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With "The Pandemic Special," South Park quit being an equal-opportunity offender

  • Shortly before the 2004 presidential election, Matt Parker and Trey Stone said to "Stay home" and "Don't vote." "And," added Stone, "it's no big deal. If you don't want to vote, you don't have to. F*ck that vote or die sh*t. I hate that." At the end of this week's "The Pandemic Special," Matt and Trey pleaded with viewers to vote. "The reliable ideology that forms the spine of South Park is that Parker and his co-creator Matt Stone aren't on anyone's side – politically, culturally or socially," says Melanie McFarland. "We used to describe the show as an equal opportunity offender, and maybe that's true in a sense. Where that label falls apart is in the show's recurring proof that it actually has a moral center of sorts; equal opportunity offenders don't tend to care about anyone or anything. Not so here. 'The Pandemic Special' won't be remembered as the finest hour of South Park, and I say this not as a pun but in acknowledgment that with Comedy Central running through its catalogue, you're more likely to turn on back-to-back repeat episodes that are sharper, more coherent and outrageous than Wednesday night's entry. At the same time, it's also very much evidence that the show's producers feel as stuck in the mire as everyone else – and they do care. Parker and his team deserve credit for using the hour as a catch-all to poke fun at the absurdity of living our lives through Zoom screens, the bizarre direction that the mask debate has taken, and the vile absurdity of pouring enough funds into our police departments to enable them to afford military-grade equipment while teachers are left to choose between employment and their safety. The overall message of this episode isn't one of the South Park team feeling above it all to the point of comfortably rolling their eyes at madness gripping America. Instead it reflects a kind of frazzled incredulity and disillusionment about where we find ourselves."


    • "The Pandemic Special" made a strong case for South Park's inadequacies: "Like many of us who’ve had to take a hard look in the mirror of late, whether out of necessity or sheer boredom, South Park proves most effective at analyzing itself," says Ben Travers. "Why do we need a scripted comedy special about the pandemic? Well, people need a break. Reality is exhausting. But then shouldn’t the special not mention the pandemic? Shouldn’t it be something pure and genuine and uplifting? Maybe, but that’s not South Park’s style. It’s a topical show, and there’s no way it could ignore a topic that literally shut down the world."
    • All the semen jokes leave a viewer unprepared for the most valid bid for poignancy Trey Parker and Matt Stone have cared to make in some time: "The script constantly questions the necessity of its own existence, making repeated declarations that no one gives a damn about a 'pandemic special' at such a dire juncture, a term used in context to refer to Randy’s 10% markdown on marijuana," says Charles Bramesco. "But it justifies itself by playing up the fact that this is a show about children, even if they have foul mouths decades beyond their years. Kids have been hit hard, forced to contend with psychological stressors that have done a number on plenty of grownups, only made worse by youth. Adults can mark time until everything resumes, but those grade-school summers are finite and precious."

    TOPICS: South Park, Comedy Central, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, 2020 Presidential Election, Coronavirus, Trump Presidency