South Park: Post Covid – Different Time, Same Jokes
South Park has made many changes to its formula over the years. The current recipe is not good when it’s extended from twenty minutes up to two hours. It’s easy to imagine any of the Post Covid jokes being acceptable in an episode. But when it’s strung over a feature-length story, hitting the same note again as again you will lose interest.
There isn’t any real development in any of the Jokes. That’s part of the problem. It’s easy to see how they are driven into the show as stakes, separate things that stand alone without much concern for what’s happening around them or what they have endured. Each Joke is almost identical in its first instance.
This is made worse by Post Covid’s two-hour-long TV movies. It seems like a experiment in how much tinsel is needed to keep your audience’s attention.
Because South Park is a comedy series, I am focusing on the jokes. It seems a bit dishonest to deem Post Covid as such. As I said, the Jokes are there. They seem to be the foundation from which all the rest of the show hangs.
Post Covid is more than just a transplantation of South Park’s characters and setting into a straight drama. A few old jokes are left at the bottom, but occasionally rise to the surface. It’s the same heightened reality that you would expect from South Park or any cartoon, but it is played straight through – remarkable for something that involves time travel.
All of this is in service to one of South Park’s capital m Messages. This was historically a major feature of the show. At the end of each episode, one would literally proclaim ” you’ve learned something today….” It’s clear (minimal spoiler alert) that Covid has been terrible, so let’s all give each other some grace. This is a very laudable sentiment. It sounds awfully familiar to the jokers who spent two hours laughing about Alexas being moody women.
The drama is just a supporting system for the central idea of ‘here’s the cast you love doing (x). Aren’t they excited about the big Post Covid Special? What will they do this time! This aspect seems to have more substance than it actually does. You can almost feel the makers pausing for the studio audience to cheer when a catchphrase is used or when a familiar face appears .
It’s evident that the company is now heavily relying on its internal canon. This is more than a wink to Kenny when he dies. This is now at the level of parallel world history. It’s like ours but distinctly different. Covid all started with Randy Marsh fucking with a pangolin. All of which Post Covid assumes its viewers will be familiar with.
This is a reasonable choice for a show that has – good Lord, twenty four now, the ability to vote, drink and buy a gun. It’s also essentially old enough to have an enjoyable weekend in Vegas. Many fans will be familiar with the show as a child, while others will have been following it their entire lives. It’s a part of their lives, for better and for worse. Real obsesives find it more satisfying to see their old friends, and to react to current events.
The discussion about “parasocial relationships” is broader. These are one-way relationships that one might have with actors, musicians, or celebrities. Their carefully curated, polished output is, by definition, much more entertaining than boring ordinary people. They also demand much less.
(As an internet personality, this is what I mean to encourage – but for God’s sake, get in touch your family and friends and tell them that you love them.
As South Park: Post Covid goes, it’s a well-established franchise that is treading water. They might be able to do so considering that they were granted 14 more films from their kind and generous teevee gods. They don’t need to produce anything new to continue receiving regular bushels of cash.
South Park is willing to try new things, more so than any of the animated shows. However, they have been using light humor to make observations on current events for years now. This is not a new concept.
South Park would however, be able to use their existing cinematic universe (a phrase I do but not like deploying) as a base for expanding into new genres. Their closest attempt at that was in their Halloween specials. These were a way for them to use some non-canonical horror to make the show more entertaining, but they weren’t a complete genre shift.