For 23 years, “South Park” has been at the forefront of satirizing the insanity of our modern world. From celebrities to political leaders, no subject is off the table for the series.
In the past few seasons, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have expressed that it gets harder and harder to keep up with just how much goes on in the world. So when 2020 came around, a year plagued with wildfires, political and social unrest, as well as an actual plague, many wondered how the show would tackle so much potential material. Well our questions were finally answered as they gave us the series’ first hour-long episode literally called, “The Pandemic Special.”
The episode begins by showing South Park citizens and how the virus has affected them. Like most of us, many are sick of being stuck in doors and not being able to enjoy life. Eric Cartman, a series favorite, is relishing in not having to attend school and interacting with his peers. However, the main character of this special is weed farmer Randy, who is ecstatic to promote his titular, “Pandemic Special.”
The special follows him as he learns that through some, let’s just say, unsavory means, might actually be responsible for the outbreak to begin with. The special also focuses on police violence, President Donald Trump, Disney and just about every other possible disaster from this year. All while trying to fit it all into an hour-long narrative. Needless to say, it results in a special with some great comedic potential, but no room to breathe.
The biggest mistake this special makes is similar to the mistakes made in the last few seasons is focusing too much on Randy who is a character who has gone from a fan favorite to a one-note joke.
The writers do not really know where to go with the idea of Randy being responsible for the outbreak and his misguided attempt to cure the disease.
Halfway through the special, viewers are introduced to a very confused subplot involving contagious mustaches. The special’s strongest moments come when it focuses on other characters like the lead boys. In my opinion, the commentary on police violence continues to be one of “South Park’s” strongest aspects. A standout joke being a comparison between current schools and prisons. President Garrison also gets some of the special’s best lines.
Overall, the hour-long runtime greatly hurts this special, and a lot of this material would work better if the show was given more time to develop. Maybe as their own individual episodes. While plenty of the jokes land and many “South Park” fans will enjoy, “The Pandemic Special” lacks any kind of focus as it struggles to cram too much material into a very limited time frame. No matter how you feel about the special, the creative team continues to work on the new season remotely.