I can’t help but feel that South Park’s been in sharp decline ever since the 2016 election, that season started off well but once Trump won Parker and Stone have admitted they didn’t quite know how to respond and the rest of the run was an enormous disappointment. Since then its been patchy in the extreme, and the recent Tegridy Farms plot line with Randy farming marijuana is a joke which was only ever vaguely amusing and which they’ve stretched out to bizarre lengths.
Due to that, and their contrarian nature where they often hold opinions I vehemently disagree with, especially when it comes to their libertarian politics, and I’ve struggled with the show of late, and wasn’t expecting much from this one off pandemic special. The first two thirds of the show were pretty great however, sure, not everything hit home but the majority of the mixture of political satire and daft idiocy was effective.
Divided in to two separate plot strands, the first sees Cartman overjoyed by social distancing and not having to go to school, so much so that he bursts in to a song about this, and while it’s not up there with the best South Park songs (ie those from Bigger, Longer and Uncut) it’s a jaunty, cute little number. However his idyllic paradise is shattered by the news that he has to return to school, a school now employing the police as teachers, and inevitably everything starts to go horrible wrong when they all have to self isolate for two weeks.
Meanwhile Randy is running a pandemic special when it comes to Tegridy farms and his marijuana business is doing better than ever, and like Cartman he seems to be having a great time of it. But then he discovers that he’s the one responsible for the coronavirus after he and Mickey Mouse screwed a Pangolin when they were in China last season, and Randy thinks that the only way to save the world is for him to masturbate in to the weed and then get people to smoke it.
The above might sounds reasonably funny and for most of the running time it is. There’s some decent meta humour about Randy’s pandemic special mirroring the show itself, and Randy’s escapades fucking various animals is grotesquely amusing. Cartman’s joy at not having to go to school is well portrayed, with the song at the beginning being a real highlight, and on the political satire side of things there’s some strong material about the state of the police, their racist approach to law and order, along with just how awful the president is, and how dangerous his reaction to the virus has been
By the end it ran out of steam though. The reveal that it was not just Butters but also Stan who was desperately struggling with no longer having a real life was something you could see coming a mile away, and though it was quite touching it needed a stronger piece of closure, as all it did was to suggest that something has to change but that they don’t know what. I’m not expecting them to have all the answers of course, no one does, but if they’re going to raise such an issue perhaps they should offer some suggestions on how we can live in these strange times, even if it is just by saying that people should reach out to those who aren’t coping well, which is hinted at here, but only that.
Randy’s storyline unfortunately was the real weak link, initially the horrendous fucking of animals amused but him needing to constantly masturbate in to the weed in the hope of curing people started off as the kind of thing which might make you briefly smile but quickly became bland and tiresome. The fact that it looked like Tegridy Farms might finally be ditched as a plotline only for it to be revealed that Sharon was secretly smoking weed, and so it will continue, was ridiculously contrived too and why Parker and Stone think there’s any more mileage in the idea is beyond me, especially as though it was possibly funny for one episode, that’s about all.
The special did at least contain two rare things – an act of kindness from Cartman and a very pointed message about what a fucking nightmare Trump as president is and how important it is that people vote, but I can’t help but feel it should have gone further. These are desperate times, and Parker and Stone have all too often taken to sitting on the fence and mocking both sides (which they do here once again when it comes to mask wearers and those who use them as “chin diapers”) and I found myself wishing they’d really put the boot in, perhaps commenting that if by wearing a mask you may save a single life than why the hell wouldn’t you?
I suppose I should be grateful that this is in part a funny episode, that certain satirical elements were effectively carried out, and that they made it very clear what they think of Trump and at the same time didn’t give Biden a kicking as well. But more and more I wonder if there’s any point to the series continuing, yes, there’s some funny moments, but it’s incredibly repetitive and often annoying, and the fact that just when it looked like the Tegridy Farms plotline was coming to an end they decided to carry on with it is a depressing sign that they’re not aware of when something just isn’t working anymore.