“You’re Getting Old” | South Park | TV Club | TV | The A.V. Club
Unlike most shows about children, the one thing South Park rarely addresses is the one thing that childhood is all about: growing up. It’s been touched on before (“4th Grade” comes to mind), but mostly South Park’s kids, like the show itself, exist in the sort of stasis required of cartoons, ostensibly learning but never really evolving. As Sharon says at the surprisingly poignant end of tonight’s episode, every week we see some slight variation on the same sort of story, and every week it gets a little more ridiculous, only to have the whole thing reset when the next week rolls around. That’s even truer of South Park than most other cartoons, considering this is the show that spent its early years killing the same character in every episode yet always brought him back, fresh as a daisy, ready to be slaughtered all over again.
And as the revelations of last season’s “Mysterion” trilogy showed us, it seems as though South Park is getting a bit reflective about that sort of thing in its old age, turning inward and examining its formula in a way that my colleague Todd VanDerWerff would probably identify as “meta.” Much as that explanation of Kenny’s many rebirths dissected one of the show’s oldest conventions, tonight tackled a relatively newer, but no less formulaic pattern, with Sharon finally calling out Randy on his insatiable need to fill his life with short-lived fads that lead to him making the same stupid mistakes again and again with only minor variations. It’s a criticism you could level at a lot of shows, of course—entire runs of sitcoms have been built on that—but that dearth of new ways to spin the same old thing obviously hits pretty close to home for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, given that they started off the season openly dreading having to come up with all-new stories to tell.