Written and directed by Trey Parker, the twenty-third season finds the citizens of South Park continue to deal with current events in their typical fashion as topical matters get taken to exaggerated extremes amidst gross-out humor and profanity. Fans get more of the same shenanigans and those that didn’t take to the show before likely still won’t this season.
In the previous season, Randy Marsh moved the family out to the valley and opened up Tegridy Farms where he grows and sells marijuana. Sales are down and trying to increase them is storyline that works through the season. In “Mexican Joker”, Randy discovers people are starting to grow their own weed, which he takes personally. He calls ICE, which seizes Steven’s gardener and family. Soon after, bombs start going off in people’s gardens. After learning about ICE, Cartman thinks it would be a great prank to pull on Kyle. At the detention center, Kyle helps the children separated from their parents and deals with administration officials scared their actions might unleash a villain that returns seeking revenge in years to come.
“Band in China” sees Randy travel to China to sell Tegridy weed, but not using the proper channels, he ends up in a prison camp. There, he encounters Winnie the Pooh who has been locked up because some have said Pooh looks like the Chinese president. Back in South Park, although only having been around for two weeks, Stan’s death metal band has an opportunity to make a biopic since music doesn’t sell anymore, but the producer has to make sure the movie will get by Chinese censors. The episode title proved prophetic as South Park was reportedly banned from the Chinese Internet after it aired.
“Shots!!!” is the series 300th episode but it doesn’t stand out as a milestone from the other episodes. By way of acknowledgment, Randy obnoxiously celebrates Tegridy Farms making their first $300,000. The show also deals with anti-vaxxers by having Eric refuse to get vaccinated, running around like a greased pig whenever anyone gets close with a needle. The rest of the town isn’t happy with him or his mom. Randy finds another revenue stream for Tegridy when he learns about plant-based food at Burger King in “Let Them Eat Goo”. Cartman and some students aren’t happy when the girls lead a change for healthier options in the lunch menu.
“Tegridy Farms Halloween Special” is also the name of a strain of weed that has been mutated after Randy’s daughter Shelly pours a concoction on it, which turns smokers into monsters. Butters deals with a mummy that convinces people Butters’ “passive aggressiveness” is contributing to the mummy’s mayhem. “Season Finale” refers to Tegridy’s farming season and not the TV show. It references back to “Mexican Joker” as Randy is found to be the backyard bomber. Looking for help, he reaches out to the Trump-looking President Garrison, who suggests victimization tactics that Garrison (and Trump) uses to get out of trouble. Victimization is a theme as The Whites family frequently complain about how hard it is being White.
South Park Elementary principal PC Principal and his wife Strong Woman lead one story in “Board Girls”, which deals with Heather, a transgender athlete who transitioned into a woman two weeks prior. Heather, who looks like Randy “Macho Man” Savage, competes and wins competitions against Strong Woman and other women. Turns out Heather is an old boyfriend of Strong Woman seeking revenge, but PC Principal to confront Heather he is confounded because she calls him a transphobe. At the same time, the boys are dealing with girls at school joining their club, Dice Studz, and beating them at games.
After Kyle’s mom Sheila gets a bacterial infection, she requires a fecal transplant to reset her microbiome, and it does wonders for her. Her friends are jealous of the makeover and request her poop to use for themselves. Sheila denies them, leading them to ask the boys sans Kyle to become “Turd Burglars”. The episode references Dune, which even with a remake coming out later this year (allegedly) seems a bit obscure for a running joke.
Scott Malkinson, a classmate with a lisp and diabetes, comes to the forefront in “Basic Cable”. He wants to impress Sophie Gray, a new girl to the school who also has diabetes. Thinking their shared disease means they are soulmates, Scott wants to invite her over to watch The Mandalorian, but his cable tech dad doesn’t want Disney+ in his home and tries to take on all the streaming services with his co-workers.
When the citizens of South Park ignore Santa’s pleas about drunk driving, he bans alcohol sales until after New Year’s. To help bring cheer, the Mayor asks Randy to sell marijuana. Although the season is over, he creates “Christmas Snow”, which is marijuana laced with cocaine. He works to legalize cocaine, but Santa is still upset that people are driving under the influence so he tries to thwart the Snow sales. Parents likely won’t appreciate all the characters enjoying cocaine, but isn’t upsetting parents one of the hallmarks of South Park?
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ration of 1.78:1. The colors pop in vibrant hues. Blacks are very inky and whites look accurate, which contributes to a strong contrast. With a nod back to the show’s early days, some portions of objects exhibit texture, giving the appearance they are made of colored paper. The image has a sharp focus. In the Halloween Special, a wall in Butter’s bedroom contains banding.
The audio is available in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The dialogue is clear, except for Kenny’s muffled voice. Objects can be heard moving across channels, such as cars passing by. The different music styles come through with good fidelity. This audio track balances the elements together well. The Bonus Features are sparse. #SocialCommentary is like Pop-Up Video with “tweets” appearing at the bottom of screen offering info about the episode. Concept art can be seen in a gallery.
Twenty-three seasons in and South Park has a tough task competing against itself, trying to be as funny as it used to be, as smart, as shocking. Its ubiquity on Comedy Central compounds the problem. After watching the first few seasons, I am now an infrequent viewer some times missing whole seasons and not caring that I did. There’s little surprise in the stories or the characters, even with the addition of the Tegridy Farms location. It’s not a show I must see when it airs, but I am not worried I’ll be disappointed if I tune in as it has become TV comfort food. This season had amusing moments, but didn’t elicit belly laughs from me. The social commentary is interesting but doesn’t feel like it pushes hard enough. The gross-out material is the only area where it feels like they are pushing past previous boundaries. Fans of the season will appreciate the high-definition experience, but may want more bonus features.