Before we get started, fyi UK readers-slash-viewers: this week’s episode is based on a US reality show called I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which to me sounds like a reality show about the misbegotten life of a clone mutant. It’s a silly potentially-dangerous-situations re-enactment/talking heads thing, and yet another reality TV parody, which as CultJar points out, has gotten to be a regular occurrence for the South Park team. Unlike previous attempts that tackled Jersey Shore, Hoarders (“Insheeption”, one of the great SP eps and the only one to date to star Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck) and Whale Wars, this one lacks bite and is a little short on laughs.
What it does have is a couple of little narrative innovations that suggest at the very least that Parker, Stone and the gang weren’t going to let the whole episode go down the pipes with its somewhat shaky premise. First things first though, here’s the plot.
After a week of promos promising a hellish adventure and death-defiance, it turns out that the boys’ ziplining afternoon was just super boring. Which is a good idea on paper – it sends up the reality shows as being in reality pretty dull themselves and having to pad out a boring story with pseudo-science – but in execution boring things aren’t all that funny. There’s not even much dynamism between the boys. The presence of the tour group has the same effect on them as it does on the audience: we want them to be their usual free-swearing adventurous selves, but there’s just no room. All the comedy falls on the deep-voiced narrator and the lengths the show has to go to distract you from the boredom. Which sucks.
Eventually the boys escape the ziplines and find some horses which turn out to be on a pony trek, then a boat which can only go extremely slowly. The show signals that the following is a re-enactment that many will find disturbing, and sure enough, the boys have been replaced by adult human actors. Cartman succumbs to Mountain Dew-induced (inDewced?) diarrhoea, everyone pukes, everyone gets Kenny’s cold sores and Kenny dies of boredom before they are saved by Mr Hanky’s Helicraptor, Seven-Turdy-Seven and Poo-Choo Express. This whole segment sounds great on paper and related over the course of a minute or so, but the execution is kind of slack and feels like it could have done with a few solicitous edits. The salient impression is that South Park does not translate well to real-world restrictions.
And maybe there’s something in that: the show usually benefits from something ridiculous being in play, like the “Pandemic” multi-part episode with the guinea pigs and guinea bees and guinea pirates and its comment on found-footage movies. This episode lacked that right up to the photo-montage ending, which seemed somewhat tacked-on, but maybe it’s just how I Shouldn’t Be Alive usually ends. Shrug.
Next week is the mid-season finale before South Park goes away til the autumn, and the very least we can take out of this week’s offering is that the team is not afraid to toy with the format. To put it pithily, nothing is sacred in South Park, least of all South Park. Come the autumn there’ll be a President to elect, which is to the show what an open flame is to a hydrogen balloon.
How’d you find this week’s show? Let us know in the comments.