On this week’s South Park, Kyle agonizes over how our standards have gotten so low, Token becomes a maniacal reality television show producer, Honey Boo Boo has her heart replaced with a pig’s, Michelle Obama beats up Cartman, and James Cameron literally raises the bar (thanks to his trusty Deepsea Challenger). The concept was fun enough, and yet “Raising the Bar” ended up falling somewhat flat despite some great jokes and a little bit of navel gazing, mainly due to repetitiveness and the fact that Kyle didn’t actually seem to care.
This is an enormous episode, containing references to mobility scooters, obesity, Honey Boo Boo, Michelle Obama and her campaign against childhood obesity, James Cameron and Randy Newman. It also includes a subplot wherein Token finances a documentary about Cartman’s obesity and secretly turns it into Fatty Doo Doo, the new reality TV hit. I began to think, was there a filmmaker out there who saw Honey Boo Boo’s family and thought, “this is the perfect example of how America is eating itself to death. This will be a searing documentary and I will be heralded as the new Ken Burns!” Then some asshole at TLC (The Learning Channel for some strange reason) decided, we can exploit them! (TLC is really good at exploiting the worst parts of society).
Token offers to pay for a documentary revealing Cartman’s entitled ways if Kyle agrees to film Cartman. However, when Kyle presents the documentary, he discovers Token had created a documentary reality show designed to compete with TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The boys watch bits of South Park’s take on the child star’s show, in which the mother cooks the infamous meal of spaghetti with butter and ketchup. Later, Honey Boo Boo suffers a heart attack and picks out a pig heart which her mother worries will hurt her chances in pageants.
The real highlight of this episode, though, was James Cameron’s underwater expedition with the intent of literally “raising the bar.” Apart from his awesome theme song (“No budget too steep, no water too deep. Who’s that? It’s him! James Cam-er-on!”), I think it was Cameron’s interplay with the skeptical crewmen that really sold this bit. However, to call it a “lampooning” wouldn’t exactly be fair considering Cameron’s ultimate success — and he didn’t even take any credit! (“James Cameron does what James Cameron does because James Cameron is… James Cameron.”) Even still, his pompous ego and notorious self-entitlement definitely came across, and really, what more could you ask for in a South Park caricature?
Watch South Park – Raising The Bar Online
South Park S16E09: Raising The Bar
As far as themes are concerned we also get the obligatory taking a metaphor and placing it in some realistic realm situation with the raising and lowering the bar notion. As we saw last week with Randy Marsh suffering literally from terminal sarcasm, the theme of raising the bar is taken to a literal sense by having director James Cameron diving into the ocean to raise the bar (no doubt a reference to his research diving to the wreckage of the Titanic). It seems a bit out of left field but the overly pompous vision of Cameron and doing what he does because he is that great was very well done. Oh, and did I mention that awesome theme song he has?
Cartman finds out about his new show that premiered and sicks his lawyers after Token with a ‘cease and desist’ notice to cancel the show. Fortunately, the ratings went poo-poo on “Fatty’s” premier going up against Boo-Boo and this sets off Cartman to find the bitch and wage war. And who better to call in a crowd and moderate said battle then Michelle Obama, who provides a Boo-Boo vs Poo-Poo spaghetti fight for everyone to see! Eventually, the fight just goes on and on with no clear winner . Eventually, a feeling comes over the crowd that uplifts their spirit and decide that obesity is a problem and that’s the real fight. Proven so by Michelle’s hammering of Cartman in front of everyone.
However, the way we got to this point was really disjointed, even for South Park. A lot was going on in this episode. Cartman started riding a scooter. Token and Kyle tried to make a documentary about it that ended up being competition against Honey Boo Boo. Speaking of, we got several segments of the recent star doing her thing. Meanwhile, James Cameron took a mini-submarine down to the darkest depths of the ocean to find the mystical “bar” that needs to be raised.
Combining all of the little quips and subtle jabs at various people and topics (I’m looking at you Randy Newman!) that were spread throughout with the sheer randomness of the episode, South Park gave us a sense that the show is nowhere near dead. It may not have been the perfect, focused, and absolutely humor-filled greatness that the show has presented to us in previous years, but it was a great return to form with a heaping dose of absurdity. Who knows, maybe James Cameron’s raising the bar a little will bring about something even better next week.
Raising the bar was possibly the greatest episode of South Park, since Margaritaville.. my personal fav. They have such a way of putting a mirror to society and showing us how terrible we really are. It was a very witty determined meaningful episode.(Though it seemed a little scatterbrained, like maybe they had too much 4 one episode). Overall a great one 4.5 stars out of 5. And whats best, is when SOUTH PARK, the “most offensive show on tv” had to Raise the bar for everyone, making it almost impossible not to look at Honey Boo Boo, and say “this isn’t right”!