I just watched the very first season of South Park again, then listened to the commentary on each episode by Trey and Matt. You don’t realise how difficult it was for that first season to be produced.
From Trey and Matt hand animating the first episode for six months, to focus groups hating it, to finally getting six episodes done, to the whirlwind of controversy the four foul mouthed boys caused. Trey and Matt were in the centre of the tornado during the first year.
I’m glad they cared about South Park so much. Because twenty years later, we are still getting quality comedy and satire.
This show makes me so happy! It goes beyond appreciating its quality, acknowledging what it does well - this show is genuinely wonderful. It’s ironic that a workplace comedy about the government is one of the most positive shows on TV right now - the humour is warm, and hardly ever mean-spirited. Characters enjoy the company of people they work with, they like them. Where things can backfire and go terribly, the show chooses to go lighter - e.g. the skit by the Parks department in Christmas Scandal being a huge hit, when it could’ve gone horribly wrong instead. Such a big part of this show is its heart - emotional pay-offs, characters becoming closer. These people know joy, they know love. Bitter, evil people are the ones we laugh at!
When I’m not laughing, I’m beaming or even tearing up a little bit - Parks & Recreation is a comedy, but it’s unabashedly positive and sweet and goofy, and bravely so. I don’t think there’s anything that puts me in a better mood - definitely nothing I feel better about enjoying or loving.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve adored an entire ensemble like this. All the characters have flaws, but every one of them is charming in their own way, and spending time with any of them is delightful. The cast is spectacular and that’s probably a huge part of giving each character a distinct personality, but it’s more than that - the writing backs that up with such rich history that there’s so much to explore for each of them. You can put one of them with any other character or in any other situation and it’s guaranteed that you’ll get something from it - something about their past, or something else about themselves - and it fits in with what we know of them beautifully. It makes them both interesting and ridiculously likable.
And these people are good people - both good, as in strong and well-intentioned, and people, as in human - vulnerable, well-drawn. Of course there are individual aspects of these characters that are silly or cartoonish, but somehow they come together to form people that you love and believe. Tom, for example, is ridiculous - kind of sleazy, loud, but he’s also a little sweet and earnest. Ron is every kind of extreme, yet you want to go hunting with him and get on his good side. As a result, when characters sit down and get serious with one another, it doesn’t feel out of place, because I know that people act like that, and these people will act like that.
I love that humour is never used as an excuse to force characters into acting differently or for them to act stupid - there’s a kind of maturity to these relationships, despite the silliness; an intelligence there formed by what they are and what they’re being influenced by. I like that each character knows and gets a different side of whatever character they’re interacting with, because that’s how people are. It’s funny without losing its sense of character or intelligence, and I love it. I feel like the writers are acknowledging that viewers are smart enough to get it. to get people.
“And believe me, people will come!”
“What if they don’t?”
“Well - then you eliminate the parks department.”
I have a huge thing for legitimate stakes, and look, look! I know the outcome may be predictable for us, but here’s a huge reason that there characters can invest fully in what they’re doing, and that makes me ecstatic. (Also I love that she looks over for a nod of consent from Ron.)