South Park season 20 is over, and let’s just say it wasn’t exactly as successful as season 19.
There was a lot to like about season 20, but also a lot that didn’t work. In this blog, Two Honest Guys are going to look over South Park season 20, talking about the good, the bad and the Cartman.
South Park season 20 got plenty right.
The humour was once again on point, from Mr Garrison’s stank face to the hilarious theme tune that accompanied the Danish. Throughout the series, we were treated to glimpses of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s brilliance, which is clearly as bright as ever.
Mr. President you can’t just sit there with your stank face… pic.twitter.com/qUDJYmvQTG
— South Park (@SouthPark) December 9, 2016
The use of serialisation also provided some interesting angles that we’ve never seen before on South Park. The focus narrative played in a way that allowed for progressing jokes, like Ike and Kyle locking Sheila in the pantry — What, what, what?! — as well as genuine character arcs and some pretty intense cliffhangers.
The concepts behind the show were also very interesting and the first few episodes proved to be a really strong start. The idea of Member Berries being the embodiment of cultural unease is something I really enjoyed about the season. I also loved the Member Berries themselves.
My favourite part of this entire season, though, was Gerald, Shank Hunt, trolling and the Danish. The whole thing was absolutely brilliant; crude South Park humour intertwined with modern sensibilities and culture. It was very reminiscent of South Park season 19. It didn’t rely on current events, not to begin with anyway, it simply played off the current state of society. This is exactly what made previous seasons so great.
‘Member when South Park made sense? I ‘Member.
This year the South Park team tried something different. In season 19, perhaps the best season of South Park yet, the creators moved into a new narrative style: serialisation. This year, they took that a step further. They told us a serialised story revolving around the rise of Trump, based on events that happened in the week that the episode was made. It wasn’t pre-planned, it couldn’t be.
Unfortunately, and the creators are well aware of this, South Park season 20 fell pretty flat.
Much of the series felt cobbled together at the last minute. A lot of stuff just didn’t seem to fit. The shows were finalised mere hours before they aired, in a move that allowed them to be as current as humanly possible, but that left us with storylines that didn’t work.
This was a process they used last year too, and it worked. However, last year they had a narrative, like the troll plot, planned out ahead of time; a narrative that only needed minor tweaking dependant on how the week’s events played out. This year, far too much was based on current events, which created a snowball effect of confusing stories.
By the time the season ended, things were wrapped in a very unsatisfactory manner. Member Berries were just sort of, dumped. We got no explanation, no conclusion to their story, they were just sort of there. Cartman’s story also just fizzled out, Butters went all soft and gooey again, and the boy vs. girl war was never actually resolved. The only storyline that really had a satisfying ending was that untethered trolling plot, where Gerald basically got away with it, which was pretty damn funny.
The serialisation also meant that many of our favourite characters didn’t even get a look in. Kenny and Stan were absent for pretty much the entire series.
Overall, things got a bit too messy. It is understandable of course, Trey Parker and Matt Stone experimented in a method of story creation that is basically one step away from improv. They let the media shout out a theme at the start of the day and had to get something together that evening.
Unfortunately it didn’t work, but I admire the South Park team all the same and will be eagerly awaiting season 21, which will hopefully return to form.
Back around when episode 6 aired, I started to suspect Cartman was up to something. So I wrote an elaborate theory about how he concocted the entire Member Berry crisis as a way of getting to Mars because it would be super awesome.
THG just couldn’t believe our beloved Cartman would behave in such as strange, weak-minded way without having a devious plan up his sleeve. He was walked all over, and what did he do? Sulked then got a girlfriend.
There had to be something more. Well, there wasn’t.
For me, Cartman’s plot in South Park season 20 is just plain old upsetting. This little boy is a terror, a force of nature that bends the world to his will. He might not always win, he might not always have a good plan, but he isn’t just some sort of background, passive observer.
But that is exactly what happened in this season. It seems like the serialisation of the show meant they didn’t quite know what to do with Cartman. He was there, a major part of the show, but he didn’t really do anything. He just sort of, got knocked down and stayed down. He had some funny moments sure, but his only real contribution was when Butters gave him an epiphany about women.
This whole scene was quite funny but it meant the rest of what happened — letting the guys get away with breaking his stuff, trying to stop the boy vs. girl war and speaking up for people’s rights, getting all giggly with Heidi, not partaking in the hilarious school conflict — was a part of his genuine story.
For any fan of Cartman, this has got to break your heart.
James is THG’s technophobic TV nut, movie addict and theorist crackpot. He’ll be bringing you features, insights and incoherent ramblings on all your favourite and least favourite shows and movies.