South Park has been experimenting with arcs the past three seasons. There was season 10’s “Go God Go,” where Cartman became Buck Rogers while waiting for his Nintendo Wii. “Imaginationland” was season 11’s arc, the highlight of a fairly weak season. “Pandemic” is the arc this year, and I don’t know what to make of it just yet.
The main plot – Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman decide to form a Peruvian flute band to make easy money, using Craig as the money mark – is workmanlike. The standard South Park plot progression applies – the boys stumble onto something bigger, crazy crap happens and Cartman makes racial slurs. The A-story sucks, aside from the boys and Craig playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” poorly and still making money.
Craig’s South Park role is usually relegated to him flipping the bird, and he’s a non-factor in an episode designed especially for him. It’s nice for South Park to use Craig as a detached observer, but there’s a reason why he’s ancillary. Replacing Craig with Clyde, Dog Poo or any of the other background characters would not change the story one bit.
Randy Marsh’s infatuation with his videocamera makes for a solid B-story. While a bit obvious, the B-story succeeds as Randy’s not doing anything with a videocamera that anyone else wouldn’t do. He describes what he’s filming and doesn’t turn the videocamera off for a second. It’s a “guy thing.”
Randy’s story ties in well with the camcorder-horror-film parody at the end of “Pandemic.” I find the giant live-action guinea pigs funny. Cloverfield is the most direct film being parodied, which is lame as South Park doesn’t usually do parodies that long-range, but whatever.
South Park hasn’t worked live-action that fluidly into the show before, unless the guinea pig pictures are just extremely well-animated. Either way, it’s an improvement over taking five pictures of Mel Gibson’s head and cycling through some facial expressions. This season has been South Park‘s most ambitious from an animation standpoint, if only for this and the fact that “Major Boobage” paid proper homage to Heavy Metal.
In the end, “Pandemic” amounts to little more than a teaser for the next episode. I honestly wonder why there’s a nine-day waiting period for South Park in Canada, as information about “Pandemic 2 – The Startling” was out two days before “Pandemic” aired in Canada. As long as South Park doesn’t put out crap like “Canada On Strike” and “Over Logging,” I don’t care.
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