Last night’s South Park episode took dead aim
at the smash hit Inception. It had all the elements of classic South Park greatness: strong writing,
biting satire wrapped in some pop culture shakedown, and Randy being Randy. But as I watched it, something
didn’t work for me; something felt off. (Spoilers Ahead)
Now I’m a huge fan of Inception and I love its thematic and narrative density,
but I also recognize that it can come off as unnecessarily convoluted to many.It’s not a perfect
film by any stretch of the imagination, and the risk/reward paradigm for doing something well outside the typical Hollywood
rules for ‘good’ storytelling certainly apply here, leaving it ripe for parody.And nobody
does parody and satire on Television better than Trey Parker and Matt Stone.And therein lies the fundamental
problem with last night’s episode: the medium.
In TV time, South Park stays remarkably current, routinely pumping out episodes that plug directly into the zeitgeist.They grind their axes hard, and speak up for that angry little person inside many of us that cocks an eyebrow at the
tiny insults that are hurled at our intelligence on a daily basis.But TV time no longer applies to most
of us; like Cobb and his merry band of dream warriors we’ve gone one level deeper to a place where we get our parodies
days after their targets register on our collective consciousness, not weeks or (gasp!) months.
Last night’s episode went after Inception’s
internal logic with guns blazing and while it was funny, it seemed stale.College Humor did the same thing
quite effectively months ago:
They also used the a cappella version of the score
throughout the episode, which was great, but again we’d heard it all before:
In all fairness, Parker and Stone often feature stuff
that they themselves find on the Internet (my favorite is still Butters’ version of Samwell’s ‘What
What’), but it was never clear if they were paying homage or riffing on their own in last night’s episode.
Even if they were paying tribute, simply having a guy do the score a cappella while another character explains crucial plot
points pales in comparison to the original youtube upload.
The Internet has a very small window of relevance; it’s an unforgiving movement of information
that keeps rolling along as it evolves, weeding out stale material as more garbage is uploaded.Sure there
are holdovers and standouts, but those are exceptions that prove the rule.And now that the Internet and
Television continue to overlap and converge, shows like South Park will be judged on a different time scale.
I feel bad for the creative team behind South Park,
because the reality is that they are now competing with talented people who can literally write, shoot, and disseminate a
parody in days on the Internet while SP still works in the archaic system of television seasons.Let’s
hope they find a way to grind that axe a little faster, lest more great episodes like last night’s be wasted in the
ever rolling tide of the new media.