“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had a golden opportunity to lampoon Covid hysteria with the two “South Park: Post COVID” made-for-TV movies released on Paramount Plus, which are part of 14 planned. Knowing how everything has transpired up to now, all they’d have to do is simply report what happened and in a way that showed how stupid so much of it was. Fans would have loved them for it, and South Park could have recovered some of its edgy luster.
Unfortunately, much like they did with South Park’s “Pandemic Special,” which supported Black Lives Matter and demonized police, Parker and Stone indulge in their worst habits in “South Park: Post COVID” by stretching out various gags far too long and shamelessly embracing the prevailing progressive (and thus predictable) narrative.
The plot takes place in a future that has been ruined by Covid, as the main characters Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny reunite as adults. There are a few funny gags—like Stan’s caustic relationship with an embodied Alexa from Amazon, Cartman becoming a rabbi, and a “Bladerunner” parody—and seeing how the characters grow up (or don’t) is an ideal setup for social commentary. Despite all that, most of the story and humor still fall flat and feel forced.
“South Park: Post Covid” clearly intends to show how Covid affected everyone’s life for the worst, but it stays far away from criticizing the perpetrators: the government, the academy, the media, and Big Tech. Instead, the writers can only bring themselves to criticize unvaccinated people specifically and Covid culture generally—low-hanging fruit, to say the least.
The rest of the first movie recycles old jokes with some of the other characters, like Stan’s terrible father Randy looking to cure Covid with his particular brand of weed “Tegridy” or the disabled comedian Jimmy doing his standup routine with lame PC punchlines. These elicit a slight chuckle, more at the memory of these characters than their present iteration, but soon go nowhere and become annoying.
By the time the second installment, “South Park: Post Covid—The Return of Covid,” is aired, Parker and Stone seem spent. Aside from the progression of the plot, which has Stan and Kyle trying to travel back in time to save Kenny and fix their miserable circumstances in the future, there is very little new here.
The jokes from the last movie are shamelessly regurgitated with only a few new gags thrown in. Butters comes back as a super shill for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Cartman reverts to hating Kyle and plotting his doom (the accompanying Holocaust references, as Cartman’s family hides in the attic of a church, are in especially bad taste). Again, the second movie criticizes unvaccinated people while saying little about the real villains in the “Post Covid” era.
At one point in the second movie, however, there is a moment that captures the frustration and sadness of the Covid hysteria rather poignantly: a montage of the child Stan growing progressively sadder as schools are shut down, his parents fight with each other, he celebrates his birthday on Zoom, and everyone masks up while keeping far away from one another. It’s meant as a joke, but it hits too close to home. More importantly, there’s little payoff since the injustice of what was done during Covid goes unremarked.
Rather, the lesson of the whole story is that people need to chill out and be patient with one another—and maybe not invest in NFTs. Of course, the people who need to do this are apparently the conservatives who doubt the efficacy of vaccines and masks, along with the January 6, 2020 pro-Donald Trump protesters at the U.S. Capitol.
Not only is the whole thing unfunny, it is disappointing. “South Park” was at its best when it criticized pretentious leftists or pop culture—or both, as it does in my favorite episode, “Smug Alert!” When it parrots leftist elite opinion, it’s hardly different from other lame comedies like the late-night comedy shows and “Saturday Night Live,” except that it has more profanity.
At this point, it might be time for Parker and Stone to take their riches, end their series, and retire. “The South Park: Post Covid” movies indicate that this show, after two dozen seasons, has lost its edge and relevance. It’s dumb and boring without even a slight hint of humor.
As such, viewers would do well to pass on these movies, while the “South Park” creators would do well by taking their own advice from the two “South Park: Post Covid” movies and move on.