It's been almost a year since new episodes of South Park, and I've been eagerly counting down the days until I could finally get my chance to see what Trey and Matt had in store for us. After all, they've had forever to come up with something new and great that would start out the seventeenth season with a bang, right? Well, not so much. Sure it was new South Park, but it paled in comparison even to the weakest episodes of last year.

Full episode spoilers to follow.

Cartman is loudly complaining to everyone within earshot that he is angry over the fact that the government is listening in to his conversations, emails and tweets, and he is outraged over the lack of privacy. To get back at the government and find out what they're really up to, he plans to infiltrate the NSA and uncover the devious plot behind all their intelligence gathering. Upon finally getting in, he learns he, and most Americans, aren't considered a threat to national security because the NSA has linked Santa Claus up to their computers so they will know who is naughty and nice and who the real threats are. Cartman literally becomes a whistleblower and gets pissed when he learns no one cares, so he converts to the religion of government (started by Butters, in a completely unforgettable side plot) at the DMV.

And that's about it.

Seriously, that was the episode.

South Park has become known for using its biting wit as social commentary to skewer life and pop culutre, but almost every single moment where this episode had a chance to take the NSA's invasion of our privacy and make a statement was tossed aside and left unused. Sure, we got the irony of people bitching about their loss of privacy when they are sending tweets for the whole world to see about what their last poop was like, but that was as far as they went. If anything in recent memory was ripe to be lampooned (aside from possibly Miley Cyrus, which I'm sure will be what next week's episode was about ... remember "Britney's New Look"?) it was the recent acts of the NSA. Unfortunately, the whole episode fell flat because the writers apparently weren't willing to take the joke as far as they should have. Where was the South Park that was willing to cross the line (almost to distaste) about stem-cell research, a patient's right to die, gay rights, Hooters, etc? This felt like a neutered version of South Park that I would expect to find on A&E and not the sharp witted, balls-to-the-wall comedy I know this show can deliver.

Overall, I wasn't impressed, and was left wondering what Trey and Matt had been doing for the last year. Sure, they spent some time writing the game that's due out soon (and the opening sequence that showed off their layout of the town was probably the best moment of the episode), but were they just drinking beer and smoking pot the rest of the time?

Perhaps they need the pressure of creating new episodes in a week's time or less to deliver what they have in the past. I'm really hoping this is the case and that next week's episode will be back in line with the quality of television we are used to. South Park has arguably been one of the greatest tv shows in the last twenty years; let's hope this was just a misstep, and it can continue to live up to that legacy.

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Tags: South Park