If you're one of the purists who thinks that the last episode of South Parkworth watching was Scott Tenorman Must Die, it's time for you to live in the present.
After all, that's how Trey Parker and Matt Stone have kept their gift to humanity relevant and funny over the years. Sustained artistic brilliance relies on a balance of maintaining a signature aesthetic and updating it to fit an ever-changing societal context. South Park, as a comedic satire, comes by its contextual shifts naturally, but it's also gone through a few distinct stylistic eras.
Early on, the show was defined by the boys' innocence (even Cartman was innocent in the beginning, before he became a murderer). Then, in its middle seasons, it became a lampoon of catastrophe, using overly dramatic music to ramp up the stakes and turning the town into a confederacy of dunces. It was around this time that Chef, the show's only rational adult, was killed off, and Randy, the embodiment of American ignorance, ascended to prominence.
Recently, whether out of restlessness or a rise in serialized cartoons, South Parkhas moved into an era of plot continuity. After testing out the medium with Season 18 to mixed results, Parker and Stone perfected it last year, putting out a run of shows that stand as the series' best in almost a decade. Now, with Season 20 just about to start, it's time to analyse just what it's up against.