Movie Reviews

Season 25 Proves Randy Marsh Shouldn’t Be South Park’s Main Character

While there might have been only six episodes in South Park season 25, this was still enough evidence to prove that Stan’s father, Randy Marsh, should not be the show’s lead character going forward. South Park has been through many incarnations over the years. The hugely successful show started life as a raunchy, gross-out animated comedy focused on scatological humor before transitioning into sharper social satire around season 4.

Since then, South Park has experimented with serialized plotting, with seasons 18 and 20 being semi-successful attempts at telling a larger story over a whole season instead of relying on weekly events to shape each episode’s plot. 2021’s historic $900 million deal with Paramount+ represented the next evolution of the show, as South Park’s creators promised not only six more seasons but also a further 14 feature-length specials. As of mid-2022, four of these specials have been released.

Related: Why There’s No Need For South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2

While South Park is always changing as a series and the show’s focus has switched numerous times in its long history, there are a few things that have remained consistent throughout the decades. Much like how the most divisive episodes of The Simpsons still center on the famous family that the series is named after, most South Park episodes focus on Kyle, Kenny, Stan, and Cartman (and later, Butters). The quartet of foul-mouthed eight-year-olds has been the show’s main characters since South Park began, with their parents and teachers occasionally getting a moment in the spotlight in some stray episodes. However, since season 22, Randy Marsh has become the show’s unofficial sixth lead, a change that made some fans happy but has since outstayed its welcome. South Park season 25 was uneven, but the inconsistency of the brief season proved beyond a doubt that South Park is weaker when the show focuses on Randy rather than the boys.

For a while, South Park episodes like season 16’s Stephen King parody “Nightmare On FaceTime” used Randy as their main character to break up the monotony of focusing on the boys every week. Like an episode of The Simpsons that centered around Mr. Burns or Moe and only featured a few appearances from the titular family, these occasional experiments usually worked out fine but left few viewers and critics clamoring for more. However, this routine became increasingly common in later seasons to South Park’s detriment, as Randy ceased to be an occasional stand-in and became the show’s de facto lead for some time.

The kids of South Park aren’t tremendously consistent characters, mainly because they are literal children. Other than Cartman (who is, as proven by The Streaming Wars’ worst joke, an amoral monster), Stan, Kyle, and Kenny are all as likely to get caught up in a scheme as they are to try and stop everyone else from falling for it. In contrast, Randy is consistently self-interested, arrogant, and short-tempered, making his character more predictable when he acts as South Park’s lead. Deeply flawed people can usually make perfect protagonists for dark comedies, but Randy’s character flaws don’t deepen the show’s satire or sharpen its point. Seeing the kids of South Park unknowingly get caught up in immoral schemes due to their innocence can be darkly funny. In contrast, seeing Randy consistently trying to scam everyone around him isn’t particularly compelling since he’s not decent enough to be relatable but not outright terrible enough to be inherently amusing.

Randy’s pointless Tegridy Farms plot dominated the action of seasons 22 and 23 before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Paramount+ deal reshaped South Park’s production schedule, and these episodes sewed the seeds of what would become season 25’s biggest problem. Since he rarely ends up facing the consequences of his antics, Randy isn’t as compelling as the far nastier Cartman. The six episodes of South Park’s short season 25 paint a picture of Randy’s role on the series, as the strongest outing, “Back to the Cold War,” didn’t feature him at all. Meanwhile, a trio of solid episodes (“City People,” “Help, My Teenager Hates Me!,” and “Pajama Day”) was stronger for their focus on the South Park boys. While “The Big Fix” was solid, Stan’s Tolkien storyline was stronger than Randy’s feud with Credigree Weed, while South Park’s tepid season 25 finale “Credigree Weed St Patrick’s Day Special” proved that a Randy-centric storyline that left out the boys was an outright bad idea.

Related: South Park: The Streaming Wars Secretly References Will Smith’s Oscar Slap

The reason Cartman’s evil antics seldom become tiresome on South Park is that he has a trio of more measured friends for his character to play against. Randy is usually a lone lead, and his only supporters are Sharon, too often reduced to a voice of reason and not a comedic character in her own right, and Towelie, who was infamously already one of South Park’s least-liked supporting stars long before teaming up with Randy. While Cartman insisting on getting breast augmentation to ostensibly teach his mother a lesson in the ending of South Park: The Streaming Wars is a solid gag, it is much funnier when he obliquely informs his concerned friends that his mother “needs surgery that we can’t afford” and the well-meaning quartet assumes the situation is far sadder and less ludicrous than the reality.

In contrast, Randy’s plot lines don’t have this effective interplay between morally motivated characters and malicious bad actors since Randy is flawed, but crucially, not as outright terrible as Cartman, and his sidekick Towelie is effectively the same as him. Towelie is a bit more of a coward, and Randy is a little more hot-headed, but on the whole, the two characters are much too similar to make their dynamic particularly compelling. The fact that Towelie has always been a divisive figure among fans and starred in one of South Park’s most-hated episodes ever (outside of “Jakovasaurs”) doesn’t help matters, with the sidekick being a bad choice when it comes to making Randy more engaging as the main character. Between his already-hated sidekick, his not-quite-terrible-enough-to-be-funny demeanor, and his slow-moving plot lines, Randy Marsh is not the correct lead for South Parkas season 25’s episodes proved.

More: South Park: The Streaming Wars Addresses The Show’s Biggest Mistake

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