Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 29, 2015)
Time for more antics from the kids of South Park! This Blu-ray set provides the series’ complete 18th season. I’ll examine all 10 programs in the way presented on the discs, which also is the order in which they were first broadcast. The synopses come from the package itself.
Go Fund Yourself (aired 9/24/14): “Cartman and the boys name their new start-up company ‘The Washington Redskins’ and then sit back and watch the funding roll in.”
Given my lifelong residence in Northern Virginia, the controversy about the Redskins’ name resonates more with me than with most. “Fund” skewers that issue as well as a bunch of others, and it ties these concepts together surprisingly well. I feared the episode would try so hard to mock so much that it’d fall apart, but instead, it turns into a pretty tight show.
Gluten Free Ebola (aired 10/1/14): “After witnessing a shocking demonstration of what happens to your body when you eat gluten, the entire town of South Park is scared into going gluten-free.”
Making fun of the gluten-free movement is low-hanging fruit, but it’s low-hanging fruit that deserves to be swatted. I like the way “Ebola” stretches the concept into a spoof of medical disaster movies, and this all adds up to a quality episode.
The Cissy (aired 10/8/14): “Fed up with having to share toilet times with the other boys, Cartman declares himself ‘transginger’ and tries to commandeer the girls’ bathroom.”
I’ve never much liked Randy, so the weird storyline in which we’re told he’s really Lorde doesn’t work for me. The “transginger” elements have a bit more punch, though the show explores them in a somewhat limp manner.
Handicar (aired 10/15/14): “To raise money for summer camp, Timmy launches an innovative new ride-sharing business called Handicar.”
South Park works best when it views subjects in a subtle manner, but that doesn’t happen here. “Handicar” takes on its topics in a blunt way and it lacks charm.
It doesn’t help that it brings back the annoying, unlikable Nathan and Mimsy characters – they become an active turn-off. Add to that a pointless, self-indulgent parody of the Wacky Races cartoons and “Handicar” disappoints.
The Magic Bush (aired 10/29/14): “Cartman and Butters get their hands on a drone and take it for a spin around the neighborhood, only to catch Craig’s mom completely naked.”
“Bush” hits on a few different issues, with the topic of drone-related privacy at the fore. It doesn’t score many points, partly because there’s not much room for debate – it’s not like there’s a reasonable defense for people who use drones to spy on others. “Bush” still has a few laughs – especially when Butters’ father goes a little kooky – but the episode feels a bit flat.
Freemium Isn’t Free (aired 11/5/14): “Stan is addicted to the new Terrence and Philip mobile game.”
Confession: I’ve been an active player of The Simpsons: Tapped Out for more than two years. “Free” gets the freemium game system right, as embarrassed as I am to admit that, and it scores good points, even though it stretches matters when it compares the apps to drug dealing. Still, it’s amusing, especially when we see the Canadians – they’re comedy gold, as the debut of “Canadian Devil” is terrific.
Grounded Vindaloop (aired 11/12/14): “Armed with the latest virtual reality headset, Cartman convinces Butters he’s living in a virtual world.”
Usually South Park goes for topical subjects, but “Vindaloop” just shoots for laughs – oddly convoluted laughs, though. The complexities of the virtual reality domains makes the narrative confusing, but in an amusing way. Heck, “Vindaloop” even gets amusement from the stale notion of the Indian customer service rep. It’s a good show.
Cock Magic (aired 11/19/14): “Kenny’s hardcore skills at Magic: The Gathering win him the boys’ full admiration – until they discover an even more manly battle going on in the basement of City Wok.”
This episode appears to exist for two reasons: to use the word “cock” as much as possible, and to show Randy’s penis-oriented magic act. Despite my general disdain for Randy, the latter side actually amuses pretty well, but the Magic: The Gathering part is a one-joke bit that doesn’t go anywhere.
#Rehash (aired 12/3/14): “Kyle thinks he and his little brother Ike should be bonding while they play video games together.”
I never heard of “Youtube superstar PewDiePie” until a few weeks ago. Perhaps this is the generation gap speaking, but I don’t have the slightest clue why anyone would want to listen to him talk for five minutes, much less follow his inane video game commentary for hours on end.
This episode’s emphasis on the idiocy of that concept amuses me and makes the program pretty good, though its revival of the “Randy is Lorde” concept leaves me cold. That wasn’t much of a joke from the start, and it’s not getting funnier.
#HappyHolograms (aired 12/10/14): “Afraid that his good ol’ family values are dying, Kyle rallies people to follow his #SaveTheLivingRoom campaign.”
“Holograms” essentially acts as a continuation of “#Rehash”, and it’s not an especially good conclusion to the season. Isn’t it a little late to make jokes about Michael Jackson’s alleged child abuse? In addition, a gag about Kurt Cobain and a shotgun is crude without any cleverness. The series made all the points it needed to make in “#Rehash”, so “Holograms” just feels… well, rehashed. It becomes a lackluster finish to Season 18.