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South Park: Crippled Summer

Sometimes when I'm watching South Park, I feel like a practical joke is being played on a nation full of viewers. About ten minutes into "Crippled Summer" I realized that I was sitting through a half hour parody of cheesy 80's summer camp movies reimagined as a cavalcade of mentally handicapped characters... only not. The layers of silliness in this episode are actually deeper than anything else over its entire run. I don't know if it was out of an uncharacteristic set of reservations Parker and Stone might have had about depicting retarded characters or if it was just a late-period indulgence, but they opted to turn all of the kids at, sigh, Camp Tardicaca into references to old cartoons. I don't care what anyone says, something was being smoked in the writer's room when this episode came across the idea board.

But CP kid Jimmy's one-off rival from the disturbing and hilarious Season 8 episode "Up the Down Steroid" and his plan to lethally sabotage Camp Tardicaca's Red vs. Blue competition was only half of this supremely bizarre half hour of television. The other, tangentially related portion was dedicated to yet another reality TV show parody. This time, South Park pokes fun at A&E's Intervention, a documentary series about drug addicts being confronted by their family and friends. The addict in "Crippled Summer" is none other than Towelie, the pot-smoking former super-weapon first introduced in Season 5.

I'm not sure how I feel about this reappearance of Towelie. He was pretty much designed to be the worst character imaginable and that was really most of the original joke. He has an annoying voice, a stupid catch phrase and his extremities are literally stick figure appendages. Parker and Stone originally created Towelie as a satire of the "unnecessary new character" trope that worms its way into TV shows after a few years. Honestly, I would have rather seen the gay dog voiced by George Clooney come back for no reason.

My experience with "Crippled Summer" was practically identical to my experience with "Whale Whores". For the small segment of the population who has watched a middling reality TV show on basic cable like Intervention and thought it was stupid, this episode was probably a riot. Having never watched Intervention there's only so much I can get out of the parody. I suppose there was some commentary in "Crippled Summer" about how docu-dramas like Intervention basically boil down to exploitation and the vicarious thrill of watching someone else doing drugs. Beyond that, it still felt like two comedians with near carte blanche pulling one over on their viewers. It was, after all, an episode about a drug-addicted sentient towel spiraling out of control.

 

Best Moment: Towelie's girlfriend giving birth to a washcloth. It's a joke so stupid that it actually works.

Notes: Remember when Cartman's anti-semitism was funny and not just a knee-jerk bit of scripting?

Episode Rating: 3/5- The whole thing was pretty ridiculous, but that seemed to be the point. I wish there were more actual jokes and not just a bunch of references. On the plus side, I did get to see a shark rape a retarded kid. Twice.