Category Archives: Television
Truth is stranger than fiction they say. Who ‘they’ are I’m not quite sure but I’m guessing Trey Parker is one of them. South Park has covered some crazy shit in the past, Saddam Hussein as Satan’s lover, Cartman feeding some kid his own parents and even the rise of Cthulu. But sometimes some of the craziest aspects of the show turn out not to be the product of Trey and Matt’s deranged minds. They’re real, prepare to be terrified!
DISCLAIMER: If you’re American there’s a far higher likelihood that you’d heard of these things before.
Wing – ‘Wing’ (S09 E03)
In this episode the boys set up their own talent agency basically to exploit poor Token who has a chance of making lots of money in a singing competition. After losing him to an actual talent agency they are about to give up when the owner of South Park’s Chinese Restaurant ‘City Wok’ comes in and asks if they’ll represent his wife Wing. On hearing her perform Abba’s Dancing Queen in a thin, off key voice that sounds like someone doing a bad Chinese accent they are not too keen but after hearing she has an audition for American Idol they change their minds.
Unlike some of the other things mentioned in this article it never even occurred to me that Wing might be real. Her husband in South Park is a broad Chinese stereotype who’s main point of humour is that he pronounces ‘City’ as ‘Shitty’, so for him to have a wife who sings in a ‘comedy’ accent was not a big stretch.
Well, she’s real as you or I. Here’s her doing Michael Jackson’s Beat It –
Michael Jackson eat your heart out!
Wing is a New Zealand singer of Chinese origin and has, to date, released nearly twenty albums covering anything from The Beatles to Phantom of the Opera.
Shake Weights – ‘Crème Fraiche’ (S14 E14)
When Randy Marsh develops a less than healthy obsession with The Food Network (secretly masturbating to cooking shows when everyone else is in bed and then starting his own show), his wife Sharon feels that she may have become unattractive to him so begins working out with a device called a Shake Weight. This is ostensibly a dumbbell which is shaken up and down giving you the appearance of someone performing…er…hand relief.
The device also says encouraging words like ‘oh that is so good’ in a decidedly Steven Hawking-esque voice. When your workout is complete the Shake Weight releases a ‘cooling gel’ before deploying cab fare and entering a decidedly flaccid ‘sleep mode’. After getting into an unhealthy relationship with the device Sharon ends up returning it to the manufacturer after catching it ‘cheating’ with the hotel maid.
My first reaction to this episode was that while funny, the whole Shake Weight idea was a little random and a bit silly. Well –
Sure it doesn’t cum on you or pay for your cab ride but I’ll be damned if there isn’t actually a device that makes you look like you’re jerking someone off while working out. In fact I find something less wholesome about the real life ad over the South Park one.
Xenu – ‘Trapped in the Closet’ (S09 E12)
Ok so I’m playing fast and loose with the term ‘real’ in this one, but still the idea did not come from Matt and Trey but rather the deranged mind of L. Ron Hubbard (go on, sue me, I’ve got nothing!).
In what is probably the most controversial episode in South Park’s history (high acclaim indeed), Stan is recruited into the church of Scientology after looking for something that is ‘fun and free’ to do, only to be recognised as the reincarnation of L. Ron himself.
After much Scientology baiting and questioning of Tom Cruise’s sexuality (‘It’s been four hours now, and Tom Cruise still will not come out of the closet.’) it is revealed that the whole thing is just a money making scam which leads to several people threatening to sue Stan. The end credits even list everyone as John or Jane Smith.
However it is this scene that earns the episode a place on this list (which, worryingly, I can only find on this ‘filmed from the TV’ clip. Are the church cleaning up Youtube?)–
The president of the church explains to Stan the roots of Scientology by telling the story of Xenu with an accompanying video subtitled ‘This is what Scientologists actually believe’.
Sure most Scientologists try their best to distance themselves from this origin tale (really they should stick to more believable tales like angels impregnating virgins) but the fact that it’s out there at all is enough for a place in this article.
Honey Boo Boo – ‘Raising The Bar’ (S16 E09)
I’ll admit, as I was writing this I was still struggling for a 5th entry. I had a few ideas but none were that strong. Then this fell in my lap.
In this episode from the new series the boys become increasing concerned about the number of obese people in SouthPark, riding around on mobility scooters. Cartman, completely misinterpreting Stan’s advice about his weight, gets himself a scooter and becomes even more obnoxious than ever. When Kyle tries to make a serious documentary about his friend and the perils of obesity, Token (who has always hated Cartman) decides instead to turn it into a car crash TV show.
Token has been inspired by a little fat girl called Honey Boo Boo who appears in a TV show with her frightening redneck family and who’s mother looks like this –
They’re all ‘crazy’ and have no qualms about how they look or act and at one point Honey Boo Boo gets a pig’s heart transplanted and starts acting like a pig. Eventually she ends up wrestling Cartman in spaghetti in front of Michelle Obama. Obviously.
Well I hope you haven’t just eaten –
I have to admit, this one killed more of my soul than any other entry on this list. Just look at the mother, South Park were pretty fucking accurate!
In fact I can’t bring myself to dwell on this one any longer, it’s making me sad.
NAMBLA – ‘Cartman Joins NAMBLA’ (S04 E05)
This one completely caught me off guard. In this episode Cartman decides he is too mature for his friends so puts the word out on the internet that he is looking for mature friends. Guess how that works out.
He ends up becoming the poster boy for a group calling themselves NAMBLA or, to give them their full name, The North American Man/Boy Love Association. Eventually all of the boys in SouthPark are invited to a banquet which has clearly sinister motives. Fortunately for the boys the FEDs have been tipped off about the meeting and they, with a little help from the North American Marlon Brando Lookalikes (who are angry at the tarnishing of their acronym) bust the meeting and, after a Scooby Doo style chase scene, arrest the perverts and save the boys from unwanted attention.
Come on, NAMBLA can’t be a real thing right? That’s ridiculous. It’s not even a good acronym! Well, if you’ve gathered the thread of this article by now this shouldn’t come as too big a surprise but yes, the North American Man/Boy Love Association is a real damn thing! A group who campaign to reduce or remove the age of consent between men and boys providing it’s ‘consensual’. Take a look at their logo, even that’s creepy! Apparently even Allen Ginsberg is an advocate, contentious bugger.
So there you have it, the truth, as it turns out can be bizarre, terrifying, and make you lose faith in humanity. Also, don’t try putting clips from South Park online, they don’t like it.
It has the best ensemble cast since Arrested Development
Most shows have a few fluff characters, the ones who just make up the number or are wheeled in whenever a stooge is required for the greater characters to play off. Even the mighty 30 Rock has characters that seemed to be fazed in and out depending on the writer’s interest.
Arrested Development was one of those rare shows where everyone watching had a different favourite character (mine was Gob followed by Tobias) and few could argue that any character was not needed to make the show work.
Community focuses on seven disparate individuals thrown together in a study group in a fairly underwhelming community college. Not only is each character completely unique from all of the others but each has such depth that I had to go back and rewatch the first few episodes having completely misjudged most of them. From secretly sensitive high school jock Troy to bright and perky ex-Adderall addict Annie to Shirley the kindly Christian with the secret past, the more we find out about them the more we love them.
The show steadfastly refuses to have a lead character and even the seemingly lead pair of Jeff and Britta are constantly complaining about the rest of the group forcing leadership upon them. If I’m being honest I’d struggle to even name my favourite character, it changes with every new plot line.
The cast are uniformly brilliant and it is a joy to watch them interacting with each other, a lot of the cast are relatively unknown but I hope that all will change after this show.
Oh did I mention one of the characters is played by Chevy Chase? No? ONE OF THE CHARACTERS IS PLAYED BY CHEVY CHASE! Yes the 80’s legend plays crotchety, confused and slightly racist ‘moist towelette tycoon’ Pierce Hawthorn. If this means nothing to you then all I can say is why are you wasting your time reading blogs when you should be doing your homework?
The supporting cast are just as great
Sorry to continue the comparison but alongside the great main cast one thing Arrested Development had in spades was great recurring characters. From Henry Winkler’s exasperated lawyer Barry Zuckerhorn to Liza Minnelli’s vertiginous Lucille 2 these supporting characters quickly became favourites among the fans.
Community arguably tops that with its wonderful array of characters that prowl the halls of Greendale Community College.
Favourites include Jim Rash’s camp-as-Christmas Dean Pelton who is always ready to interrupt at the most inappropriate moment, seemingly blissfully unaware of his terrible vocal faux-pas or overtly homosexual costumes –
Ian Duncan, English friend of Jeff, lecturer and sometime alcoholic. As an Englishman myself I always get a kick out of his pathetic attempts to put England above America (“FawltyTowers, game over!”).
Then there’s Chang, played by the incredible Ken Jeong (The Hangover, Role Models). Beginning life as Senor Chang the deranged Spanish teacher with a chip on his shoulder about being Asian (though seemingly unsure exactly which country he’s from) he gets fired and spends the second series as a student trying to get into the gang’s study group. He also has a propensity to use his name in place of other words (“Between you and me, I don’t Chang a lot of chicks”).
Special mention (because I love him) must also go to Eustace Whitman played with gusto by John Michael Higgins (anything Christopher Guest has ever done), the accounting professor whose only lesson is Carpe Diem. He can be seen randomly climbing trees and when asked what he would like to eat at the school canteen he rips up the menu and proudly announces “I shall have a birthday cake!”. He is only in a couple of episodes but is one of the funniest creations in the show.
It manages to do ‘meta’ without being smug and self satisfying
A lot of shows try to be meta, to break the fourth wall or be incredibly self aware. Most shows fail and you just end up feeling like you’re watching half an hour of people winking at you.
Community hit the nail right on the head. It doesn’t use meta to be clever (although it is), it uses it to get away with far more than it would be able to under normal circumstances. How many shows could get away with having an episode entirely in claymation and still make it fit the reality of the show? How many shows could fit in a zombie outbreak, a paintball inspired apocalypse or a Space Camp parody and not seem so utterly ridiculous that you’d be reaching for the remote at the five minute mark?
One of the keys to getting away with all of this is the character of Abed. I’ve not mentioned him before as I’ve been saving him up, he’s special you see. Abed is a borderline Asperger’s suffering meta machine. He lives his life through comparison to films and TV and acts almost as the show’s unconscious director’s commentary through even the most ridiculous of plot lines. It’s hard to explain in writing, just watch this clip –
It’s very, very, very funny!
A great cast and a whole bunch of self referential moments are all well and good but if it doesn’t have the writing to back it up then you may as well watch Two and a Half Men. Fortunately I will go on record as saying that Community is not only the funniest show in recent years, not only the funniest show in America but one of the funniest shows of all time.
Strong words I know but I like to think I know funny and it takes a lot to have me crippled with laughter, the sort of laughter where tears roll down your eyes, where you struggle to catch breath, where you miss two or three jokes because you’re still recovering from the last one. It’s that funny! Moments like Troy and Abed building a bedsheet fort that ends up spreading across the entire dorm (and includes a Turkish Quarter and a protest march that apparently even filled out the appropriate permission forms), the aforementioned Space Camp parody where the gang get stuck in a space simulator run by a robotic Colonel Sanders, or the simply incredible ‘bottle episode’ where instead of going outside to see a puppy parade the group are stuck inside trying to find Annie’s missing pen. Find yourself among Community fans when you’ve not watched the show and prepared to be completely isolated while they reminisce about their favourite moments, quote it endlessly and try to perfect Troy and Abed’s secret handshake. You have been warned!
Season 3 has got John Goodman in it!
Just when it seemed that Community could get no better they only go and introduce none other than John ‘Shut the fuck up Donny’ Goodman as Vice Dean Laybourne. So check out this preview for season 3 then, by whatever means available to you, get hold of the first two series and bone up like a good Greendale student.
Community season 3 starts September 22 on NBC