2017 will celebrate twenty years of “South Park” as the now historic show follows its memorable 20th season with the potential end of serialization “as we know it” in regards to the changes that have come to the latter seasons and episodes have been presented. Now that the twentieth season is over and Member Berries have fans feeling nostalgic, there’s no better time to reflect on the greatest episodes in “South Park” history. ( Part 1 )
Awesom-O (Season 8, Episode 5)
Poor Butters, a boy so naïve and unaware he couldn’t recognize his supposed friend and overall antagonist Eric Cartman decked in a bunch of cardboard boxes posing as a robot from Japan. While Cartman and Butters’ mutual families thought the interactions between the two were incredibly cute, the reason Eric took so much time out of his life to be around Butters while stuck inside a sweltering box was Butters quickly revealing that he knew a grand secret about Cartman that he’d use against him whenever Eric crossed him again. Desperate to figure out what Butters had on him, Cartman embraced his new reality. But despite his best efforts to stay hidden long enough to figure out what Butters knew about him broke Cartman down physically thanks to sleep deprivation, dehydration, witnessing the money made from his movie ideas being given to charity after Butters brought his “best friend” on a trip to Los Angeles to visit Stotch’s aunt, and an inability to hold in his fart when everyone was around. In one of the series’ most satisfying moments for those hoping to see Butters get one over on Cartman, the prior exposed Eric’s secret shame to everyone who wanted to see a young boy dressing up as Britney Spears to grind on a life-sized cardboard cutout of Justin Timberlake.
Woodland Critter Christmas (Season 8, Episode 14)
It was once a tradition that Matt Stone & Trey Parker celebrated the Christmas season with a Christmas-centric episode every season. From those episodes came the debut of Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo and the boys heading to both Canada & Iraq. But there was, arguably, not a better Christmas “South Park” episode than the eighth season’s offering that brought together all the great things about holidays including fairy tales, wonderful poetry, and bright eyed woodland critters. Stan – “the boy in the red poof-ball hat” according to the narrator – stumbled upon a group of talking animals including Berry the Bear, Foxxy the Fox, and, most importantly to the story, a pregnant porcupine, Porcupiney. Stan, through much coercing and practical guilt tripping helped the Critters in their quest to make this Christmas magical by killing a mountain lion mother of three who spent many years eating the porcupine’s fetus anytime she gave birth. Come to find out, the mountain lion was a purveyor of good who, during each Christmas season, slew the Antichrist that was born from Porcupiney amongst her group of fellow devil worshiping woodland animals. Kyle got involved as the story progressed, resulting in him accepting the spirit of the Antichrist to give birth, but is stopped by the mountain lion cubs who had been trained in performing abortions. By the episode’s closing moment, Christmas was saved, the Antichrist killed, and Santa gave Stan his only Christmas wish to have the mother mountain lion resurrected to continue her duties as a holy warrior.
The epic twist wasn’t just The Woodland Christmas Critters being tools of the Antichrist, but also the story originated from the demented mind of Eric Cartman. Seriously, who else would’ve come up with the idea that Kyle becomes the birth-giver to the Antichrist…
Trapped in the Closet (Season 9, Episode 12)
Just like sexuality, race relations, and gender issues, the topic of religion has been a focal point of many a “South Park” episode. Heck, Jesus Christ actually lives in South Park (apparently visiting Quahog, RI from time to time as he hasn’t been seen in South Park for a little while now). But instead of criticizing Christianity, Mormonism, or Islam, Matt Stone & Trey Parker put their proverbial crosshairs on Scientology by explaining how the religion is based on the absurdity of a science fiction writer’s apparent ramblings turning into a full-blown faith. Stan, who joined the religion after being convinced he was suffering from depression, was presented to the masses as the reincarnation of the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. With Scientology’s PR team putting Stan in such a high position and spotlight, not only the media, but also celebrities who practiced the religion including Tom Cruise overran the Marsh family. Seeing himself as a failure in the eyes of “The Prophet”, Cruise locked himself in Stan’s bedroom closet and wouldn’t come out even after being confronted by his wife and R. Kelly (see what they did there?).
By the episode’s conclusion Stan fundamentally changed the church and its doctrine to make it free while declaring the original incarnation a “fat global scam.” The end result wasn’t just a memorable episode, but also one that got the show nominated for an Emmy, became engrained in pop culture and even had the niece of the Chairman of Scientology admitting she only learned some of important facts about the religion – including the story of Lord Xenu – thanks to this episode. But for everything that went right about the episode, it also created one of the franchise’s most disappointing moments as the voice of Chef in music legend Isaac Hayes – a then-active Scientologist – left the show for mocking his religion. It would ultimately prove to be the beginning of the end of the series’ first likable adult character that changed the way the boys handled their problems because, without Chef, there was no one left to teach them when to lose one’s virginity or when to do drugs (nineteen and in college respectively).
Make Love, Not Warcraft (Season 10, Episode 8)
Just like so many people during the mid-2000s, the boys (Stan, Kyle, Kenny & Cartman) were enamored with the online MMO experience “World of Warcraft”. But like any online game there’s a great chance someone will try to ruin it for everyone by being over-leveled, extremely powerful, and, apparently, getting his/her kicks off of killing characters that had nothing to do with him – simply known as a “griefer”. With their characters struggling to stay alive for any significant period of time, Cartman devised a plan where every kid they knew would come together and take this griefer down together. When that failed it became obvious only months and months of training while staying confined to Eric’s basement; getting fatter, acne-ridden, and more obsessed with something meant to just be a temporary journey outside of reality. Ironically enough it wasn’t the boys’ expert, exhaustive planning that saved the world … of warcraft, but Stan’s dad Randy who obtained an all-powerful sword able to drain all the griefer character’s mana courtesy of the game’s developers after they discovered his new obsession with their creation. This impressive collaboration between the show’s creators and Blizzard Entertainment (“World of Warcraft’s” developers) proved to be successful not from just a humor standpoint with its satirical take on the “WoW’ phenomenon, and artistically thanks to Blizzard as they helped create a medieval version of South Park for the world to see, but also due to the fact it won a Primetime Emmy Award for an Outstanding Animated Program.
This episode went beyond the satirizing of both “World of Warcraft” fans and gaming in general by proving also to be the breakout episode for Randy Marsh. Before this, Randy was just a parent who just so happened to be a geologist – that was really everything you needed to know about him. Other than brief glimpses into his past and current including being a member of a boy band and living the highlife after getting a divorce respectively, Randy proved to be nothing more than a plot device until this episode where his character not only reached a memorable character arc, but also evolved into one of the series’ most interesting figures. The eighteenth and nineteenth seasons would’ve been completely different if not for Randy’s current mindset of middle-aged extremism where any time he finds out about something currently en vogue he latches onto it with reckless abandon; be it “World of Warcraft”, or even being politically correct.
Do you believe leprechauns exist? Of course not! Seriously, what kind of moron would believe … sweet Jesus it’s a leprechaun! The shocking, overwhelming feeling of witnessing something you always knew was just a part of a fairy tale turned out to be real overtook Kyle Broflovski as Eric Cartman revealed the truth about leprechauns being real and him now being required to gobble Cartman’s nuts (to put it in the nicest way possible). Adamant to not have Cartman’s testicles in his mouth, Kyle tried to figure out how a leprechaun could be running around a forest warning everyone who saw him about an impending terrorist attack. Kyle’s insistence on the leprechaun not being real opened a door that led them into the world of everyone’s imagination. Unfortunately things weren’t so beautiful and wonderful in this “goofy” world as the terrorists infiltrated the same unbelievable world to blow it up – killing dozens of make-believe characters that gave joy to both children and adults.
While a majority of the real children from South Park made it out of Imaginationland, Butters found himself stuck in the world for the sole purpose that he was the chosen one who could not only restore Imaginationland, but also push back the mounting odds of evil characters like Freddy Krueger and the Woodland Christmas Critters that were held behind a giant concrete wall until the terrorist attack. With Jesus leading the charge against a monstrous horde and Butters using his impressive imaginative powers to help, the living embodiment of imagination was restored to its rightful form – giving Cartman the chance to have his wish come true after spending three episodes battling Kyle in court, actually saving Broflovski’s life, and even fighting his own government.
While it wasn’t the first or the last, it’s arguably the best example of everyone behind this fantastic show putting out three subsequent, interwoven episodes that never felt like the story was dragging (The Coon Saga) or meandering (The Black Friday trilogy) that is also the closet thing we viewers, at this time, will ever have to a sequel to “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” while imparting the wisdom of just how important something so innocent and almost childish as the act of imagining plays such a huge roll in everyone’s lives.
You’re Getting Old (Season 15, Episode 7)
There comes a time in everyone’s life where the things he or she once loved just seems crappy – be it music, food, or even television programming. But some people reach the depths of cynicism where everything just seems like crap. The new Adam Sandler movie? Crap! A delicious bowl of ice cream? Crap! Listening to your favorite genre of music, “tween wave”? You guessed it – utter crap! This was the reality of Stan Marsh after Stan’s moment of enlightenment also opened to eyes of his parents as Randy and Sharon Marsh finally expressed their mutual disappointments being a part of a rather loveless marriage featuring Randy trying to embrace “tween wave” – rocking out as “Steamy Ray Vaughn” and crapping his pants while imitating the genre’s sound of drum beats & fart noises (what it sounded like to most adults including the adamantly defensive Randy).
Accepting their lack of feelings for each other, Randy & Sharon separated, with Sharon taking Stan with her to another part of town while Randy tried to continue his newfound music career alongside “Steamy Nicks”. Though the follow-up episode pretty much reset everything and restored “South Park” to its natural order it didn’t take away the profound sadness of seeing a young man’s life change for the worst simply because he turned ten years old while giving off the vibe that maybe, just maybe, his creators were outgrowing their most heralded creation.
The Hobbit (Season 17, Episode 10)
The subject of self-image in regards to young girls has understandably become a hot topic in the worlds of entertainment, social media, and, of course “South Park”. The series’ seventeenth season finale began with the focus of a South Park Elementary cheerleader named Lisa Berger who didn’t have the looks, talent, or confidence to be on the same squad as a Bebe or a Wendy. In hopes of boosting Lisa’s confidence, Wendy convinced his fellow cheerleader to ask out the guy she wanted the most, Butters. The plan failed because of Butters’ standards of what he wants in a woman – a standard set by the phenomenon known as “Kim Kardashian”. Wendy, upset over Butters turning down a good person due to her “inferior” looks compared to a celebrity he’d never meet, revealed the truth that Kim Kardashian and her kind are nothing more false images made by Photoshop to make people stereotypically attractive while negatively altering society’s perception of body image – and this was where everything hit the fan as Wendy’s insults brought forth the return of Kanye West (the recovering “gay fish”) to South Park in defense of his lovely then-fiancé and to explain that people like Wendy were just “jelly” of his beautiful, gorgeous queen … who just so happened to like to smoke a pipe by the fire in her room placed underground yet was not a “hobbit”.
While West started a crusade against defaming Kim, including turning Pope Francis into Taylor Swift while he was awarded Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” and recreating his “Bound2” music video to reinforce his argument against “the haters”, the Photoshop problem reached its zenith after Lisa put out a re-imaged photo of herself that not only made her popular, but also got her a boyfriend in Clyde – who would walk around with Lisa on his arm while staring and showing off the picture to his friends. All the girls except Wendy became adamant that they too be Photoshopped and popularized just like Britney Spears-esque Berger. The episode’s closing minutes witnessed both Wendy and Kanye realizing the truth that their beliefs were just as valid as they were questionable & simply one’s own opinions. Kanye, reading a bedtime story to Wendy, explained how he didn’t care that Kim was and still is a hobbit, but Photoshop helped her achieve her dream of being as beautiful as Beyonce (yet lacked the talent and good nature of Beyonce) and allowed Kanye/God to love his woman. Wendy accepted her actions as someone being “jel”. To rectify her wrongs and accept the truth that her work wasn’t stronger than society’s love for Photoshop, Wendy tearfully Photoshopped a picture of herself before sending it out for the world to see.
The painful end of Wendy’s fight against Photoshop helping cripple society’s true view of women was reminiscent of season fifteen’s mid-season finale “You’re Getting Old” where, ironically, Stan found himself developing a deep sense of cynicism toward the supposed funny ways of the society and the world as a whole. “South Park”, over the last few seasons, has found an incredible way of being meaningful, poignant, and, most importantly funny while tackling topical subjects and producing episodes that don’t just rank high on the list of greats in not only the series, but in all of TV going today.