If there was ever a time for the current season of South Park to kick it into high gear—to amp up the sex, violence, absurdism, and general profaneness, it was in its post-election episode. But, like many of us, Trey Parker and Matt Stone currently seem to be in a state of numbness, wandering around in a stupor as they try to think of something helpful or—most importantly—funny to say.
And who can blame them? As with much of the world, they were caught off-guard by Donald Trump’s presidential victory, so much that they had to rewrite the latest episode. “The Very First Gentleman” likely drew its comedic power from an almost universally predicted Hillary Clinton win and Bill Clinton’s First Husband status that would have come with it (more on that in a bit). But under its new title of “Oh, Jeez,” it draws its comedic power from nothing. Outside of the poisonous-nostalgia factor (already covered to death over the past two episodes), the show has little commentary left in it about Decision 2016 and the events of Tuesday night.
That’s fine. After all, what’s there left to say at this point? Most of us are (hopefully) ready to get back to our own lives, even if it’s going to be a struggle to do so. In that way, Randy freaking out over Mr. Garrison becoming the president-elect, then entering a Member Berry fugue state is a fairly accurate representation of how much of the country feels right now.
The problem is, inaction doesn’t make for very compelling television, and “Oh, Jeez” never makes up for it elsewhere. It’s hard to fault Parker and Stone for not being able to pull humor from such an exhausting—and ultimately devastating—election cycle, but some of the show’s story threads that aren’t tied so strongly to the election could have been explored more rigorously. They could have been explored in a way that isn’t solely about conspiracy. Instead though, we’re left with another episode of South Park that relies on convoluted plot mechanics over humor. The more the troll arc becomes about secret missions and political intrigue, the less funny it becomes.
Unfortunately, that storyline makes up a hefty portion of “Oh, Jeez.” Gerald heads back to the bridge to meet a defeated Clinton, who wants him to infiltrate Denmark and steal Troll Trace’s technology. Once he gets to the company’s headquarters, he discovers the other trolls—all decked out in tuxedos—have been tasked with the same objective. Before they can figure out what’s going on, they all get Rickrolled.
And that’s about it. It’s mildly amusing to see Gerald act out his dorky James Bond fantasy and once again suppress his cruel laughter (this time over a series of purposely bad breast-cancer jokes), but outside of that, the troll spy operation digs more rabbit holes without ever unearthing the comedy inside them. The trolls get trolled, then rolled. So what? While the outdated anticlimax of the joke may be intentional, the comedic end result still pales in comparison to the violent death of their fellow troll, MLKKK. The latter, more over-the-top comeuppance got the bigger laughs—still the best barometer for a good South Park episode, regardless of how you swing politically.
The rest of “Oh, Jeez” hinges on a gag that would have worked better had Clinton won the election. It feels strange for Bill Clinton to be invited to South Park Elementary after his wife loses, and it’s even stranger for so much of the episode’s focus to be on his Gentleman’s Club. Like the James Bond bit, there’s some minor fun to be had with him mentoring young men on chivalry when his own past with women is so checkered, but the episode never moves beyond that basic premise. Bill Cosby’s membership in the club feels equally as wasted. If the most notable gag is him and the other Bill pressed back to back in a B-boy pose, why even write him in? #HappyHolograms wasn’t afraid to skewer Cosby’s grossness more explicitly, and was all the better for it.
That’s ultimately the most glaring problem with “Oh, Jeez.” None of its decisions make a ton of sense from a comedic and narrative standpoint. It just meanders, adding more cloak and daggers to the troll storyline as the show sluggishly moves to the end of its season. What’s the endgame at this late stage? Even if Parker and Stone had it all figured out, that likely got thrown for a loop on Tuesday night. They likely had to scramble to rethink what their highly anticipated, post-election episode was going to be, and as a result, it’s not much of anything. Sometimes their six-days-to-air schedule can be strength. But as the piecemeal, thrown-together nature of “Oh, Jeez” proves, it can also be a weakness.
- The berry-flavored projectile vomiting reminded me of the David “Lardass” Hogan scene in Stand By Me, and I wanted to see more of it.
- We might get more Martian daydream sequences if Cartman and Heidi make it to space. So that’s something.
- Member when the Member Berries were barely in the episode? Hopefully they’ll be front and center again next week.
- Angry Butters will always be funny.
- “Oh, he’s pressing pickle.”