South Park's Best Episode: You're Getting Old
Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. This week Eric makes a case for South Park’s “You’re Getting Old” which has Stan turning ten and becoming cynical. Read below, argue with us in the comments.
I was in middle school when South Park first came on the air. Even though my classmates and I were a bit too young to be watching the show, each of us would sneak around our houses every Wednesday night and steer clear of our parents for 30 minutes. This might not be surprising, but our folks weren’t too pleased that their 10-year-old sons and daughters were watching a show with talking pieces of crap, elephants screwing pigs, and zombie plagues. The day when the episode in which Jesus boxes Satan was going to premiere, the front page of our local newspaper had an image of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s creations.
But the South Park that existed back in the 90s is not the same show that is airing today. As the years have passed, Parker and Stone have matured, keeping the show funny, but also commenting on the awful, odd, stupid things that happen in our world. Unlike most long-running shows that keep the same formula year after year and eventually get stale, South Park has grown as its youngest audience has. And no episode in the show’s 15-year run shows that off better than “You’re Getting Old.”
The episode begins with Stan turning 10 years old and realizing that his tastes have begun to change. The music that he’s been enjoying suddenly sounds like crap, the foods he eats start to taste like poop and all of his favorite movies look really shitty. The problem is that the stuff he’s supposed to start enjoying with a maturing palette all looks, tastes, sounds and feels like shit. Then a doctor discovers the problem: Stan is becoming a cynical asshole.
“You’re Getting Old” is the flawless combination of social commentary and toilet-humor that the show’s creators have been mastering for over a decade. In their sights is the culture of cynicism that has begun to take over society, but what makes this episode so special is that it can also be seen as Parker and Stone reflecting on all of the work that they’ve done on the program, a large amount of it making fun of the intense stupidity that exists in our culture and political system. The episode reads as the duo thinking towards the future and deciding how they are going to look at the world. Do you remain pessimistic and contemptuous about everything in the world, risking isolation, or do you grit your teeth and just fake happiness? It’s powerful not only because you sense that Parker and Stone are looking inward, but because it begins to make you ask yourself the same question.
But South Park isn’t a show that just looks at how shitty some things are. It’s not a genius program simply because of its topical nature and ability to comment on current affairs, but because it’s funny and has been making us laugh for the last decade and a half. While “You’re Getting Old” isn’t the funniest episode that the show has ever made, but it is genuinely hysterical. The sequence in the middle of the episode featuring “shitty trailers” – lambasting movies like Jack & Jill and Mr. Popper’s Penguins – is a scream, particularly in the way that it shows Hollywood as a forceful monster shoving tons of crap down the audience’s throat (“It’s Jim Carrey in…whatever, you’ll pay to go see it. Fuck you!”). The side plot featuring Stan’s dad getting into the tween wave scene is less poignant as the main storyline, but is still a laugh and introduces two great new characters: the britches-loving hillbilly farmers.
When I was watching South Park as a 10-year-old and saw a giant satellite emerge from Cartman’s ass, I never imagined that it was a show that was ever going to make me tear up. But by the time Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” begins to play and we see Stan’s parents splitting up and Kyle and Cartman becoming friends there’s a recognizable and undeniable emotional pull. “You’re Getting Old” was the episode that made us all think that Trey Parker and Matt Stone were wrapping it up and getting ready to do something else with their careers. Thankfully that ended up not being the case and we will be enjoying new episodes of South Park for years to come. But while it’s great that we will still get to watch some of the best satire on television, it’s hard not to think about what it would have been like if “You’re Getting Old” had been the series finale. It would have been the perfect final note.
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