Part of the pleasures of South Park, that long-running, endlessly irreverent animated Comedy Central series from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, was seeing how quickly it turned around topical issues into new, original content (heck, they didn’t call that documentary 6 Days to Air for nothing). And now, in the midst of the show’s 23rd (23rd!) year on the air, those Colorado muckrakers have done it again. An hour long special about perhaps the most topical issue of our time — the coronavirus — is coming soon, with the apt name, “The Pandemic Special”.
The episode, much like our absurd, reckless real life, finds the kids heading back to school, and Randy (Parker) taking advantage of the pandemic in, yes, “a pandemic special.” The brief, 30 second teaser, like many of the recent episodes, seems to be in dialogue with South Park itself as a relevant institution of satire. Do we need a South Park “pandemic special”? Do we need South Park anymore? Based on this teaser, it looks like it’s gonna have its cake and eat it too, and it just might give you 60 minutes of relentless, irreverent, of-the-moment jokes in the meantime.
South Park‘s “The Pandemic Special” airs Wednesday, September 30 at 8:00 p.m on Comedy Central, followed by two encore airings at 9 and 10. 24 hours after the premiere, the episode will be available on HBO Max, South Park Studios, CC.com, and the Comedy Central App. Check out the trailer and official synopsis below. For more on South Park, here’s our top ten episodes.
Randy comes to terms with his role in the COVID-19 outbreak as the on-going pandemic presents continued challenges to the citizens of South Park. The kids happily head back to school but nothing resembles the normal that they once knew; not their teachers, not their homeroom, not even Eric Cartman.
The Best Trick in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2? Nostalgia
Skating through a hi-def recreation of the late-1990s shopping mall in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is, uh, strange. Everything is right where you left it 20 years ago: the smash-able glass, the empty storefronts, the bizarre nouveau-art display that for so long seemed like the epitome of consumerist architecture. And despite the fact that the video game franchise has felt beyond dead, it’s all here in glorious, remastered detail. Yet none of that is what makes it feel odd. Not exactly.
What’s peculiar about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is its doubled nostalgia: nostalgia for the time when I obsessed over the original games, for that world, and also for the world itself, the place that existed before Covid-19 quarantines and pandemic isolation. It’s a nostalgia for the very thing that THPS takes as its greatest subject, its deepest inspiration and longing: freedom to move unrestricted, to go precisely where and how you want to.
When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater initially came out, late in 1999, it was at a moment where extreme sports—and skateboarding, in particular—felt aspirational for a lot of young people, myself included. It was a complex, difficult skill to learn, but not one outside of the bounds of possibility. My brother skateboarded, though not exceptionally well. Lots of people I knew did. All you needed was a board, a bit of balance, some open concrete or asphalt, and practice. No field or organization or help. It felt exciting and nearby, a big new reality just beyond the corner.
And if you could learn, if you could be good, good the way these famous skaters were good? Well, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its sequel provided a larger-than-life imagining of what that might mean. In these games, every part of the mundane world is bent toward the singular purpose of letting you move faster and better. Each sharp angle is a point to grind, each bit of elevation is something to jump toward or from. Activision and Neversoft, in creating the original games, moved away from the standard blueprint of sports games to create something that feels, at times, more like a platformer. It’s all about managing momentum, balance, and routing through a particular level in order to get where you want to go and do it in as much style as possible, racking up points for tricks and accomplishing a set of discrete objectives. These objectives—collecting floating letters on the map, grinding or jumping off of obscure bits of level geometry—function as navigational challenges, encouraging you to figure out how to get there. Some of them seem impossible when you first see them. None of them are. You just have to figure them out. See it, plot it, make it happen for yourself. Like I said: aspirational.
Most of us probably never learned how to skateboard. But that sense of independence, that invigoration of mundane spaces, was something about Tony Hawk and skateboarding in general that could be taken into normal life. Almost all of the game’s levels take place in normal locations—schools, boardwalks, warehouses—and even though the games do move into some strange, goofy places (like a military base housing aliens or heaven—like, literally, just heaven), its use of basic repeatable types of geography—the straight line, the sharp curve, the ramp—lend the game a sense of grounding. That grounding, then, lent an imaginary joy to real places. Your school could be a place to conquer if you had the skill and freedom of a skater. Architecture became a space of possibility, of excitement. I used to look out the window of my mother’s car, imagining how I could traverse the obstacles we saw on the side of the road.
Now, like so many others, I’ve been quarantined for approximately six months, cut off from the world that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 renders with such precise imaginative potential. Maybe you’re like me in that way, spending most of your time occupying your home and other small, liminal strips of external space, maximizing safety while building a tiny, cloistered world for yourself. This is necessary, and wise, an important way to protect yourself and others. But it makes every depiction of the world beyond quarantine feel surreal, impossible in a way that would have been hard to imagine a year ago. Some theorists define uncanny as being that which was once familiar to us, a part of us, removed and made strange as a result. In September 2020, the outside world itself feels uncanny.
Taylor Swift Fans Still Haven’t Forgiven Jake Gyllenhaal
Taylor Swift may have moved on from her extremely short-lived relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal a decade ago, but it’s clear her fans still haven’t forgiven him for wronging their favorite pop star.
The actor shared a photo of himself as a young boy wearing glasses on his Instagram on Monday to promote the partnership between New Eyes for the Needy—an organization that buys prescription glasses for those who can’t afford them—and The Inspire Project and their launch of a new speaker series. Gyllenhaal wrote, “I’ve worn my glasses ever since I parted my hair meticulously with gel (see above), which is why NEW EYES has always been near and dear to my heart.”
Gyllenhaal clearly had good intentions with his social media post, but the image of pint-sized him in glasses proved too tempting for the Swifties who immediately flooded his comment section with lyrics from the Swift song “All Too Well” which is supposedly about his relationship with the pop star. But the actor sort of set himself up for this trolling given that one of the lines in the song is “You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed.”
While most commenters simply quoted the lyrics back to him, one wrote, “u posted this pic and thought that the swifties would do nothing???? mistake” and another demanded, “Give taylor swift her scarf back,” referring to the singer’s accessory Gyllenhaal supposedly never returned after their break up.
Needless to say, Jake will probably think twice before sharing another childhood memento without consulting all of Swift’s lyrics for potential references first.
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Emily in Paris Is a Fluffy, Charming Cliché Soufflé
We’ve all had this fantasy: an imperious French woman levels a stern gaze at you and says, in lilting English, “Delete your account.” Television writer Darren Star has long been a purveyor of fantasy, most famously as the creator of Sex and the City (though Michael Patrick King ran the show). And so, in his new series Emily in Paris (Netflix, September 30), Star blesses us with this almost erotic moment, a Huppert-esque woman telling us exactly what we should all be doing in these terrible digital times of ours.
On the show, though, the line is meant as an impediment for its titular star, a young marketing whiz who’s found herself cavorting the City of Light after an unexpected career twist. She’s been brought there, quite to the frustration of the locals, to revitalize a French marketing house so that it may better represent luxury brands to the young women of the United States. Emily in Paris is, almost shockingly at times, very much a show about social-media marketing, influencers, and the hideous convergence of commerce and personal life. It’s a love letter to terrible things, and yet I swooned.
Fine, okay, “swooned” might be a strong word. Felt the first tingle of a crush, maybe. I happily devoured it. Glugged it with a bottle of champagne while I sat on my couch, dreaming of traipsing along the Seine, sans mask. (I added the champagne part for dramatic effect, but you absolutely should watch this show drunk.) The point is, Emily in Paris goes down a treat if you can set aside the myriad things it does badly or, perhaps worse, fails to do at all. Anyone with a passing knowledge of how the city of Paris actually functions in 2020 will find the show’s portraiture lacking, to say the least. The way the series values fabulousness and the selling of things over pretty much everything else is also not great for this particular juncture in human history. But if you can tolerate, or even crave, some empty calories right now, Star and company deliver the goods.
Lily Collins plays Emily, a clever but not exactly savvy twenty-something who leaves her native Chicago, and her boyfriend, to fill in for a newly pregnant coworker (Kate Walsh in a recurring cameo, perhaps doing a solid for the ‘flix family on breaks from The Umbrella Academy). Off Emily jets, speaking no French, terribly unprepared for the way French people are. Which, in the show’s estimation, is haughty and chauvinistic and ever lunching instead of working. It’s a pretty quaint view of contemporary Parisians, so steeped in years of American stereotyping that it’s weird that Emily is shocked to find her new co-workers like this. All Parisians aren’t this way, of course, and yet so many movies and shows (including Sex and the City! Which Emily surely would have watched!) have told Americans that they are. So it’s awfully strange that Emily, in this little jewel box simulation of Earth, is so surprised to encounter these styles and customs.
What I mean is, the show should be—or at least could be—a little more aware of its cliché. But, non. It is instead happy to gambol off into its tightly prescriptive version of things without question, tossing its poisson into new eau that is almost entirely of its own invention. Which, I guess, is the show’s prerogative, to depict a place how it wants to depict it. Sociology it ain’t.
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