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SOUTH PARK: "Let Gov" In

South Park poster

Written by : published Thursday 26th September 2013

Comedy Central's South Park is an enduring cultural touchstone. While it is not the longest-running animated series for adults on television, it does hold second place, beginning it's seventeenth season last night with "Let Go, Let Gov." The advantage South Park has over its older peer, The Simpsons, though, is instead of getting stale midway through its run, South Park still continues to deliver biting satire and social commentary, making it relevant and funny to this day.

"Let Go, Let Gov" hits a few items recently in the news. The most obvious involves the NSA, whom Cartman (Trey Parker) becomes concerned is listening in on his phone calls and reading his twitter and email. Of course, the NSA doesn't care about a little boy in Colorado, and that's part of the message that shines through. But they are shown paying attention to a lot of other trivial things, so it still lambasts them.

Whether or not people care that the NSA is monitoring us has been a one-sided debate. There are plenty of us that really don't mind, having nothing to hide, but those people don't tend to speak up because it's not important to them. Then there are others who see it as a stripping of freedoms and privacy. Cartman is the face of this side of the argument, stereotyping the worst of that segment, painting an image many may not be pleased with.

Considering that Cartman has no terrorist connections, why does it matter to him so much that he sneaks into the NSA to spill their secrets, a slightly more subtle reference to recent whistle blowers like Bradley Manning? He claims it's because he doesn't want the government in his personal business. This is a valid point, but only if he doesn't shove his business in everyone's face already.

Cartman is part of the constantly-connected community, talking on speaker phone in public places and tweeting his everything he does or thinks. He even takes it a step further and installs the new social media app "Shitter" in his head so his every thought will be broadcast on the internet. When one puts all that out there, it's hard to feel sympathy for that person's complaints that people are paying attention to it, even if it's not the people he wants to pay attention, whether it be the NSA or Kyle (Matt Stone), neither of which are actually trying to spy on him.

Now, not everyone who has complained about the NSA does what Cartman does, and there are nuances to the matter. However, I love that South Park plays on these things in a very funny way, making for a great season premiere.

The 'B' plot is even more amusing in "Let Go, Let Gov," when Butters (Stone again), hearing the government is watching over him, confuses them with God. Soon, he's recruiting a flock to follow his beliefs, too, out evangelizing the Jehovah's Witnesses, and bringing everyone to the DMV for confession.

It's hilarious that a little boy's misunderstanding spawns an entire religion, though not much more ridiculous than some actual religions' origins. That's part of what South Park is going after, never shy about attacking the devout for legitimate reasons. But the other part is a really clever comparison of what religion and our current system of government post-9/11, which I hadn't thought about before, but seems obvious now.

It's this intelligence that makes South Park so persistent, constantly providing new perspectives that make one smile and nod. It doesn't matter if a particular episode doesn't work, or the material quickly becomes dated, because there's another brilliant, up-to-date offering just around the corner. I don't know how long it'll last, but I hope there's no end in sight.

Also, kudos to the updated title sequence, that looks 3D even on a 2D set. It was time for a dramatic change, which the series does every so often, and the new version is pretty cool.

The one odd thing about "Let Go, Let Gov" is that Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) provides the voice of Alec Baldwin, the spokesperson for Shitter, a fitting app name for both the actor's infamous rants and the next step in social media. Hader does the impression weakly in true South Park style, the voice obviously the comedian's, even though he is skilled at such craft, more so than is displayed here. It's just weird to hear a new person lending their vocal talents, as the show has always been made up of such a limited cast. It's something I could definitely get used to, just jarring at first.

South Park airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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