After the mis-fire of last weekâ€™s episode, â€œBritneyâ€™s New Lookâ€ was a welcome return to form for. The episode takes our gossip-obsessed culture to the edges of horror, equating our tabloid-television fixations with the ancient historical practices of human sacrifice. That absurd perversion of logic is what the South Park creators do so well.
It wasnâ€™t a great episode, but it easily had one of the most indelible images of the season. Chasing the big payday that compromising photos of Britney Spears can provide, the South Park boys unwittingly trigger her suicide. Or so it appears. Britney survives her self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, and the results are a new level of disturbing.
Parker and Stone are nimble directors, able to mimick just about every film and television genre out there. The timing on the reveal of headless Britney was superb, and the sequence of ever expanding wide shots of the gathering mob are note perfect. And somewhere out there, a bunch of geeks are analyzing the pseudo-Latin chanting during the climactic scenes, parsing it for obscure or scatological references.
At its best, South Park finds comedy at the far ends of any emotional spectrum. Whatâ€™s ironic is that their satire is largely a plea for reason and common sense. To fully appreciate their humor, you have to be educated, politically moderate, and a self-appointed member of the cultural elite. Parker and Stone are the best satirists working in television today, though they own that title mostly through a near-complete lack of competition. Nobody on television tackles the topics they go after, and few can hold a candle to their ability to skewer the absurdities in our culture.
In the end, though, â€œBritneyâ€™s New Lookâ€ is a mixed bag. The human sacrifice metaphor is apt, but much of the comedy falls flat. Mostly, Parker and Stone run afoul of their previous high water marks. After the brilliant reveal of headless Britney, the rest of the humor pales in comparison. Still, I sat in shock for that whole sequence, and itâ€™s that blend of horror and absurdity thatdoes so well. Welcome back.