Sunday, December 04, 2016

Fun On A Schedule

In the last few years, South Park has had serialized seasons.  I'm not sure if this is a good development. It's hard enough to create a funny half-hour each week with stories ripped from the headlines--to add the balancing act of long-form storytelling makes it much trickier to pull off.

This season I think some of the seams are showing.  There are a bunch of connected stories: trolling, girls versus boys, a trip to Mars, Member Berries and the presidential race.  It's that last one that's screwed things up.  Based on how the plot is going, it seems likely that Trey Parker and Matt Stone prepared a storyline where Trump (and thus his South Park stand-in Mr. Garrison) lost the election.  But now that Trump has won, they're flailing a bit, trying to force the threads of the story to come together in ways they never expected.

It's always dangerous to base your show on the outcome of an election.  The best example I can think of, ironically, is another Parker and Stone show, That's My Bush!.  In 2000 they had an idea for a sitcom parody.  It would look just like a sitcom (which meant huge expenses for their channel Comedy Central) but instead of some fictional family, it would be about whoever occupied the White House in 2001.

They figured Al Gore would win, but even if Bush took it, they were planning to go on the air soon after.  They would start writing right after election night, and air the first episode in February 2001, a month after the President was sworn in.

You know what happened next.  The recount went on and on, and no one knew who the President would be until well into December.  All during that time, Parker and Stone had to wait, wondering who'd be the star of their show.

That's My Bush! finally aired in April 2001.  It never really worked, and was quickly canceled. I doubt it would have worked no matter what, but the acrid atmosphere over the fight for the White House made things worse.  Here was a show mostly about mocking old sitcoms, not the political situation, but you couldn't help but think about politics.


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