24 March 2006

Back like spinal meningitis: The return of (Brendan and) Chef (BR)

My friend Matthew Jordan sent me a memorandum soliciting my opinion of Chef's return and subsequent demise on South Park. First of all, this was the first funny episode of the show I've seen in two years. The writers had fallen into a rut of making cheap jokes at easy targets, and even the "controversy" generated by the Scientology episode was, I felt, unwarranted and gave too much credit to the show for making fun at the expense of walking punchlines.

This was different. Usually creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone use the boys of South Park to hammer home some simple point or observation about the events of the day, ratcheting up the outrageousness to keep the main idea from getting stale, with varying degrees of success. In Wednesday's season premiere -- aside: I can't fucking believe this show has been on for 10 years now -- the boys speak to the hurt and resentment that Parker and Stone feel personally at Chef's (Isaac Hayes') rather flaky and inexplicable choice of a "fruity little club" over his friends who love, admire, and need him.

Due in no small part to the sensitive nature of the split between Hayes and South Park, the screenplay for this episode is stellar and incisive in a way that we haven't seen from this show in a long time, and was capped by an ending -- I won't go into detail. Watch it. It's worth it. -- that was equally brutal and heartbreaking. It seems silly to attach any kind of emotional importance to a character who was initially made of circles cut out of construction paper, but because of South Park's enormous cultural significance, and the critical role Chef played on the show -- a somewhat cynical, but ultimately upbeat and jolly sage -- I found myself moved to palpable sadness by the close of the episode.

Suffice it to say that Parker and Stone got the last laugh, not to mention the last "holy fucking shit!" in this situation. And the great thing about all this is that if Hayes ever recovers his marbles, Chef will reappear just like that.


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