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TV Brew: South Park S21E4: “Franchise Prequel”

Meh! Tonight’s episode of South Park was a little more slapdash, taking pokes at superhero multi-film franchises and Mark Zuckerberg’s tolerance for fake news on Facebook. Apparently “Franchise Prequel” is also an overt, actual tie-in to next week’s South Park video gameFractured But Whole. Mercifully, I didn’t see any overt requirements that one go out and buy Fractured But Whole, and the episode ends on a fairly conclusive note with no actual or tongue-in-cheek indication that you need a gaming system for the whole story.

But that said, this is a generally weak spot for the show with a few generic chuckle-worthy gags here and there (and, to be fair, a pretty decent Harvey Weinstein joke that hit the correct comedy beat). Cartman’s team of the Coon (shut up, that’s the actual name) and Friends are planning to get themselves a multi-media franchise in the style of Marvel’s ever-growing octopus of media, only Butters-as-Professor-Chaos is spreading lies about the team on Facebook. Despite efforts to awaken people to the truth, the Coon’s team is blocked–literally–by Mark Zuckerberg, who’s been paid $17.23 for Facebook protection to allow Butters to keep lying.

South Park sometimes walks a delicate line when it applies a silly literalism to a real phenomenon. In this case, it’s encapsulated by Mark Zuckerberg (or a bad South Park parody of him) invading the town and literally going into their homes because, darn it, we invited Mark Zuckerberg into our lives and nobody can block him. Zuckerberg, in turn, makes cheesy sci-fi sound effects as if he’s actually breaking through invisible force fields. This kind of gag worked in, say, “Cartman’s Incredible Gift” where fake psychics faced off against each other with non-existent powers. It’s less effective here, and I’m not sure why, except it just isn’t.

Worse, the show did a better job riffing on Facebook back in “You Have 0 Friends,” which reflected more on the platform becoming a cheap proxy for real human interaction. “0 Friends” was both overtly ridiculous (invoking Tron) and yet deeply touching (with the lonely kid finding a friend in Stan, and being dropped when it was inconvenient). “Franchise Prequel” just makes the obvious commentary on Facebook being a bad news source, which we already knew that.

So, there’s a few good jokes here and there (Cartman’s struggles with his girlfriend continue), and the mechanism to get Zuckerberg the hell out of town is worth the payoff. But getting there is just OK, and not particularly worthwhile beyond the few stabs at the excess of superhero films.

Rating: Two Likes out of Five.

About Adam Frey (372 Articles)
Adam Frey is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. In the meantime, he's an attorney and moonlights as an Emergency Medical Technician in Maryland. A comic reader for over 30 years, he's gradually introducing his daughter to the hobby, much to the chagrin of his wife and their bank account.
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