TV Choice: South Park- ‘Let Go, Let Gov’
Reviewed by Matt Keleher
At its best, South Park still manages to serve up piquant satire juxtaposed with some of the crudest, gut-bustingly funny gags you’re likely to find on contemporary television. With creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone riding high on the success of their smash-hit musical ‘Book of Mormon’ (which has won widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike) expectations were high for the Season 17 premiere, when it aired last night.
The new episode, entitled ‘Let Go Let Gov’ is loosely based around the recent NSA (National Security Agency) controversy which saw whistle-blower Edward Snowden leak confidential details of US and British government mass surveillance to The Guardian.
The episode also introduced a re-imagined opening sequence which showcases how far the show’s animation has come since its inaugural card-cutout days, but stays true to its signature style.
Spoilers to follow…
“I am so sick of that stupid bitch. Blabbing prissy little skank…I can’t even get a minute of peace before that bitch walks in holding the cellphone out like this and talking on speakerphone!”
The show opens with Kyle’s harangue; who could be grating on his nerves so much? You guessed it: it’s Cartman! He rolls up seconds later chatting aloud to friends (and anyone in earshot) on speakerphone about the government (and Kyle’s) constant invasion of his privacy. This continues for much of the first act.
The episode’s choice quote which comes in the next scene succinctly captures the mind-set of the over-zealous, under-informed recreational conspiracy theorist:
Cartman: I’m telling you guys, the government can do whatever they want and we don’t have any privacy anymore. Just between you and me I think everyone’s too stupid to see what this is all leading to. Did you guys read 1984?
Friend on Speakerphone: I don’t think so.
Cartman: Yeah, I didn’t read it either, but I saw the puppet show version at Casa Bonita.
In spite of a promising start the episode begins to lose its momentum with a somewhat ham-fisted gag about the controversial Twitter rants of actor Alec Baldwin. “I don’t think that way, I just type that way” Baldwin claims.
“That’s when I realised it wasn’t me that was homophobic; it was my thumbs.”
After severing both thumbs with a meat cleaver Baldwin communicates instead via a probe installed in his brain, which transmits his every thought to his social media followers on a site named ‘Shitter’. There’s a call back to the gag several times throughout the episode, which I felt was one of its weakest.
Things pick up slightly when the subplot is introduced; when Cartman announces to the playground that the government is watching over them, Butters is the only one that takes the message to heart – except Butters finds comfort in that thought. That night before going to sleep, Butters prays for his friends…and a puppy to President Obama. He visits the DMV in the hope of absolving his sins, later undergoing a transformation into a charismatic preacher who convinces half the town (including a pair of Jehova’s Witnesses) to do the same!
In the second act Cartman infiltrates the NSA under the ruse of applying for a job under this alias ‘Bill Clinton’ wearing a false moustache and a conspicuous ‘Shitter’ probe attached.. The story becomes a little laboured from hereon in, although the NSA agents do make a sharp observation on the sheer complexity of the communication trails we leave with the 17 year old girl who just wanted to see a Percy Jackson movie.
For the payoff, Cartman discovers the NSA’s secret method for tracking every citizen. The agency has a heavily probed and badly concussed Santa Claus hooked up to a machine, enabling them to track precisely who’s asleep and who’s awake. Cartman symbolically blows a whistle and blabs to his Shitter followers, but no-one cares.
In short, this is a reasonable episode, but a little disappointing for a season premiere– especially given the show’s year long hiatus. That said, I’ll certainly be tuning in again to see which of this year’s hot topics (there have been too many to mention) will be the next to get the South Park treatment.
Seen the new episode? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.