Liam Hoofe reviews the first episode of South Park season 21…
After one of the show’s most divisive seasons last year, South Park returned to our screens this week for its 21st season and what we hoped would be a return to the glory years.
Personally, I was quite a big fan of season 20, for the most part. The serialised approach provided the show with some great gags, but the season was clearly just undone by the surprise election victory of Donald Trump mid-way through its run. It’s not that Matt Stone and Trey Parker don’t still have their finger on the pulse when it comes to biting political satire because they do, it was just a case of them biting off more than they can chew. In a world where Donald Trump is present, satire is extremely difficult to pull off.
Regardless of what I thought, the ending of season 20 was generally regarded as a massive failure and Parker and Stone looked set to end back down a more traditional route with season 21 – taking the show back to its roots and focusing on the adventures of Kyle, Cartman, Stan and Kenny. Sadly, they obviously changed their mind in the run-up to the premiere, with episode 1 of the new season taking aim at white nationalists, Apple, Amazon, and Google.
If that sounds like an odd mix, that’s because it is and it never really manages to work. South Park is often at its weakest when it takes a bunch of very loosely related issues, and tries to throw them together. The pieces of the episode never really connect here and the whole thing never really gets going. White nationalism is a subject that Parker and Stone could have worked wonders with – instead, they just dusted off the ‘they took our jobs’ crew and had them marching down the street waving Confederate flags. The episode focuses on the economic impact that is partly to blame for the rise of white nationalism in the states, and it only really comes to close to actually examining the issue in one scene which takes place at a bar, the rest of the episode just feels like a rehash of older stuff.
Randy’s new job as a home renovator does provide the episode with a few laughs, and his dig about everybody doing that these days raises a few chuckles, but as I’ve mentioned, it never feels like it all ties together in the way that they want it to, and in the end, it just feels like a missed opportunity.
The boys themselves, aside from Cartman are hardly in the episode; in fact, they are involved in the opening scene and that is about it. Cartman’s relationship, one of the weaker plots from last season, takes centre stage here, to varying results. Seeing Cartman mess around with the Alexa is highly amusing, and definitely, the episode’s best joke but the Heidi stuff is just too inconsistent. Thankfully, this episode looks to have brought a close to all of that, and hopefully, we will see the return of good old-fashioned Cartman in the coming weeks.
White People Renovating Houses was not the return to form that I hoped for from South Park. Parker and Stone need to take the show back to its roots and give us the boys just taking on a stupid adventure, not every episode has to have a target. The opening scene of this episode gave me hope that it was what we were going to get but sadly, it really didn’t deliver.
What did you think of ‘White People Renovating Houses’? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe