Review: 'South Park' in real time
In an impressive bit of stunt cartooning, Comedy Central's "South Park" Wednesday night managed to mount an election-themed episode, “About Last Night…," less than 24 hours after the race was called for Barack Obama -- even incorporating lines from his victory speech.
"Because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America," said the animated Obama, echoing the real one. "Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. We will name him Sparkles." The last line was added; the name is a "South Park" inside reference.
Nobody draws that fast, of course, even on a computer. Unless creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were playing the odds, there must have been scenes prepared that would have reflected a John McCain win, with room left for whatever lines would have been lifted from the Arizona senator's own, never-delivered victory address. (We get a taste of his concession speech instead.) It was a kind of magic act, a cute trick to set the cartoon in something like real time.
As a practical matter, much of the episode was winner-neutral, as both Obama and McCain were revealed to be members of a team of jewel thieves and the election only the first step in their plan to steal the Hope Diamond from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum -- described by Obama as "long-considered to be the most thief-proof structure ever built." (A "presidential escape tunnel" accessible only from the Oval Office, runs under the museum.) Michelle Obama, only pretending to be married to Barack, was also part of the gang, as was Sarah Palin, who spoke with a British accent (and wore a catsuit) when not playing hick for the crowd.
Meanwhile, back in South Park, Obama supporters' partying turned riotous and McCain supporters barricaded themselves against the perceived end of the world ("It's all over ... the country as we know it is about to change. We're all dead!"), while Kyle and Stan tried to find help for Kyle's little brother, who jumped from a first-story window in apparent despair over McCain's defeat. (It turned out he was part of the conspiracy.)
As political humorists, "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are both astute and juvenile, in varying degrees, and when that combination hits the right note, on the right subject -- First Amendment issues are always good for them -- it can be something near to brilliant. There was little in Wednesday night's episode that qualified as satire -- it was more just the usual all-around making fun of stuff, in the context of an "Ocean's Eleven" parody. "South Park" views the whole adult world as a place of fearful panic, complacent self-satisfaction, twisted desire, double-dealing and random acts of violence -- though as often happens, the end of the episode brought a lighter note, as fear of "an inexperienced president" turned to cautious hope, and Obama the Thief decided to remain Obama the President after all.