South Park Recap: ‘Broadway Bro Down’

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This week’s episode was masterful. The concept was simple — what if Broadway was secretly made by and for bros? The execution was streamlined and stayed focused on one objective that builds throughout. Finally, and despite a fairly racy premise, it ended up being one of the sweeter episodes of South Park, thanks in part to the melding of the A and B stories at the very last minute. And yes, it’s about musicals.

The men around town start talking about the fact that whenever they take their wives to musicals, they get blow jobs afterwards. Randy’s skeptical but tries it out with a touring production of Wicked, thinking that the show itself might be, well, “wicked” enough to get his wife in the mood. After realizing it’s a bunch of wizards and witches and sentimental schlock about popularity, he retreats to the lobby for a scotch and soda.  A helpful bar companion informs him that his wife is actually getting the message subliminally since “there’s a blow job reference every 10 seconds. Broadway writers call it subtext.” So he goes back in and realizes that the wise man at the bar was indeed right, and, ultimately, Randy gets what he came for.

Some considerable fuss has been made (by this site, for example) over the episode in the past few weeks thanks to the fact that Robert Lopez, a co-creator of The Book of Mormon made a special trip to the writers room to assist. And you can tell some time has been spent on the execution. Taking advantage of his newfound knowledge, Randy and his wife depart for New York for the weekend. Set to a montage-ready song that goes “now I need a little man time, gonna see me a Broadway show,” we stop by Cats, Sister Act, Sunday in the Park With George, Godspell, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, South Pacific, and Jersey Boys, all of which have managed to integrate blow job verbiage into their songs. Intoxicated by his newly discovered power, Randy sets off to create a musical for his town, but is thwarted by Andrew Weber, Stephen Schwartz, Elton John, and Stephen Sondheim, who are all protective of the truth that Randy is so callously trying to leverage for his production of “Spluge Drenched Blow Job Queen.”

A lot of the humor here is rooted in the fact that the story starts out so small (an All The President’s Men conspiracy that’s little more than water cooler talk at first), but continues to gather legitimacy till it reaches the very top — the revered creators of all the most popular musicals. Not only are they in on it, they’re grade-A bros as well, complete with beers, group meetings at Hooters, and douchey football apparel (Sondheim sports a Steelers jersey and cap, Weber’s in a Patriot’s hoodie, Schwartz is in a slogan tee, and Sir Elton is in Red Wings garb). The Broadway musical, the most unmanly of pastimes is nothing more than a cover for a bunch of bros looking to get a little action with their dates.

So where does the sweetness sneak in amidst all of this talk of spluge and bro-downs? The subtle B story. While Randy and Sharon are off in New York, the kids stay with the proselytizing Vegans who wear life jackets (“Cancer, heart disease, and drowning, all are preventable with a vegan diet. And a life jacket.”). The little repressed kid Larry Vegan falls for Shelly, realizes that meat is delightful, and and they go on a date to see Wicked. Randy grows a conscience, tells his wife about “subtext” and runs off to save his daughter from the subliminal messages. Larry dies (“if only he’d been wearing a life jacket” laments the newscaster), but Shelly remains uncorrupted and Sharon concedes that the whole blow job/musical trade off is actually kind of reasonable.

For anyone who thought that “Broadway Bro Down” was going to be one big riff on The Book of Mormon and its successes, it’s actually more of advertisement. As the credits begin to roll some more subtext flashes on the screen: “Go see The Book of Mormon. You’ll get a blow job.”

Lindsey has written for The Atlantic and contributes to The Junior Varsity. She lives in Chicago.