Tonight is the premiere of the second half of South Park‘s 12th year. (Every “season” is really two seasons, one batch of episodes in the first part of the year, and another batch in the fall.) It’s not on in Canada simultaneously, but there will be lots of places to view it.
The first half was kind of disappointing, despite some good individual moments and despite my article declaring that the show was better than ever. Based on seasons 9 through 11, I still stand by that, and the episodes this season certainly had some of the qualities that had made me enjoy the show more than I used to — meaning, less right-wing haranguing (I’m sorry… “libertarian” haranguing) and more character-based stories. (“Canada On Strike” was the only episode so far this season that really fell into the old South Park trap of giving us a long lecture on issues that Trey Parker clearly does not understand beyond what he’s read on Drudge.) But the comedy wasn’t really there; the jokes seemed surprisingly lame a lot of the time, and even things that should have been sure-fire laugh-getters, like the usually infallible Cartman/Butters teaming in “Super Fun Time,” seemed lacking by comparison with what the show had given us in the past.
It’s hard to say what makes a good South Park episode, because the whole point of the show is that Parker and Matt Stone make every episode at the last minute and (deliberately) leave themselves no time to evaluate what they’re doing. I guess if they did think too much about it, they wouldn’t do the really stupid jokes and plots that usually turn out to be the best things on the show. My favourite South Park segment is still the “Damn Mongolians!” story from season 6. Not political, not sophisticated, heavily ripping off Caddyshack and Road Runner cartoons alike, but really, really funny. I think it comes back to that idea that the broadest, corniest jokes are sometimes the best, and a lot of the episodes this season so far have seemed almost reserved and, lord help us, sophisticated, even with the bad-taste jokes thrown in. If you can’t rely on South Park for low comedy, what can you rely on? So I’m hoping we’ll get more routines like “Did Diddy Do It?” this time around.