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TV Review: South Park – “Britney’s New Look”

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South Park is back.

After the mis-fire of last week’s episode, “Britney’s New Look” was a welcome return to form for Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The episode takes our gossip-obsessed culture to the edges of horror, equating our tabloid-television fixations with the ancient historical practices of human sacrifice. That absurd perversion of logic is what the South Park creators do so well.

It wasn’t a great episode, but it easily had one of the most indelible images of the season. Chasing the big payday that compromising photos of Britney Spears can provide, the South Park boys unwittingly trigger her suicide – or so it appears. Britney survives her self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, and the results are a new level of disturbing.

Parker and Stone are nimble directors, able to mimic just about every film and television genre out there. The timing on the reveal of headless Britney was superb, and the sequence of ever expanding wide shots of the gathering mob are note perfect. Somewhere out there, a bunch of geeks are analyzing the pseudo-Latin chanting during the climactic scenes, parsing it for obscure or scatological references.

At its best, South Park finds comedy at the far ends of any emotional spectrum. What’s ironic is that their satire is largely a plea for reason and common sense. To fully appreciate their humor, you have to be educated, politically moderate, and a self-appointed member of the cultural elite. Parker and Stone are the best satirists working in television today, though they own that title mostly through a near-complete lack of competition. Nobody on television tackles the topics they go after, and few can hold a candle to their ability to skewer the absurdities in our culture.

In the end, though, “Britney’s New Look” is a mixed bag. The human sacrifice metaphor is apt, but much of the comedy falls flat. Mostly, Parker and Stone run afoul of their previous high water marks. After the brilliant reveal of headless Britney, the rest of the humor pales in comparison. Still, I sat in shock for that whole sequence, and it’s that blend of horror and absurdity that South Park does so well. Welcome back.

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About Jeffrey Williams

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Brother Williams, I’d say that this episode actually went way past the edge and well into horror. Plus, I don’t think the rest of the show was anti-climactic after revealing the “new look.” It was funny, but in an tense laughing off the horror way to see topless Britney drug out on the MTV stage.

    Also, it’s not that no one else addresses the topics that South Park does. There have been lots of comedy sketches and monologues about Britney, Scientologists, Tom Cruise, etc. It’s just that hardly anyone else making comedy today is even in a league with Parker and Stone. They do it so much better than anyone else that you might forget the rest.

    That AIDS show last week puzzles me. It seemed off somehow, but I’ve got a general idea that I didn’t quite get what they were after. They weren’t just putting out a lazy half-assed episode. That would probably bear a couple of repeat watchings.

  • http://www.goodisthenewbad.com Jeffrey

    The ‘headless Britney’ reveal rivaled – or maybe surpassed – the finale of ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’ in terms of sheer horror. It’s fantastic to the point of inducing nausea… and the accuracy of the horror movie styling at the end is brilliant.

    I watched “Tonsil Trouble” twice, and it’s just a soft episode. (My full opinion is here.)

    Basically, it would have been much funnier and more on point 4 or 5 years ago. I think Parker and Stone lost their grip on it during production. They weren’t sure if they were going after ‘how diseases become trendy’ or ‘anything is possible with money’ or just the ‘cartman vs. kyle’ thing.

    I don’t sweat them for the mis-fire, though. Happens to every season of every show. When they swing for the fences week after week, sometimes they’re going to whiff.

  • Leslie

    Did anyone notice that a huge part of the plot is an allusion to a classic American short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. You should read it it is very short, and it will completely explain how they got the idea for this show. I think that this episode was clever in how they reinvented the story, but it is not as groundbreaking as you guys might think it is. This plot has been done before…

  • Randy

    South Park’s plots are always alluding to some part of culture … it’s what makes it them so hilarious.

  • stefan

    Yeah it’s definitely a play off “the lottery”. People should really come to appreciate how well the creators are able to tie in musings like this with literature.

  • mark

    Kyle just looked so damn cute with that blond wig ^^

  • Travis

    Right Leslie, and nosferatu sucked because it was based off the book Dracula.