[This is a review of the South Park episode ‘Oh Jeez’. There will be SPOILERS.]
South Park has long been admired for its ability to respond to current events and the news in ways most other scripted shows – much less animated ones – simply couldn’t dream of. Its production schedule is such that creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are often working on the episode right up until the day it airs. Just a few days ago, the long-running series was already running promos that teased ‘The Very First Gentleman,’ an episode that, in more than its title, followed suit with what many in the media presumed to be the outcome of the recent presidential election: a win for Hillary Clinton. As everyone is well aware by now, that outcome didn’t exactly come to pass.
Over the course of season 20, South Park has taken to skewering the election as part of its ongoing shift toward serialized storytelling. In this case, the series refers to Clinton by name but has an increasingly reluctant Mr. Garrison serve as a proxy for now President-elect Donald Trump. Since the season premiere, Mr. Garrison has found himself in a state of panic at the prospect that he might actually become president, and has taken to performing increasingly unhinged and shocking deeds in an attempt to throw the election. In a bit of life imitates art (or the other way around – but at this point, who can tell?) no matter what Mr. Garrison does, his outlandish actions only seem to further galvanize his supporters.
What makes the most recent episode special isn’t just South Park‘s lauded satire or ability to respond to current events, but that the result of the election came as such a surprise the episode had to be re-worked, all the way down to its title, which was fittingly changed from ‘The Very First Gentleman’ to ‘Oh, Jeez.’ The sudden change was even marked on social media with the official South Park Twitter account posting a new video clip addressing the election – though not Trump specifically – and using the hashtag #themorningafter.
Since Parker and Stone routinely work up until the very last minute, ‘Oh, Jeez’ works pretty much as fans have come to expect. Given the fodder available to them, it’s not surprising the duo turned in an episode that doesn’t appear to miss a beat when it comes to reacting to the election’s results and the reactions that came soon afterwards. But for all the excitement over the re-writes, it’s a good bet the episode wasn’t changed that extensively. Aside from a terrific opening sequence in which shocked viewers sit in awe as a reporter says, “Definitely a bit of a surprise here. Looks like America has voted for a change of pace,” and then Randy seguing into a Planet of the Apes joke, ‘Oh Jeez’ was mostly concerned with the ongoing storyline of Kyle’s dad Gerald being found out as a virulent internet troll.
As the story of Gerald and the other trolls unfolds, the episode shifts to some seemingly tender moments between Stan and Wendy, as well as the surprising romance of Cartman and Heidi – who is under the impression that Cartman is a kind and caring boy who understands feminism. The exchange is similar to the jokes that South Park has delivered all season with regard to Cartman’s feelings about women, but they take on a more pointed tone that’s directly in response to the election when Heidi says, “I feel so disconnected from the world. I really thought this was gonna be the moment that proves girls can do anything.” Exchanges like that become markers throughout the episode, giving the show a chance to address what just happened in (to?) the U.S. while still maintaining the comedic and storytelling beats that were likely in place before the results started coming in on Tuesday night.
But with the altered focus on Mr. Garrison winning in an historic upset, and vice president-elect Caitlyn Jenner vomiting member berries onto Randy to make him obsessed with nostalgia all over again, ‘Oh, Jeez’ seems to take the events in stride – almost as though it were the only possible result from so many months of such a toxic presidential election. And while some bits like Bill Clinton’s Gentleman’s Club and his duet with Bill Cosby don’t really work – especially given the election’s outcome – the episode manages to get a few worthwhile jabs in while trying to make sense of all that has transpired.
Near the end of the episode is where things begin to feel like they’re falling a little more in place. Randy says, “Well I don’t know about you guys, but I sure am excited. America’s going to be great again,” his daughter replies, telling him the country is going to suck for four years. That’s when ‘Oh Jeez’ lays its cards on the table by having Randy say, “Oh, come on, Shelly. We’ve learned that women can be anything — except for president.” It may not be completely cathartic, but it is definitely South Park.
South Park continues next Wednesday @10pm on Comedy Central.
Photos: Comedy Central