On Wednesday night, the 17th season of South Park will premiere on Comedy Central. For a show of more conventional aspirations and construction, the only accomplishment this unusually long tenure would achieve would be to emphasize the ravage of time on all of us who remember those first unlikely episodes. No doubt creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have let that thought creep in just about now, as they put the finishing touches on the season premiere — most likely while you read this — and steel themselves for another season of 120-hour weeks and insane, superhuman deadlines.
Yet, in what must be considered the show’s most meta rebuke to traditional wisdom, it has been exactly its frenetic pace of production that has allowed South Park to win the long game, beating the odds and the critics en route to being the 4th longest running U.S. primetime show in history. Comedy Central’s original crown jewel has kept its perch by staying essential and urgent, and toward that end, topical. The aforementioned production blitz — one week per episode, from brainstorm to upload — gives the creative team little room to deviate from the story material in front of all of us, or what we usually call the news. In reality, South Park has always been more of a political cartoon than The Flintstones.
Though predicting a season of South Park is essentially like trying to forecast a year's worth of current events, here are a few topical episodes I wouldn’t mind seeing.
Please note, absolutely all of the following is offensive.
After doing a book report on 1984, Kyle is deeply upset to learn that the government has been spying on him in much the same way as Big Brother. When he asks Mr. Garrison to help him find out more, Mr. Slave pipes up and reveals that he is a jilted ex-lover of Glenn Greenwald. He has been feeding lies to Ed Snowden, Greenwald’s new slave, to sabotage Greenwald’s career. Kyle is nonplussed, and demands that he and his friends accompany Slave to Brazil to tell Greenwald the truth so that people won’t fear their government anymore. Once there, Greenwald is at first combative (using an army of Brazilian men to attack the group) before sadly admitting that he has fallen out of love with Snowden, who, since becoming famous has spent so much time “up his own ass” that he hasn’t left any space for Greenwald. Slave climactically kills Snowden and takes back Greenwald, who, upon landing back in Colorado, is promptly assassinated by the government who believed his stories about their own purported programs.
2. Teen Mom and Sydney Leathers
After seeing porno videos starring Sydney Leathers and the Teen Mom, Cartman becomes convinced that he can make money directing sex tapes starring semi-public figures who are already famous for involvement in scandal. Recruiting Butters to star as his lead, Cartman approaches townspeople who have committed public gaffes and convinces them to star in his videos. The productions are plagued, however, by two mysterious, playful gnomes that emerge from the forest, create mischief on set, and then disappear. Eventually they are caught in a net, and, terrified, curl up into a quivering ball. When separated, they are revealed to be Anthony Weiner and Harvey Levin, who are actually two halves of the same woodland imp. They were born in and naturally revert to the “69” position. Principal Victoria thinks that they should receive a proper education, and the episode ends with them sitting uncomfortably in class, growling and attempting to lunge at each other’s genitals. (David Hyde Pierce guest voices.)
3. Humanitarianism in Syria
Stan’s dad, Randy, after being told he is terrible at cooking, insists on making Thanksgiving dinner. The results are calamitous, leading Randy into an even deeper depression, until he tastes a bit of his rancid turkey leg, which is shockingly delicious. His “Turkey Curd” quickly wins him acclaim throughout the town. Watching TV, he becomes enraged when he sees a commercial featuring Sally Struthers asking for aid donations while walking through a refugee camp of Kurds in Turkey. Convinced that he must defend the egregious infringement, he travels to Syria with the boys. After going down a deathly river à la Apocalypse Now, a hugely obese Struthers awaits at the end, the lord of an unholy compound attended by emaciated refugees, one of which is Starvin’ Marvin. Just as Randy is about to kill Struthers (as Willard killed Kurtz) President Obama flies in riding a Predator drone to prevent any action from being taken. After a sentimental speech on why hard decisions must always be avoided, the president offers to take the group home on his drone. They blast away hundreds of refugees to clear a runway and take off.
4. Rihanna and Chris Brown
During a game at recess, Timmy accidentally pushes his crush Bebe harder than intended, causing everyone to ostracize him as a woman-beater. Timmy ruefully accepts his school punishment and a lecture from his parents. While in bed that night, Rihanna appears at his window and climbs in. Speaking exclusively in indecipherable auto-tuned clouds of sound, Rihanna tells Timmy that she loves it when a man isn’t afraid to show who’s boss, and that she’s now with him. She follows him around at school, unintelligibly instructing him to get in fights, whereupon she always violently orgasms, drenching everyone. He relishes how angry this makes Bebe. This bravado eventually leads to Timmy being elected, against his will, as leader of a motorcycle gang (with him on his wheelchair). On the precipice of a mammoth fight between two gangs, Bebe appears and offers Timmy a nonviolent recourse, which he eagerly accepts, gliding off with her into the sunset.
5. Debt Ceiling
Particularly excited in school one day, Mr. Mackey lets the boys in on the secret that he has saved up thousands of dollars in savings bonds that mature today. He plans to retire with the proceeds. Cartman offers to assist him in announcing this using an elaborate pyrotechnic display that will insult the school before he leaves. At the bank, however, Mr. Mackey is informed that he cannot redeem the bonds, as the debt ceiling has been breached and the government is defaulting. Unaware of this, Cartman proceeds with the announcement, which causes Mr. Mackey to be fired. Penniless, he is turned away from all employers except the Chinese embassy. In his work as a translator (including the introduction of “Mmmkaay” into Chinese) he attends a secret meeting between Communist officials and top Tea Party leaders, who reveal themselves to be Chinese agents who have somehow adopted clumsily stereotypical American guises without detection. When Mackey goes on the air to warn of this plot, the government puts all Tea Party congressmen in an internment camp, thus lifting the debt ceiling and allowing Mr. Mackey to collect his returns and go back to work a hero.