Coming after two stellar South Park made-for-TV movies that aired on Paramount+, the premiere of season 25 falls a bit flat.
Throughout the last couple of seasons, as well as during those last two films, South Park has shown an admirable willingness to experiment, to switch things up; Mr. Garrison morphed into Donald Trump during the election (and throughout his presidency), while Randy began to overshadow the boys, essentially becoming the new Cartman.
The two Paramount films depicted the boys as forlorn adults, worn down by the weight of the world, fatigued by the neverending pandemic. Every conceivable COVID joke was made in those films, and the premiere, Pajama Day, cheekily repeats several of them.
The premiere snaps South Park back to a familiar format, with the class antagonized by Mr. Garrison’s inappropriate behavior, as he introduces the kids to his new boyfriend and scolds them for not keeping up with his melodramatic personal life. The low-stakes, ridiculous situation feels like a throwback to the show’s early years, which were more focused on the horrors of school, particularly on the eccentricities of teachers.
PC Principal, operating on the assumption that Garrison’s class is misbehaving, bans the boys from participating in Pajama Day, which sparks a trend among adults to wear pajamas to work.
This quickly snowballs into a massive social divide, as some refuse to participate in the pajama trend, prompting an aggressive pushback from pajama wearers.
Of course, it’s a metaphor for the culture war between anti-maskers and mask-wearers, which feels a little odd, as the show has just dropped its big pandemic plot and reset the timeline. Now, the show is talking about masks, again, without explicitly mentioning them.
It’s not a bad idea in itself – the absurd sight of the police department wearing their coziest pajamas is funny, and the episode pokes fun at the contradictory masking rules of restaurants, where masks are worn only when on the move.
A pajama culture war is a funny idea – but the joke has already been told. Hence, we see the same situation play out, with both sides comparing the situation to Nazi Germany, and the town needlessly disintegrating into chaos.
The show also makes fun of tech bros again by mocking Matt Damon’s extremely embarrassing cryptocurrency commercial (which feels more like a South Park sketch than anything in this episode, really) but can’t compare to the jokes previously made during the two Paramount films, which saw Butters become consumed with the NFT grift, accurately echoing the “toxic positivity” of the crypto-community.
There’s a good bit with PC Principal flat-out rejecting the idea of apologizing and admitting defeat, as appearing strong is more important to him than smoothing out the situation. But the social divide is instantly rectified by switching Pajama Day to Opposite Day, and again the town resets back to default.
Pajama Day is not the strongest episode, and hopefully marks the end of South Park’s pandemic parodies – the show already made the joke, and unfortunately, we’re all still living it.