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Review: 'South Park' post-election special, 'Obama Wins!'

November 08, 2012|By Robert Lloyd | Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Eric Cartman has a plan in the "South Park" day-after-the-election episode, "Obama Wins!"
Eric Cartman has a plan in the "South Park" day-after-the-election… (Comedy Central )

In what I suppose we could call a tradition, if twice in four years a tradition makes, Comedy Central's "South Park" has again offered a special day-after-the-election episode. It accomplishes what, for a cartoon, seems a miraculously rapid integration of extremely recent events -- the winner of Tuesday's presidential race -- into the storyline. It is somewhat less miraculous than before, now that we've seen it done and know something more about Matt & Trey's Patented Six-Day Production Schedule®. But it's still a neat trick.

The 2008 post-election episode, "About Last Night," cast opponents Barack Obama and John McCain (along with Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin) as jewel thieves in cahoots and out to steal the Hope Diamond -- the election itself being just a clever ruse. It had little to do with politics, but it did include actual lines from Obama's victory speech and McCain's concession speech, delivered the evening before.

This year's episode, "Obama Wins!" which might have been titled "Obama Loses!" in a different timeline -- "Romney Wins!," seems less likely, as the challenger was not represented -- took the form of a conspiracy thriller. There was a little ambiguity built into the dialog and places where a scene might easily have been inserted to create an opposite effect, but the bulk of the story would have been set, having less to do with who won the election than the more pressing question of Fall 2012: what will happen to the "Star Wars" franchise now that Disney owns it

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The sole "political" thread involved Eric Cartman, the nastiest of the South Park kids, working for China to steal ballots marked for Mitt Romney as part of a deal to get Obama to force Disney to hand over the rights to "Star Wars" to the Chinese (who, it turned out, wanted only to keep it safe). Got that? It played off the real election's "voter fraud" issue, or non-issue, but in a merely fanciful way; More energy was spent on running gags about General Tso's Chicken, Humvees and the way that Morgan Freeman is used to explain things in movies: "Every time I show up and explain something," said cartoon Morgan Freeman, having just clarified the complicated plot, "I earn a freckle."

Cartman's price for his participation was a part in the next "Star Wars" movie as "Luke Skywalker's son, Cartman Skywalker." (He also demanded there be a character named "Jewbacca.") This brought him into contact with a foul-mouthed Mickey Mouse, presented as a kind of cross between a Hollywood studio head and Darth Vader -- not much daylight between those, do I hear you say? -- and a lot of "Star Wars" imagery, which made the whole episode a kind of brief for Fair Use. And, indeed, that was the most political thing about it.

It was a fair episode of a show that, when it regards actual human folly, can still be great.

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