Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 29, 2018)
Another year, another collection of South Park episodes! This Blu-ray set provides the series’ complete 21st 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.
White People Renovating Houses (aired 9/13/17): “South Park citizens see the new intelligent digital assistants as a threat to their jobs. Armed with tiki torches and Confederate flags, protestors take to the streets of South Park. Randy gets upset because he feels they are interfering with the success of his new home improvement show.”
As much as the infamous Charlottesville march deserves the South Park treatment, “Houses” doesn’t explore that event well. The episode works better when it mocks home renovation shows, and the sight of Cartman as a beaten-down boyfriend offers amusement. Those elements balance the lackluster “white power” parts and make this a generally good launch to the season.
Put It Down (aired 9/20/17): “As tensions rise between the United States and North Korea, Tweek’s conciliatory gesture of sending cupcakes to Kim Jong-Un brings a presidential tweetstorm down on him. Meanwhile, when Heidi finally breaks up with Cartman, he threatens to kill himself and at the same time takes on the cause of raising awareness for suicide prevention.”
It’s tough to spoof Trump, as he exists as a self-parody. That means that side of the episode sputters, but the Cartman elements fare a bit better. While the episode threatens to trivialize suicide, it focuses more on the reactions from others, so these bits offer some insight and cleverness.
Holiday Special (aired 9/27/17): “South Park Elementary is thrown into chaos when Randy petitions the local school board to cancel Columbus Day. Faced with losing a day off from school, the kids fight back. Stan and Kyle find evidence connecting Randy to past Columbus Day celebrations and try blackmail to keep their precious holiday. In a last-ditch effort to save his reputation, Randy takes a DNA test and stumbles into forbidden love.”
The more politicized aspects of “Holiday” feel forced, and the subplot where a Native American falls for Randy also flops. Still, Randy’s crusade offers amusement – especially when it depicts the extent of his Columbus obsession – and the show adds up to a pretty decent one.
Franchise Prequel (aired 10/11/17): “Coon & Friends hopes for a Netflix series are destroyed when they become the victims of fake news on Facebook. The parents are worried about their children when they read the postings so they invite Mark Zuckerberg to South Park to discuss their concerns. When Zuckerberg arrives, he teams with Professor Chaos and refuses to leave.”
As often occurs with South Park, “Prequel” bites off more than it can chew, as it attempts to meld a superhero parody with Facebook commentary. The former works while the latter seems forced. This still leads to a watchable and generally good show, though.
Hummels and Heroin (aired 10/18/17): “Following a slew of opioid-related celebrity deaths in South Park, a young man named Marcus Preston follows the drugs to an unlikely suspect: Stan Marsh. What only Stan knows, however, is that his grandfather is the one caught in the middle of a drug trafficking ring that’s run out of the local retirement home.”
“Hummels” peaks early, as the sight of Chuck E. Cheese as he starts to play “Purple Rain” at a birthday party seems inspired. The episode becomes less effective from there, as the theme doesn’t offer enough content to fill the whole 22 minutes.
Sons a Witches (aired 10/25/17): “It’s the week before Halloween, and that means it’s time for Jack and Crack Witch Week. Every year, Randy and his friends dress up as witches and party their brains out for one solid week. This year one of the members takes things too far. Randy and the guys don’t think it’s fair to have to stop tradition because of one bad witch. Meanwhile, Cartman and Heidi’s relationship hits a new low.”
The titular witch theme seems odd and semi-pointless, but the Cartman segments work pretty well. Cartman’s misery brings comedy and makes this a pretty enjoyable show despite the iffy nature of the main plot.
Doubling Down (aired 11/8/17): “Kyle can’t understand why Heidi wants to be with Cartman and he decides to have a talk with her. While Heidi may be having second thoughts about her relationship, Kyle’s interference makes her angry and she runs right back into Cartman’s arms.”
The Heidi/Cartman relationship goes from background to forefront with “Down”, and that factor makes it a good show – though it seems odd that Heidi suddenly dumps Cartman when she seemed happy in the last episode. Still, I don’t mind, as “Down” milks the circumstance for clever bits.
Moss Piglets (aired 11/15/17): “Nathan and Mimsy set out to sabotage Jimmy and Timmy’s Water Bear experiment so their project – a fabulous lava volcano simulation – can win the Special Ed Science Fair. While Nathan attempts to kill the Water Bears, the girls at school are worried that since Heidi and Cartman have gotten back together, Heidi seems to have changed for the worse.”
I never liked the Nathan and Mimsey characters, so an episode that emphasizes them starts at a disadvantage. Nothing about “Moss” changes my mind, so Nathan and Mimsey create a drag on the program. The sight of Heidi as she turns into Cartman works better but can’t overcome the negatives caused by the main narrative.
Super Hard PCness (aired 11/29/17): “A new vice principal has been hired to combat all the bullying and insensitivity at the school. PC Principal finds himself wrestling with inappropriate feelings for a co-worker.”
The return of Terrence and Phillip – now elderly – acts as a strong positive here, one that helps carry the show. The way in which PC Principal struggles with his “inappropriate” feelings works, too, and this becomes arguably the best episode of S21.
Splatty Tomato (aired 12/6/17): “Garrison is frantic about his approval ratings. He’s on the run and has landed in the woods surrounding South Park, where he is terrorizing the citizens. When Ike goes missing, the kids head into the woods to look for him. The parents follow. While they are hoping to save their children from President Garrison, they stumble upon something even more disturbing.”
“Tomato” casts the president as the villain from It, a concept that doesn’t really seem to stretch reality. Actually, Pennywise might be a more competent leader.
Aspects of “Tomato” stretch to make a point – not unusual for South Park - but the show still comes with a reasonably solid story. While not the year’s best, it concludes S21 on a fairly good note.