South Park returned to our TV screens, computer monitors, mobile device….thingies and whatever the hell else on Wednesday, kicking off the second half of season 16 with “Sarcastaball.” In this case, kicking off is an apt metaphor, because football!
See, when Randy Marsh hears about how the South Park Elementary team no longer does kickoffs due to safety concerns, he sarcastically suggests that they might as well have the kids put on bras and tinfoil hats and use a balloon instead of a ball. This being South Park, the sarcasm flies right over everyone’s head and Randy’s new sport of sarcastaball becomes a national sensation, with things escalating to the point that Randy becomes the coach of the Denver Broncos.
It’s about this point that the episode switches gears and largely drops the Randy storyline to focus on Butters. A sport built around hugging and being nice is about the only sport he’s good at, and he quickly becomes team captain, assisting the other boys to find their “gooey centre,” where all their good feelings reside.
Naturally, this remains innocent for about three seconds, since the “gooey centre” Butters is referring to is actually the semen from his wet dreams, which he’s been collecting in jars. Butters’ goo quickly becomes the energy drink of choice for unwitting sarcastaball players.
To be honest, I’m not really sure if I like this episode or not. The football premise isn’t something I can really relate to because I don’t have any interest in sports whatsoever and thus have no idea what’s going on here.
I like the use of sarcasm, and the way its use just keeps escalating the situation for Randy, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I’m not really sure what the point they’re trying to make here is. Let’s be honest, South Park is far from a subtle show. Later years have seen in shift away from an animated sitcom into current events commentary, and by the time the credits roll, you’re always clear on where its creators stand on the issues. Maybe I’m just a derpina, but by the end of “Sarcastaball” I had no clue what the point was supposed to be. Some points were raised about how many injuries kids sustain from sports like football, but they were mostly stated in a sarcastic manner. So it’s like, do you or don’t you feel concerned about sports-related injuries?
Personally, I think having a school sponsored activity where children give each other concussions is a little silly, but I get the sense that South Park would argue that we’re being overprotective. Paradoxically, I agree with that sentiment, too. When I was about ten years old, the schools sawed all the lower branches off the trees to prevent us li’l shitheads from climbing them, falling off and breaking our necks. I once got detention for swinging too high. Football is much more dangerous than that, but there does come a point where the safety consciousness becomes overkill.
The jokes tended to fall a little flat this week; most of them elicited only a smile. Sarcasm alone only takes you so far, and while putting the kids in such silly uniforms is amusing, it’s not exactly a source of extreme lulz. It’s also a little bizarre to see Cartman want to be nice, and feel like a bit of an outcast because, well, he’s fucking Cartman, and he’s not good at being anything other than a huge dick. Butters’ inspirational speech in the team locker room was also rather clever, encouraging the other boys to be the nicest motherfuckers this side of….somewhere people are nice. It’s a fun send up of the stereotypical sports movie underdog speech, and it’s a good use of Butters’ established personality.
“Sarcastaball” does rely heavily on the gross-out factor, which is nothing new for South Park, but I found myself feeling, well, grossed out rather than laughing at it. I don’t know if any of you out there have ever downed a large quantity of semen which has sat in a container for awhile, but let me tell you, it’s not terribly awesome. Life lessons from your ol’ pal Katelyn.
The only hearty laugh to be had this week came near the end, with Randy sampling some of Butter’s goo and flatly saying, “This is cum.”
Overall, “Sarcastaball” is an average outing for South Park. The confusion of sarcasm vs sincerity is a nice idea, but the jokes just aren’t as sharp as they could have been and the writing was a little unclear in places. It’s not bad, but I know damn well Parker & Stone can do better than this.
Watch Full Episode here: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s16e08-sarcastaball