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Friday, October 28, 2011

South Park has a "Broadway Bro Down"


     In this week's episode of Comedy Central's South Park, "Broadway Bro Down," Randy (Trey Parker) discovers that Broadway shows have subliminal messages that cause women to want to give their men blow jobs. Thus, he begins taking Sharon (April Stewart) to many of these performances. Annoyed at the inconvenience, he begins writing his own show, with the subtext more overt. This angers Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Elton John, all legendary Broadway giants, who come to South Park to challenge Randy. In the end, they all become friends, and help Randy with his show.

     Going after Broadway is timely and predictable, considering that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, have a Tony-award winning show, Book of Mormon, on the Great White Way right now. This does not detract from the enjoyment, of course, as obviously the duo have some serious skill in addressing the musical world. Robert Lopez, who worked with the boys on Book of Mormon, guest co-wrote this episode, too. But the guys don't shove their own thing down viewers' faces. In fact, other than an extremely brief advertisement for Book of Mormon just before the opening credits, their show is absent from reference in the episode.

     Plenty of other shows get the focus, most notable Wicked. The songs portrayed in the South Park version of Wicked are similar to those in the actual musical, but have some different lyrics, including the word "blowjob" inserted in many places. The same thing happens when other Broadway shows are glimpsed. Are the guys onto something? Does Broadway really make girls blowjob-crazy, despite the notable absence in reality of the subtext glimpsed in "Broadway Bro Down?" Well, that depends, of course. If the woman a man takes really likes the man and the show, the reward may be offered. But that's likely more a show of gratitude and affection, rather than anything in the actual material.

     The portrayal of the Broadway legends as beer drinking, "normal," manly men is the oddest part of "Broadway Bro Down." After all, these people have well-known personalities that do not match at all their South Park versions. But if they even see this episode, a possible, but far from guaranteed, occurrence, it probably won't be an issue. This is a well known recurring gag from the series, South Park always wanting to be unpredictable and force new perspectives. Thus, it comes across as light-hearted, funny, and not mean-spirited at all.

     Things do take a turn for the dark when Randy's daughter, Shelley (also Stewart) goes on a date to see Wicked with a vegan boy, whose last name happens to be Feegan, whom she has bonded with. Randy panics, and must tell Sharon the secret of Broadway, as they rush to stop their young daughter from giving oral sex. This is a bit disturbing, made even more so when Randy meets an older gentleman and his very young granddaughter in the audience. Thankfully, South Park does not actually address kids giving hummers, but instead, with a dig at the failure of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, disrupts the show. Shelley's guy's death is unfortunate, as it takes away possible character development, but not out of the realm for how South Park ties up loose ends.

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