Everybody deserves a week off once in a while. Trey Parker and Matt Stone more than most. Admittedly, it wasn’t until I saw the behind-the-scenes mini doc 6 Days to Air several years ago that I realized that most South Park episodes go from concept to air in less than a week. That still melts my mind more than being front-row center at Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld. While the process obviously prioritizes timeliness above all, that’s such little time to execute and, for better or worse, zero time to second-guess oneself. It makes the show’s relative consistency all the more remarkable.
The airing schedules of early seasons were fairly haphazard with odd gaps in production randomly popping up throughout. The middle years, during which the show typically settled on 14 episodes per season, usually saw spring and fall rushes of seven straight weeks of new material. Since scaling back to 10 shows a season, the South Park “bye” week has become a more regular tradition. It’s a scheduled off week that gives Parker and Stone more than six measly days to come up with their next installment.
However, past bye week follow-ups haven’t suggested the extra time guarantees a slam-dunk episode either. While “Sexual Harassment Panda”, “Naughty Ninjas”, and “Titties and Dragons” have all been welcome returns, we’d just as soon forget “Free Willzyx”, “The Magic Bush”, and “Goth Kids 3”. So, after three episodes that have sharply and humorously captured the feeling of existence during the orange reign of Giant Douche, the show returned tonight well-rested and hopefully ready to not only continue a solid comeback season but help solidify the iffy legacy of post-bye week South Park episodes.
Ready or not, it’s coming right for us!
The dying whore that is the town of South Park once again finds itself in need of a symbol — or, um, a cinematic universe full of symbols. In an age when Netflix will greenlight anything (“Netflix, you’re greenlit”) and kids are as likely to play superhero franchise as they are to play superheroes, Coon and Friends have an entire three-phase cinematic universe mapped out, which culminates in such lucrative opportunities as Professor Chaos appearing live at Coachella, the opening of Coonland in Asia, and, gasp, the introduction of a “chick” into the Cooniverse. The only obstacle impeding the franchise turns out to be malicious Facebook news and rumors sullying the marketability of Coon and Friends.
Whose sabotaging the Cooniverse? Is it arch nemesis Professor Chaos, Vladimir Putin, the ’87 Denver Broncos? Right first time, lil’ crime stopper. But wait. No crime has been committed by Professor Chaos. And since the mild-mannered Butters — internet boobie watcher by day, Professor Chaos by night — pays the “unblockable” Mark Zuckerberg and his array of “styles” $17.23 for the Facebook Safeguard Program, it appears that nothing can shut down his diabolical plan of spreading misinformation. That is until Coon and Friends turn Livestream against its penis of a creator.
There are plenty of shots fired in “Franchise Prequel”. Targets include endless cinematic universe building, the growing glut of television shows across networks and streaming services, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s complicity in fake political ads paid for by Russia possibly swaying November’s election in favor of Giant Douche, and even a quick jab at Harvey Weinstein (read below). And all of it comes down to money. Fuck imagination and quality control, truth and integrity, or even national security. As long as Coons and tycoons alike are simply chasing huge amounts of money, we’ll continue to get shitty movies and see a monopoly on truth fall into the hands of whoever can pay for it.
Stephen Stotch ironically blames all the misinformation on Facebook while believing the fake news that there are “young kids dressing up in costumes, eating poop, and having sex with antelopes in our town.” But I tend to side with Sergeant Harrison Yates, who promises the South Park police will help stop Zuckerberg, but suggests that maybe it’s each person’s own fault for letting the mogul and his social media platform burrow so deep into their lives and influence some of their most important decisions. That’s the real embarrassment, isn’t it? The greatest threat to our democracy — what potentially got a Giant Douche elected to the highest office in this land or any other — is an uniformed electorate who turn to social media for everything, including news, and don’t have the critical thinking abilities to tell news from bullshit.
Forget about “The Wall.” As it turns out, we should be more worried about our Facebook walls.
Click ahead to see this week’s scorecard.