We may only be approaching the beginning of summer, but new South Park episodes aren’t too far away. According to the show’s official website, season 21 will premiere on August 23rd, which means we’re barely more than two months out at the time of this writing. Fans will recall that season 20 was highly irregular. Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker had been flirting with serialization for a few seasons, but in 2016 they fully embraced the idea, presenting what was meant to be a cohesive, single narrative over the course of 10 episodes. By their own admission, this isn’t a style that works particularly well for them, and some have interpreted that to mean we’re in for something of a blank slate with season 21.
Keeping that in mind, and making a few guesses, here are a few things we can probably expect once the new episodes start dropping…
Matt and Trey haven’t been shy about their process or the challenges they faced in 2016. But given that the last episode was called “The End Of Serialization As We Know It,” and that they’ve been critical of their own formula, it’s a safe bet that we’ll return to more randomized episodes. However, in an extensive and very interesting interview with The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, the two discussed the idea of something in between. It sounds like we’ll probably be getting back to what we saw in seasons 18 and 19, with some continual stories threaded throughout the season, but no single overarching narrative. In other words, it’ll be back to the basics, though perhaps not quite all the way back to the hodgepodge randomness of the early seasons.
In the same interview mentioned above, Simmons asked Matt and Trey if they could remember someone who couldn’t be parodied because he was a parody. No matter how you feel about President Trump, this is the sentiment a lot of comedians have expressed about him; he’s so unorthodox, so crass, etc. that often the things he says are what others might have written in parody. For this and other reasons, Matt and Trey seem determined to make their show about more than Trump and American politics moving forward. While they’re viewed by many as the kings of modern satire, they never wanted to get as caught up in the narrative of the 2016 election as they inevitably did, which is why we might see them ignore politics more than usual in season 21. Then again, this is difficult to say for certain. South Park often reacts to the biggest stories of the day, and there’s no telling what material they’ll have going for them come the premiere date.
Coon & Friends
Getting away from nuggets we can glean from interviews, a return of the characters’ superhero alter egos, “Coon & Friends,” seems somewhat likely. This is actually apparent because of trends in gaming. A few years ago, NetEnt released a highly anticipated South Park video slots game that attracted a lot of players. And soon after, a second slot game emerged with the Coon & Friends characters featured heavily. Similarly, in 2013 we saw the emergence of the hit console RPG South Park: The Stick Of Truth. And now we’re awaiting the release of a sequel (South Park: The Fractured But Whole), which will also focus on the superhero alter egos of the main characters. Both trends indicate that these characters still seize the attention of fans. And with The Fractured But Whole on the way, it would be logical for Matt and Trey to do a superhero episode or two to keep promoting these characters.
A Dramatic Mr. Garrison Shift
As dedicated fans will know, Mr. Garrison has explored virtually the entire spectrum of gender and sexual orientation. He’s probably the most dynamic character in the show in that sense, even if his general worldview tends to remain stubbornly offensive. But with the aforementioned focus on politics in 2016, Garrison was locked into a different journey altogether, serving as the show’s surrogate for Trump. Given Matt and Trey’s stated preference to move away from this kind of coverage, it’s easy to imagine another dramatic shift in Garrison’s persona coming. There’s no telling what that will be, but don’t expect him to simply play the Trump role for a whole new season.
More Member Berries
Matt and Trey may not sound thrilled with what they accomplished, but the “Member Berries” that symbolized society’s obsession with rehashing and rebooting the past were a hit. And when you think about what’s going on in pop culture this year, there’s really no reason for them to go away. From the remake of The Mummy, to the third Spider-Man franchise in 15 years, to a fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie that pretty much no one wanted, it’s been another year of reboots and sequels. This seems to set Matt and Trey off like little else, and it probably means more Member Berries will be lurking in season 21.