Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 5, 2022)
When we last saw South Park on Blu-ray, we got “The Complete Twenty-Fourth Season”, a set that included two – count ‘em, two! – episodes. Sure, those programs ran twice as long as usual, but man – two shows doesn’t make for much of a “season”.
South Park follows “Season 24” with two late 2021 specials, and 2022 found shows that also popped up sporadically. I guess the 10-episode seasons that were the norm for quite a while have gone the way of the dodo.
In any case, this Blu-ray offers both of those 2021 specials, and they run considerably longer than the norm. Here’s what we find, with synopses from IMDB.
Post-COVID (aired November 25, 2021 – 59 minutes, 29 seconds): “What happened to the children who lived through the pandemic? Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny survived, but will never be the same post-COVID.”
Though aired weeks apart, the pair of shows act as a two-parter. I’ll save my discussion for after the second segment.
Post COVID: The Return of COVID (aired December 16, 2021 – one hour, two minutes, 10 seconds): “If Stan, Kyle and Cartman could just work together, they could go back in time to make sure COVID never happened and save Kenny's life. Traveling back to the past seems to be the easy answer until they meet Victor Chaos.”
“Post” brings an interesting concept, as it takes us into the future to meet the kids as adults. The story takes place 40 years from now and confronts a society badly ravaged by the impact of COVID.
While this seems clever, it often feels like little more than an excuse for Trey Parker and Matt Stone to simply rag on the aspects of modern society they view as overly “politically correct”. For instance, in 2061, Jimmy acts as host of a late night talk show, and all his jokes prove utterly toothless and banal rather than risk he might offend someone.
Um, okay. Despite frequent complaints by comedians that “excessive sensitivity” renders their job impossible, plenty of them miraculously figure out how to cope with the Woke Police, so this theme comes across as sour grapes from two guys who built their careers on potentially offensive material.
This theme spread across a lot of “Post”, as it can feel like little more than a loosely connected laundry list of Stone and Parker’s gripes about modern society. Across South Park’s history, they’ve taken shots at folks across the political spectrum, but “Post” comes across as more right-wing-friendly than usual.
“Post” simply judges the so-called liberal response to COVID more harshly than the other side. Sure, it nods slightly toward mockery of folks who refused COVID vaccines and similar themes, but an awful lot of it feels ripped from MAGA Reddit threads.
What with constant reminders that everything has to be “safe” in the future and references to facemasks as “chin diapers”, Stone and Parker wear their biases on their sleeves. They largely sacrifice humor and cleverness in the interest of their commentary.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t defend everything that happened during the fight against COVID. Neither “side” emerged from that period blameless.
However, even with a fleeting negative nod to Trump, “Post” just lacks any form of balance. It exists as a gripe session for Parker and Stone to complain about aspects of the pandemic that bugged them.
This makes it a disappointment, as the whole “future South Park” premise shows promise. A few of those elements delight, especially when we meet Future Butters.
However, most of this just goes nowhere, and “Post” comes across like a random collection of concepts than a coherent story. We find gratuitous and not especially clever nods to Terminator and Blade Runner as well as a cheap and tacky allusion to Diary of Anne Frank that feels offensive without purpose.
The biggest issue with “Post” stems from its basic lack of amusement value. Stone and Parker can’t come up with 30 minutes of good comedy here, much less enough valuable content to fill more than two hours.
South Park has been spotty for years, but the two-episode 24th season actually demonstrated renewed vigor. Unfortunately, “Post COVID” fails to continue that trend.