So at first this seemed like a pretty good, if also a bit scatter-brained episode of South Park.

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In the boys’ plot, Kyle bemoans the popularity of Let’s Play celebrities, becoming the old guy who doesn’t understand the kids’ way of having fun. This is a very good joke, culminating in the creeping indicator of irrelevance, “We’re not grandpas, your generation’s stuff is just seriously lame.” The confusion at watching other people paly video games (and subsequent death of the living room) is smart. But it also gets run into the ground a bit over the course of the episode, especially as Cartman (sorry, CartmanBrah) takes off. His presence as a floating chat box, eternally commenting but never physically in the room, is just plain weird, a breaking down of the rules of reality that’s unusual even for this show, and is probably overused just a tad.

Meanwhile, Randy continues navigating the world as Lorde (who is probably pretty confused by all of this attention, especially since the joke has mostly shifted from being on Lorde to being about Randy trying to be an inspirational pop star to young women). The concert with all of the other stars is pretty great, especially Randy’s fight with Iggy Azalea and friendship with Nicki Minaj (and even though Miley Cyrus is supposed to be performing, the song she does is a solid Beyoncé pastiche). And his disastrous acoustic performance leads to an awkward Marsh family dinner with everyone asking why Randy had to rub his clit at a huge show, which is just fantastic South Park.

And the South Park social commentary has the potential to be at least somewhat cutting. Though the label executive suggesting that all of the money comes from comments is a little forced (and seems to misunderstand how the internet makes money in most cases), the idea that culture is mostly about getting stuff to talk about rather than making anything independently interesting is a potent one, and is delivered quite well during the “Randy tries to come clean” scene. There’s even a hint of a suggestion that the Lorde hologram, which is planning to go on The Tonight Show (which happened quite recently), is more of a projection of the pop star’s image than a real person, a collection of light that dances for the executive.

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Still, while a lot of this material is strong, its strength is mostly conceptual. There’s some funny stuff, but not as much as you’d expect from something with this much in its crosshairs (and a decent amount of thematic continuity, especially as Randy and Kyle are both set up as representatives of an old school). There’s so much going on, but also so little, a ton of tiny plot threads getting picked up and dropped without too much follow-through on any of them, and, most importantly, a tad sparse on the laughs.

That all snaps into place at the end, when it becomes clear that “#Rehash” isn’t really a spread-thin topical parody (or at least not primarily one). It’s the first part of a two-part episode, and in that light a lot of the flaws start to make sense. Two-parters are notoriously difficult to pace, because they almost never really have enough story for two episodes, instead choosing to split off with a cliffhanger somewhere to garner more eyeballs for the conclusion. So the first half usually lags, which is what’s happening here. South Park has pulled off successful

More importantly, it seems like this entire season was, if not planned out, at least written with an eye toward some sort of conclusion next week. I’ve talked about this in past reviews, but it’s worth repeating this close to the end of the season: That’s pretty amazing for this show. This is the first season of South Park to ever have bona fide serialization, which it’s done with reasonable subtlety (the callbacks to freemium gaming were especially good) and some degree of coherence. At this point in the show’s life, that’s damn impressive.

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Stray observations:

  • “Tupac? Yo.” The “white people trying to talk about Tupac” stuff is funny, mostly because every voice on this show have a slight bland quality.
  • “You’re just another female pop star.”
  • “Why’d you have to rub your clit on stage dad?”
  • The best rehash, of course, is the Michael Jackson hologram, which does all the same stuff this show did with Michael Jackson years ago. “That’s ignorant!” will never fail to make me laugh. Are there any other callbacks I missed?

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