It's not that the show isn't good. It's great! It's funny and smart and subversive and big-hearted and it has this piquant quality that I noticed in large supply in latter seasons of South Park: its writers seem to know a lot about life. I guess you call that wisdom? For many it's a surprise to find such a quality in a "silly cartoon show" or a silly Broadway musical, and maybe that's why I felt there was a disconnect between the insanely good reviews I read and the show I saw, which was great!, but which was not really much greater than South Park.
My operating assumption is that the reviewers of Mormon are just not that familiar with South Park, or at least that they didn't watch all 221 (at the time) episodes in relatively quick succession the way I did. Because as outstanding as Parker/Stone's brand of entertainment is, Mormon felt like more of the same of it, not something way beyond their grasp. I'm not going to call it a disappointment, because it wasn't. But it wasn't the best thing evar.
The finest thing about it was the same thing that was surprising about the "Up There" number from Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. Here that is:
So, not to be tedious, but the dynamic in "Up There" goes a little something like this:
- It's absurd that Satan would sing a Little Mermaid-style number, with a backup choir and everything, about getting out of Hell.
- This kind of song has evolved into being a cliche, and so this song is a parody of itself.
- In context, the character genuinely feels the desire to get out of Hell. That desire is real.
- Hence, the song feels genuine, even though a) the situation is absurd and b) the song is parodic.
- The song evokes real feeling in the audience, in part because it's a well-written parody, and in part because there is genuine feeling behind the parody.
So I expected nothing less from these guys (who have won a Peabody, after all), but apparently reviewers were not so credulous, which created a gap between my expectations and the show. Which is great! So you should go see it when it comes to your town. But if you're really familiar with South Park, don't break your heart if you can't make it to Mormon. The Mormon episode of the show, while very different, makes some of the same points and is equally funny.
Is this more interesting than news about writing? Because I did a lot of that in the last several days, and wrote a few paragraphs about it, and then decided to post this instead. Ah well. You'll get the writing stuff later in the week.