Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 6, 2016)
Like clockwork, each year we get a new collection of South Park episodes, as it seems like the series will never end. This Blu-ray set provides the series’ complete 19th season. I’ll examine all 10 programs in the way presented on the discs, which also is the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come from the package itself.
Stunning and Brave (aired 9/16/15): “When a new jacked-up frat boy principal brings a more PC attitude to South Park Elementary, everyone starts walking on eggshells to avoid offending him. As PC Principal’s legion of followers grows, Kyle gets caught in the crosshairs for refusing to declare Caitlyn Jenner a hero, and Cartman faces an identity crisis.”
“Brave” opens S19 on a fairly positive note. I like the incongruous view of amped-up frat boys – about the least PC people you’ll find – as sensitive sorts, and Cartman’s plotting adds mirth. Though not a great show, “Brave” scores points.
Where My Country Gone? (aired 9/23/15): “Mr. Garrison becomes frustrated with the increasing numbers of Canadian immigrants in South Park. As his anti-immigration message gains traction, he devises a fully-formed campaign to build a wall at the Canadian border.”
God help me, but South Park’s depiction of Canadians never ceases to amuse me. That side of things entertains, and “Gone” scores some points with its depiction of Garrison as a Trump-like figure. However, it becomes too literal and suffers because of that lack of subtlety.
The City Part of Town (aired 9/30/15): “After Jimmy Fallon calls everyone in South Park stupid and backward on The Tonight Show, Randy and Mayor McDaniels embark on a mission to gentrify the town. SoDoSoPa – the town’s new, trendy neighborhood – takes shape around Kenny’s house, and Randy campaigns for South Park to get a Whole Foods.”
Mocking hipsters is fish in a barrel, and “Town” fails to bring much new to the table. A show about gentrification doesn’t boast much inventiveness, so despite a few moderately amusing curveballs, “Town” seems pretty mediocre.
You’re Not Yelping (aired 10/14/15): “Along with most of the citizens of South Park, Cartman has become a Yelp reviewer. The local restaurants struggle to keep up with the increased demands of their newly pretentious clientele. When tensions between business owners and patrons reach a boiling point, Cartman organizes his fellow Yelpers to stand up for reviewers’ rights.”
While sites like Yelp can be very helpful, they can also serve cyber-bullies. South Park views the latter side of things and tends to amuse, though – as usual – the show favors extreme material over subtlety. Still, it’s a better than average show that mostly works.
Safe Space (aired 10/21/15): “The shaming culture is rampant in South Park. Cartman received negative feedback on his selfie, and Randy feels shamed when he declines to contribute a dollar to help hungry kids while shopping at Whole Foods. PC Principal enlists Butters to sift through all the negative stuff on the Internet to protect everyone from harassment. Everyone is anxious to find their safe space.”
Of the two sides of the show, Randy’s feud with the cashier works best, mainly because so many of us can relate to the incessant requests for money at stores. The Internet part of the show offers amusement as well, but it tends to be a little too heavy-handed. Overall, the two segments mesh reasonably well, even if I do prefer Randy’s segments.
Tweak X Craig (aired 10/28/15): “PC Principal initiates a presentation of artwork from the new Asian American students in school. No one is more surprised than Tweek and Craig when they find themselves portrayed in a romantic relationship in the style of art known as Yaoi. Randy is thrilled that the town has a gay couple so soon after the Whole Foods moved in. Cartman fends off advances from his imaginary counterpart, Cupid Me.”
This show loses points for a mix of reasons, mainly because it focuses on mediocre characters. Neither Tweak nor Craig can carry an episode, so they turn this into a spotty show. A few Cartman moments amuse but otherwise, the program falls flat.
Naughty Ninjas (aired 11/11/15): “After Officer Barbrady accidentally shoots a Kindergartner during a school assembly, the entire town turns against the local police. Everyone agrees that now that South Park is so PC, they don’t need the police anymore. They quickly change their minds when South Park’s homeless population starts camping out in the gentrified district, and their kids join a terrorist cell.”
With “Ninjas”, we find two threads that fail to go much of anywhere. A few minor laughs emerge, but the season’s attempts to comment on political correctness stretch thinner and thinner as the year progresses. It’s not a terrible show, but it fails to do much for me.
Sponsored Content (aired 11/18/15): “ Jimmy begins delivering ‘Super School News’ door to door after PC Principal tries to censor the newspaper. When Jimmy questions what PC really stands for, PC Principal goes nuclear. Meanwhile, frustrated by the number of ads of the Internet, the entire town soon starts reading Jimmy’s ad-free paper. This brings Jimmy a lot of attention from big advertisers and a special little girl named Lesley.”
While S19 doesn’t offer the best year of South Park, it clearly provides the most ambitious set of shows. All 10 episodes link together thematically and essentially act as a mini-series of sorts. “Content” ratchets up the intrigue in that regard – it lacks a ton of laughs but it does make me curious to see where the rest of the year goes.
Truth and Advertising (aired 12/2/15): “PC Principal disappears with two students, and a panicked Mr. Mackey warns Kyle that he may be next. Randy is panicked that he and his family are being priced out of the newly gentrified South Park, and Jimmy becomes part of an underground movement to combat the rise of ads in media.”
Given the overarching nature of S19’s narrative, “Truth” exists mainly to push toward the big finale. In that way, it succeeds, as it thickens the plot. No one will call it hilarious, though some laughs result.
PC Principal Final Justice (aired 12/9/15): “The boys turn against each when Kyle suspects that Randy is part of a PC conspiracy. The battle between ads and the people of South Park comes to a head just in time for the local gun show. The real truth about what happened to Principal Victoria is revealed. PC Principal returns to confront Lesley, and the town comes to terms with its brush with gentrification.”
“Justice” brings the ambitious S19 to an end – sort of. The episode wraps up some threads but points toward developments for S20 such as Mr. Garrison’s run for president.
This implies another year with one consistent theme/narrative, which doesn’t sound terribly appealing. While I admire the ambition of S19, the follow-through often sputters, as the shows try too hard to connect and seem to worry too little about actual comedy/entertainment.
These factors leave S19 as less engaging than usual. Every year of South Park comes with ups and downs, but S19 feels spottier than the norm. It’s an interesting experiment but not an especially successful one.;