Stephen Colbert's 'Fairview': 'South Park' Minus The Heart (Or The Funny)
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This week, Comedy Central is airing a "hyper-topical" adult animation show set in a small town populated by oddly-proportioned characters with big heads and balls for hands who deal with hot button political issues via poop, dick, and gore jokes: South Park. You thought we were talking about some South Park ripoff, didn't you? Nah. But right after South Park, they're airing some ripoff co-created by Stephen Colbert, Fairview.
Granted, that's only a 5 minute clip, but everything from the music cues to the setting to the simplistic animation to the edgy humor screams (literally, because the characters are also quite shouty) "let's do another South Park." There's also the fact that Comedy Central has straight up admitted this is part of their efforts to "double down on adult animation" as they try to build a new slate of shows around South Park, which will also include a Beavis and Butt-Head re-revival. (Hopefully they don't feel the need to have Cornholio comment on complex geopolitical issues like the Ukraine/Russia tensions or the Joe Rogan/Spotify crisis.)
Comedy Central describes Fairview as "hilarious" and "sophisticated," and it might very well be, but if so it's an unusual strategy to leave all those parts out of the clip above or this teaser:
Leaving the quality of the jokes aside (let's be fair: "worker drone rape jokes" is relatively recent subgenre of humor that's still finding its legs), a problem with adult animation series designed to ape South Park is that they try to copy the show as it is now, not as it became famous. South Park didn't turn into a cultural phenomenon because of the hyper-topical jokes -- it captured the world's imagination because it was the first cartoon to depict little kids as they truly are, which is "a bunch of hilariously dumb little psychopaths." In the early seasons, episodes revolved around moments every kid goes through, like when your stupid little brother follows you around and leaves you no choice but to resort to physical violence:
Or when you and your friends are hyped up for a new game console and a sentient towel with marijuana dependency shows up and drags you into a secret government plot:
The politics and social commentary came in when Trey Parker and Matt Stone ran out of universal childhood experiences to talk about and lost interest in the original premise. They were a way to keep an already successful show going by finding a self-sustainable source of ideas, because celebrities and politicians will never stop producing new and fresh reasons to be worthy of mockery. Shows like Fairview skip ahead to the point where the showrunners are already kind of burned out and grabbing ideas from whatever's on the news, without the benefit of having previously developed strong characters and a distinctive style.
Watching those Fairview clips feels like browsing someone's Funko Pop collection: a soul-less, standardized reproduction of something we love that can only at best achieve a tiny fraction of the effect of the original. But if it works for you, go nuts and buy 500.
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Top image: Comedy Central