits this far into its run. Hopefully next week's show will work better.

What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

James said...

Completely agree and it seemed like a waste of what should have been a funnier dead celebrities of the summer story idea. South Park has always had hit or miss episodes though, so I imagine other episodes will be funnier for the rest of the year.

I wonder if they'll bring back the FishSticks joke later.

Bitsy said...

Yeah, unfortunately South Park has been a lot more miss than it has been hit, and the hits haven't been good enough to make up for episodes like "Pinewood Derby" (*shiver*).

These weird ventures off into random story lines make it feel a lot like Family Guy, which is actually what South Park extensively ridiculed them for a few years ago.

Bitsy said...

Yeah, unfortunately South Park has been a lot more miss than it has been hit, and the hits haven't been good enough to make up for episodes like "Pinewood Derby" (*shiver*).

These weird ventures off into random story lines make it feel a lot like Family Guy, which is actually what South Park extensively ridiculed them for a few years ago.

Manton said...

This show felt like a few vignettes put together, almoat Family Guy like (how's that for irony?) but it still had enough comedy to keep me entertained. Anytime we get that much Ike, I can't be too upset. Easily one of the most shocking/simply insane episodes in quite some time, which says alot considering how far this show has gone.

belinda said...

With the material, it could have been a much better episode, but the Chipotle bit really made me laugh every time it came on.

Nice banner! Mad scientists?

Andrew said...

Funny forgives a lot. And while this wasn't in the pantheon of all time great South Park episodes, and even though many of the jokes were cheap and easy, I was laughing for pretty much the entire time, although mainly at the idea of Chipot-away and Kyle's disbelief. And also ghost Billy Mays.

Perhaps because I wasn't aware that there were new South Park episodes airing until this popped up on my DVR, I may have been willing to have lower expectations, because it was surprise new South Park.

Who's the mad scientist between Professor Frink and Dr. Honeydew who I'm not recognizing?

Anonymous said...

Like you need one more show to watch but.....Secret Girlfriend on Comedy Central is the new Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It is clever, funny, raw and surprising. The green screen baby was priceless.
Always Sunny had devolved to the point where all the actors are essentially playing one annoying character.

Joe said...

You're joking about Secret Girlfriend, right? There's nothing even approaching the mad genius of Always Sunny at its best. Holy crap this thing was awful - the main hook was the T&A they flash in your face not five seconds after South Park had ended. It makes the Man Show look like a Women's Studies Course - the woman are uniformly gorgeous and all shower you* and your idiot friends with affection while requiring absolutely nothing from you in return. Comedy Central's original programing seems to be either great of scrape below the bottom of the barrel - this fell into the latter category.

*for those who didn't watch (pat yourself on the back!), the show is shot in the first person, and all the characters address you directly as if you are a participant.

Joe said...

I feel compelled to defend Parker and Stone from Family Guy comparisons. The main gist of their argument against Family Guy was the show's use of random, entirely arbitrary cutaways (almost invariably anchored by "remember the time when" or some similar enjoinder) that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of any given episode and are swiftly forgotten after cutting back to the main action.

While I'm not going to argue that this South Park was exceptionally well-plotted, for the most part all the vignettes were strung together around the main plot - even the Chipotle gag was used as a plot device rather than a one-time-only cutaway.

As for the episode itself, the Chipotle gag bought a lot of leeway - I'm still chuckling about it, almost 18 hours later, but I thought this was a solid episode overall, the only real gag that didn't pan out being the celebrities on the plane. Their Michael Jackson parody is and was money in the bank, if anything they deserve credit for only re-using it once.

Lmaonade said...

I thought it was a brilliant episode. The skewering of Ghost Hunters was dead-on. No one has mentioned the hilarity of purgatory being stuck on a runway...I thought this was the best gag of the episode. And OMG, the parody of the Poltergeist old lady had me in tears. Everyone needs to stop comparing this to Family Guy (SP is much more timely, thought-out and fearless). And stop being so pretentious...it's all about the laughs, and SP makes my belly sore more than any other show out there.

Huds1106 said...

I've been watching South Park since it first aired back in 97. I am a huge fan of this show but I'm not biased and will be the first to admit when the show is a bust (Pinewood Derby-pff). That being said, I thought last night's mid-season premiere was fantastic. It was spot on and there was not a single dull moment. It jumped from story to story but it flowed the entire time it was moving. "Billy Mays here" was priceless. And the celebrities on the plane was genius. The show covered so many of the recent events in such a short time I was laughing nonstop. Thank goodness for DVR because I can't wait to go home and watch it again. Between this episode and the Fat Beard finale last spring, South Park is definitly still going strong!

Anonymous said...

Yup, big misfire. And they sure are turning their backs on the older viewers (even though we are the same age as the creators). I love South Park but let’s face it, this rush approach to doing shows hasn’t been working for them lately. This particular episode was amusing but it could have been a lot funnier under the circumstances, and they didn’t really push the envelope when it came to the celebrities involved (I would have preferred to see Billy Mays with white splotches under his nostrils, DJ AM hitting a crack pipe or Ted Kennedy chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels). But then again what do I know, I’m not a comedy writer just a viewer. Coincidentally, I went online after the episode to check the news and saw that Australian black face skit, which I found had a much funnier and shocking depiction of Michael Jackson than SP did. Remember when South Park was offensive and funny at the same time?

As disenchanted as I am though, I’ll continue to watch the rest of the season and just hope ‘next week gets better’.

Sarah said...

I liked it for the most part. Honestly, when I heard that the premiere was going to be about dead celebrities, I guessed that it was going to be a zombie episode. I'm actually glad I was wrong. Also totally agree with the above poster that mentioned the airplane as purgatory bit - that was by far my favorite part of the episode!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me what was wrong with the 'Pinewood Derby' episode. I'm also one of the first people to say that a SP episode sucked, but I thought the 'Pinewood Derby' episode was excellent. "I'm Baby-Face McGeezax see!!" I thought the whole alien thing was hilarious. Anyway that's just me. I thought this week's episode was decent, and I can't wait to see the rest of the season.

Savvy Veteran said...

I'm a huge South Park fan—I've probably seen every episode from seasons 1-9 five or more times—and I would say that it hasn't been consistently great since about the halfway point of season 10. (I would say its best season was either 6 or 8) It's still funny, sure, and occasionally brilliant at times (Imaginationland), but an increasing number of episodes have been pretty forgettable. I feel like a lot of the stuff they're doing is (a lot like SNL) going to seem totally dated in a couple of years—seriously, who's going to care about Kanye West being a jerk 10 years from now? (I actually liked Fishsticks, by the way.)

That said, I enjoyed this one for the most part. The Billy Mays parody didn't really work for me, as it's already a bit overdone (heck, even Mays himself mocked his persona in that ESPN360 commercial), but there was still some good satire in there, like the Ghost Hunters stuff, and some silly classic SP goodness like the Chipotle gag. The MJ stuff was not amusing to me until he possessed Ike; I must say that it's funny to see his flapping head call the boys ignorant.

Anonymous said...

I agree with that the plot wasn't that great, but I just thought the episode was hilarious. The ghost hunters parody was awesome and cartman had a bunch of funny parts, especially the way he said "Sup, Jew" in the beginning.

Calllum L (AG) said...

I disagree. South Park, has it's name for 'pisstaking' the most recent events. Notice how they never release an episode, until something significant has happened.

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode, it's probably one of my favorites. Especially the part at the beauty pageant, any parent thinking of getting their kid to compete in those should watch this.

Anonymous said...

i am a fan of the south park show and i thought this was one if the funniest episodes ever made. your just being ignorants that cracked me up. This was definetly one of the funniest south park episodes these two guys have ever made.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it rehashed the MJ jokes, that's what MJ's character on South Park is like, that's his gimmick to keep saying things are ignorant. And it made perfect sense that the one ghost having issues would be Michael Jackson. As far as the one person that wanted white blotches under billy mays nose, and dj am to be holding a crack pipe. that's just crappy low brow humor. And the comparison to Family Guy is just retarded. All the stuff South Park drifts off to still has something to do with the story. I don't see how this episode drifted away. Ike seen ghosts, while trying to get rid of the ghosts he got possessed by one, they did the ghost's wish, and the ghost left. They did this with all their normal parody. And Pinewood Derby wasn't that bad either. "Ohhhhhhhhh it didn't directly point out a celebrity to make fun of, it must suck."