If you’ve been a fan of the Comedy Central hit South Park from day 1, you’ve probably noticed the shift in the animated series’ humor and look. Of course, the staples are still there, the foul language, the biting wit, and Eric Cartman’s unapologetic politically incorrectness. Over the years, however, South Park‘s appeal have shifted from the downright crass and shocking to, well, a little on the intellectual side.
Just a case in point. Consider comparing an episode from the show’s first few seasons to something from the latest. I recently watched “Clubhouses” and can still largely remember “About Last Night..” so let’s compare the two.
On “Clubhouses,” the free-spirited eight-year-old Bebe was a little too enamored with Kyle’s “sweet ass” that she conspired with Wendy to have the boys build a tree-house, where they can play truth-or-dare and realize her plan. Cartman and Kenny did the same, although Kenny, since he’s poor, did most of the work whereas Cartman pretty much just watched American Gladiators and ate Cheesy Poofs.
Meanwhile, “About Last Night..” was aired less than a day after Obama was declared winner of the 2008 presidential polls yet still managed to include sound bites from his victory speech. The episode revealed that the whole presidential elections brouhaha was nothing but a convoluted plan by Obama, McCain, Palin, Biden, and even Michelle to steal something, à la Oceans 11. Finding the Family Guy approach to the presidential race “lame,” the creators opted to just parody something neutral (heist movies), but still managed to make funny, and definitely something only South Park can produce.
I’m not sure when and in what season South Park started its metamorphosis from that primitive looking slapstick-laden cartoon to the intelligent, almost subtle one with relatively OK animation. Imagine. The pilot episode, which employed the original paper cut-out method, took three months to produce. Later episodes made use of computer animation to arrive at the same effect but at a fraction of the time. This technology allowed South Park to be quite quick on its feet, especially when dealing with breaking news, such as Obama’s win.
While I like South Park‘s newer episodes because of their cleverness, I can’t help but miss the old ones. Remember how Cartman’s voice used to be a lot more high-pitched than it is now, especially when he talks to his mom, (“But mom! The blueprint says we need carpeting in the clubhouse!” or “’Mr. Garrison, Stan’s behavior is causing adverse effects on my education!’). It was also during this time when he was saying, “Screw you guys, I’m going home,” a lot. In a nutshell, things used to be pretty basic back then, and it was what made it extremely funny (think “What? Your parents are dead? You suck!” followed by harsh laughter).
In the end, I guess there really is no comparing the so-called South Park of old and the new South Park, primarily because both have their own charms. It’s true: you might need a little more brain power to appreciate the latter episodes, but from time to time, you’re bound to get glimpses of the old South Park, which is always welcome.
-Glenn L. Diaz, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image Courtesy of Comedy Central)