Last night, the often hilarious, always controversial South Park aired its season finale, a satirical and very blue skewering of Food Network, its celebrity chefs, and food porn (literally). As someone who watches my share of cooking shows, whether they're instructional, travel-based, or reality (Top Chef All-Stars starts December 1st!), I had to watch it. And I recognized all the chefs they lampooned, a bejeweled Guy Fieri, an over-the-top ginger Bobby Flay, a nerdy Alton Brown, a Southern-accent-dripping Paula Deen, a stacked-with-"breasticles"giant-headed Giada De Laurentiis, a sobbing Jamie Oliver ("school cafeteria food should be healfy"), an orange-clogged Mario Batali, and a particularly funny Gordon Ramsay, impersonated by Eric Cartman.
A clip to illustrate:
Stan's father, Randy, has a food porn problem. He stays up late at night and watches what his wife refers to as the "no-no channel". He watches with a blanket on his lap, a blanket with one hand underneath. There is movement under the blanket. He knows what he likes. After his wife uses parental blocks to prevent his pleasure, he uses the very expensive "hotline" to discuss
pan-roasting a chicken and deglazing the pan of its brown bits until his wife catches him.
In response, Stan's mom/Randy's wife decides to do something just for herself and buys the already pornographic in appearance Shake Weight. Honestly, the infomercials on this thing already look like hand job instructional devices so it didn't seem like much of a stretch until we learned the Shake Weight ejaculates "cool down liquid" when the workout is over and needs to be used (faster, faster, switch hands, put your finger there, we need to take your pulse) before it can go into sleep mode. And then there's the cab fare it discharges. Hilarious.
Cue Corona beer beach scene complete with teak chairs, Sharon in one, the Shake Weight in the other. I found this subplot smarter than the main Randy-centric one. The Shake Weight had a HAL-like voice and became more needy as the episode progressed. Yes, I am a scifi nerd.
Meanwhile, in the school cafeteria, it was a "Hell's Kitchen NIGHTMARES Iron TOP Chef Cafeteria THROWDOWN Ultimate Cookoff CHALLENGE". Personalities were exaggerated. Jamie Oliver sobbed and sobbed. Paula Deen did things with fat and butter. Giada De Laurentiis smiled vapidly. Mario Batali flipped his shrimp. Alton Brown narrated.
Cartman as Ramsay yelled and cussed and said f*ck and wanker a lot. The competition was thrilling in a Food Network manufactured drama kind of way. Then, Randy could not find his secret ingredient, creme fraiche.
I'm not going to spoil the very end for you. Let's just say it was satisfying for Randy and Sharon in the end. In an Old Fashioned Way. And Randy slept for the first time in days. And I thought it was one of the most "wrong" South Parks after that contest with Slave and Paris Hilton or perhaps the Lemmywinks saga (still my favorite South Park episode ever). David thought it was funny and "not that bad". To which I exclaimed, "The Shake Weight splooging all over Sharon's face wasn't wrong? What about Randy masturbating to Food Network while the boys were still in the room?"
As usual, I was right and he was wrong.
What they (creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone) did right: The characterizations of the celebrity chefs were dead on and honestly did not need much embellishment or exaggeration as they are all over the top to begin with.
What they did wrong: Well, not much but they didn't include Rachel Ray. Though she is a strange animated person to begin with so I suppose they thought adding her would be redundant.
What I thought of it: It made me uncomfortable and I thanked the Flying Spaghetti Monster multiple times that I was not watching it with my teens. I loved the Shake Weight subplot. As in any art form, there is something right about a device that makes its viewers both laugh, think, and feel uncomfortable regardless of the subject matter. South Park is one of the dumbest and, at the same time, smartest shows on television.