This year, South Park celebrates its fifteenth anniversary. Also this year, the show proves that it can be just as shocking and seemingly anarchic as the day it premiered. A crudely animated story about four expletive spewing children and there reaction to the world around them probably would not be greenlit by any channel today – at least not without major overhauls. South Park has been a comedy gem that manages to delve into deep satire without ever compromising its own grotesque sense of humor.
As such, the series can almost do no wrong in people’s eyes. But as with any television show, the good must be taken with the bad. And these episodes represent the worst that the show has come up with. They are wildly uneven, their humor is cast in the wrong direction, and the episodes seem to come from some other world where the show was created by Chuck Lorre.
South Park has had many classic moments, and nothing below will take that away. Still, it should be noted that these episodes deserve to disappear forever.
10) Toilet Paper – Everyone remembers the Family Guy spoof, in which the boys criticized that popular Fox comedy for not making any real jokes, but references.That criticism loses its punch when one realizes South Park has done the exact same thing. Case in point: “Toilet Paper” which is nothing more than a drawn out Silence of the Lambs reference. Barbrady is the focus here, and engages in conversation with a serial toilet paper thrower. That’s it. If you have seen the film, you can guess how this episode ultimately ends. But it does not just follow the plot – it also does not score points against the original film. South Park is known for exposing the weaknesses to various material. They did not even try here. The episode does not live up to the standards set by the show.
9) Prehistoric Ice Man – Granted, this was a very early episode of the show. Additionally, for those nostalgic for the nineties, this will satisfy your bizarre cravings. But the show just does not have a good enough execution to make it truly memorable. Yes, a man frozen for two years probably would have some deep damage and be very confused. But the episode doesn’t really try to point out differences between the two eras. Making everyone seemingly forget about 1996 pushes the suspension of disbelief that much more. Besides, was there really a difference between 1996 and 1998? It would have been far funnier to have someone from the present wake up in the future. Oh wait….that actually happened in the classic Go God Go. That episode just shows how wrong the perspective this episode took was. It was fine when it aired, but subsequent seasons have made it seem worse.
8) Jackovasaurus- This was an episode that just did not need to be made. It was meant to be a shot at the much reviled Jar Jar Binks character. Even at this stage, this is the television equivalent of using a mini gun to kill a fly. South Park did not need to discuss this character, and really did not have anything else to say about him. Yes, Jar Jar Binks was annoying. But simply creating an equally annoying character makes no impression whatsoever. Any satire is lost, and the character ends up being just as annoying as what he was meant to make fun of.
7) I’m a Little Bit Country – This was the hundredth episode of the show. It also satirizes one of the most turbulent, divisive issues in modern history. The debate leading up to the Iraq War had a giant target on its back, waiting for South Park to shoot. But they still missed. Why? Because the people did not seem like grotesque caricatures. They seemed…almost reasonable in their debate. Besides, at the end they come together and agree with each other…something that has not happened in American politics since we declared war on Japan. Trey and Matt decided not to go all out with this episode, and it suffers because of it.
6) Poor and Stupid – This is the most recent episode on the list. When compiling it, I was surprised that there were not more recent episodes. Still, this episode does demonstrate everything that is wrong about a bad South Park. Simply put, this episode is not funny. It does not eviscerate NASCAR in any way and is instead dedicated to having Cartman talk in a bad southern accent. Besides, the stereotype actually seems unfair. The comedy ends up being directed at Cartman rather than NASCAR fans or NASCAR drivers. This has worked in the past, but targeting Cartman was not the point of this episode. Trey and Matt had material ripe for satire, and they blew it.
5) Elementary School Musical – As with “Jackovasauras,” this was an episode that didn’t really need to exist. High School Musical is practically satire to begin with, and the episode does nothing to score points against it. If anything, it almost seems to embrace the idea of celebrating garbage (what with the big dance number at the end of the show) and encouraging children to like silly fads because everyone else does. It was almost a betrayal of what the show stands for. Besides, it didn’t even really make fun of the source material. It would have been funny to have all of the children’s voices horribly dubbed, or depend on auto tune for absolutely everything. But no, the one song is standard and is not particularly funny. I don’t really have much more to say, except that the episode was a mistake and is so insubstantial that I barely have anything to write about.
4) Eat, Pray, Queef – I know, as a male, my inclusion of this episode on this list just sort of proves their point. What men and women find funny are wildly different and it is very easy for one gender to offend the other. Besides, there are some good moments. The scene in which Martha Stewart decorates herself is South Park at its depraved best. Still, it’s an episode I would rather not watch again. Why? Because like a third grader telling a knock knock joke, everything from the set up to the punchline just seems so mundane that it almost becomes impossible to laugh at the proceedings. Terrence and Phillip were about all that the creators had to say about dumb jokes. Why change genders and then pretend like the episode is noble for exploring feminist themes? It doesn’t work, and it should be obvious why it does not work. South Park has tackled big themes before, and done them brilliantly. This was an example of when they tried to tackle several major themes but did not have a way to do so. The end result is much like the air that continuously blows out of the Canadian women’s…intimate anatomy.
3) Pip – There are parts of this episode that I love. For one, this episode is one of the few to have a celebrity guest. In this case, it is Malcolm McDowell, who constantly refers to himself as “a British person.” For another, anything that references one of the greatest novels in history cannot be entirely without value. But it is not something that really belongs on this show. Kids would not get the references to Dickens; intellectuals would not appreciate the changes made to the story. Besides, Pip never was popular amongst fans. He was even killed off in the infamous “201” episode. It was an example of trying to promote a one joke character beyond his joke. Pip was best taken in small doses. Even though everyone knows his origin, showing it was almost an insult to everyone’s intelligence.
2) Chickenlover – What is it with Officer Barbrady? As with Toilet Paper, it’s an episode that focuses on him and falls flat. This one is about as much as we learn about him, and thus, the episode becomes even more boring. Basically, Barbrady is illiterate. A person who drives the book mobile seeks to educate him, by raping chickens and forcing Barbrady to “read” for clues. Does anyone find this particularly funny? I don’t – not because it is vulgar, but because it is meaningless . It could be ANY crime and still have the same impact. Besides, the depiction of the book mobile man is so over the top as to further lessen what little strength there was in the premise. Yes, I know this is the episode that gave birth to the “respect my authoritah” catchphrase, but even that COPS inspired gag manages to fall flat when one sees it in action. The episode was just a poor idea from a start and tried to strengthen a character that did not need to be strengthened. Barbrady is barely even seen on the show any more, which seemingly indicates that Trey and Matt think this episode was a mistake as well.
1) A Million Little Fibers – Yea, this really should not be unexpected. This is the episode everyone hates. Seriously. I have not heard anyone speak positively of this episode. On paper, it sounds like a strong idea. Both Oprah Winfrey and the Million Little Pieces controversy were ripe for satire. Towlie is also a character that has been used to funny ends before. The Intervention parody is amongst the funniest episodes they have done. So why does the episode go so wrong? For one, the idea is not enough to sustain the episode (only one good gag comes from it). For another, Oprah’s sentient vagina falls absolutely flat. The joke becomes more obtuse the longer the episode goes on, does not feel necessary to the overall point of the episode, and is, quite simply, not funny. The main characters also barely show up at all, meaning that the episode does not have a straight man to bounce off of. That last reason is the reason that the episode is the worst of the series. It is almost as though the creators have forgotten how to be funny. We are all fortunate such a lapse is rare.