South Park is one of the pillars of success for the streaming service Hulu. Let us count down the very best the show has to offer.
South Park is one of comedy’s most important series of the past two decades. Debuting in 1997, it has remained one of the few remaining consistent voices in popular culture, with no subject matter deemed too taboo or controversial to tackle. The brilliant minds of Matt Stone and Trey Parker are unrivaled, with their success spawning opportunities to invade the artistic spaces of musical theater and film. More pertinently, it is also one of the more alluring online streaming exclusives provided by Hulu.
To honor what the show has brought to us for so many years, I have created a list of the 50 best South Park episodes available for streaming on Hulu.
Keep in mind, there are some inherent guidelines when judging the best South Park episodes on the service. For one, there are three episodes that remain banned from circulation. “200” and “201” focus on the depiction of, and controversy surrounding, the Prophet Mohammad, while “Super Best Friends” actually depicted him many years before it was a mainstream controversy to do so. They are removed from consideration, as they are not viewable on Hulu.
The rankings are subjective and are based off criteria deemed to strike between comedic, important and/or both. There are more than 260 episodes of this show you can watch right now. Cutting that down to 50 was a nightmarish task, and some of the greats are notably missing. It’s a testament to the quality that South Park has retained over the years (excluding most of Season 17), more than anything.
50. “Go Fund Yourself,” Episode 18.1
Synopsis: Due to Washington’s football team losing the rights to the “Washington Redskins” trademark, the boys decide to name their do-nothing company exactly that. As part of their company mantra, they set up a Kickstarter page so successful that even the likes of ISIS support their company. Dan Snyder and the NFL are not fans of this, warming up Goodell-Bot to converse with the 30 NFL owners to figure out just how to deal with these meddling kids.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Anything that makes fun of Dan Snyder and the Washington football organization, with their odd obsession with maintaining the status quo around their racist football name, is a win in my books. Just look at how far the South Park creators go, including drawing a pair of boobs and a penis underneath the team’s logo multiple times in their attempts to skirt copyright law. The reason the boys have to go back to school before they bro down is a bit too aggressive, but it’s more than fitting the style of the show.
Quote: Cartman: “1. Start Up. 2. Cash In. 3. Sell Out. 4. Bro Down!”
49. “The Return of Chef,” Episode 10.1
Synopsis: Making his final appearance in the series, Chef makes a return from his times with the Super Adventure Club, although with a bit of an odd personality tick to him. Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman all know something is up when Chef starts making some wildly inappropriate comments about the children, discovering that the Super Adventure Club isn’t about a very wholesome adventure at all. The boys try their very best to correct Chef’s ways, but they come to an unfortunate end with a very gruesome death.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Isaac Hayes had publicly left the show prior to South Park Season 10 because the show had previously publicly skewered his religion, Scientology. Using sound clips of Chef gathered from previous episodes, Matt Stone and Trey Parker manipulated his words to turn Chef into a pedophile. It ends with a 21-minute onslaught of non-stop, in-universe character assassination that includes Chef getting hit with a lightning bolt, catching on fire, getting smashed against rocks, being impaled on a branch, mauled by a mountain lion and a grizzly bear, getting shot and voiding his bowels.
Ultimately, though, it’s the lament by the creators that it was “that fruity little club” that messed Chef up that makes the result a more humbling episode. They had to push hard against Isaac Hayes, but they don’t blame him for his departure.
Quote: Chef: “I wanna make sweet love to the children!”
48. “Fantastic Easter Special,” Episode 11.5
Synopsis: It all starts out with a simple question from Stan to his dad about what coloring eggs has to do with the Easter resurrection of Jesus. The thirst to know the answer drives Stan to ask the Easter Bunny, who then lets the “Hare Club For Men” know that Stan is onto them. After an attempted initiation sequence followed by a ninja attack, one Professor Teabag tells the true story of Catholicism that involves Peter Rabbit as the first Pope, the rabbit Snowball as the true heir to the Pope’s throne in opposition to the American Catholic League’s Bill Donohue. The ending is pure excellence.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Brilliantly parodying The Da Vinci Code, South Park excel when they are adapting a story and taking it down their own twisted path. The idea that the Catholic church is to be run by rabbits at the very top because man is inherently evil and corrupt makes sense in a world that strictly adheres to that logic, which only adds to the humor. A universe that adheres to such rules in a strict manner involving grown men dressing up as rabbits, characters named Professor Teabag, ninjas, and Jesus coming in to save the day is so absurd in nature, keeping to the style of the show.
Quote: (Upon Sharon suggesting that Stan found out that the Easter Bunny isn’t real) Randy: “You know so little.”
47. “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset,” Episode 8.12
Synopsis: Coming in during the height of Paris Hilton’s popularity, the girls (Wendy, Bebe, Jessie et al.) check her out at a local opening of her “Stupid Spoiled Whore” store at the South Park mall. Wendy is appalled by the blatant objectification on display, but her friends are insistent on wearing her clothes and using the “Video Playset” that parodies Hilton’s sex tape. While Hilton attempts to make Butters her new pet after her dog Tinkerbell kills itself, Mr. Slave challenges Hilton to a “Whore Off” that ends with a familiar callback to previous adventures involving Mr. Slave.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Not only does it stand as a means of defending the young, objectionable women who are subject to the blatant sexualization ingrained into our culture by the likes of Paris Hilton, but it attacks the character of those proliferating it in society at the time. Mr. Slave being the one to spread the message to parents that it’s up to them to take a stand to the likes of Paris Hilton and to present them with better role models just after out-whoring her in a Whore Off is that brilliant type of irony that South Park employs so well.
Quote: Bebe: “Wow, that’s really her! Paris, over here!”
Wendy: “I don’t get it, what does she do?”
Blonde girl: “She’s super rich!”
Wendy: “But what does she do?”
Red haired girl: “She’s totally spoiled and snobby!”
Wendy: “What does she do?”
46. “Safe Space,” Episode 19.5
Synopsis: Due to Cartman’s fat shaming after posting a picture of him lifting weights without a shirt online, the PC Principal asks his friends to filter out negative online comments (only Butters obliges). Randy is increasingly publicly shamed for not donating money to starving children at the grocery checkout line. As Steven Seagal comes to town to speak about fat shaming, he admits that he has been fat shamed. Butters now takes on filtering out his, Vin Diesel and Demi Lovato’s online hate, pushing him to the psychological brink. Meanwhile, a character named Reality threatens the safe spaces of South Park’s shamed characters
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Matt Stone and Trey Parker like to poke the bear at both sides of the US political spectrum, and the entirety of Season 19 addresses the multi-faceted nuances of political correctness with an overarching continuity. “Safe Space” sheds a light on both sides of the issue, bringing awareness of people pushing away the realities of their situations while they simultaneously strive to be accepted at all costs. Reality brings up the problematic ways of their claims of “problematics” poignantly. The impromptu music video is just icing on the cake.
Quote: Whole Foods Cashier: “Not a problem, sir, if you could just press the ‘NO’ button and tell the little hampster he’s not going to college.”
45. “A Nightmare on Facetime,” Episode 16.12
Synopsis: Randy, ever the sad sack entrepreneur, purchases a Blockbuster Video store for $10,000 just in time for Halloween/the inevitable closure of all Blockbuster locations. Treated like a tense horror story, the Marsh family must stay and work at the Blockbuster on Halloween, with Stan resorting to trick-or-treating using FaceTime. The boys witness a robbery-turned-murder and are chased by the Redbox Killers, who try to silence them. Meanwhile, Randy descends into madness as Stan, Sharon and Shelly escape the store while it burns to the ground.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Randy is probably the best character in South Park, and his excellence is so overt when taking the lead of a story. In a stunning parody of The Shining, Randy pulls off menacing and deadpan scary while maintaining his signature comedic voice in a way not unlike Jack Nicholson. On the other side of the coin, the kids bring levity to a dire situation by treating Stan’s iPad representation as if it were real, lamenting his “death” as the iPad runs out of power. Corniness takes precedence in a multitude of factors, playing into the humor of the situation.
Quote: Randy: “According to industry experts, many rural areas don’t have the bandwidth to support DVD-quality video and streaming services, and won’t for years to come, making DVD rental still the best movie-watching option.”
44. “The Jeffersons,” Episode 8.6
Synopsis: Michael Jackson moves to South Park, mustache, and fake name in tow. He invites the boys over to play at his house, complete with games and magical wonders inside. Kyle, however, notices that Blanket, the son of “Mr. Jefferson,” is often neglected by his dad. The parents of the kids, however, are more concerned about his involvement with and praise of the kids. Meanwhile, the Park County Police Force discover a hidden truth about Jefferson; he’s actually black. They set out to frame him for a crime, and all sorts of hilarity ensue.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: While many will focus on the skewering of Michael Jackson and his alleged pedophilic ways, South Park is more pointed in its covering of the police and their attempts to bring injustice to the black community. Remember, this episode is planted solidly between the times of the Michael Brown shooting/Black Lives Matter movement and the trial of Rodney King, both of which made international headlines for how police forces react violently and differently when responding to incidents involving black people. As wonderfully strange and comedic as this episode played, so, too, is its prominence for this kind of message during the early 2000’s.
Quote: Mr. Jefferson: “Look at meeeee, I’m Peter Pan! Tshmonaaaa! I’m a little boy forever!”
43. “Over Logging,” Episode 12.6
Synopsis: One of the worst things imaginable happens to the world in this South Park episode: The internet is gone. The Marsh family, upon hearing there may be some internet left in California, pack up their car and head west. Upon arriving at a location that has limited internet, Randy tried to take advantage of unbridled access after hours, only to use the rest of it up in an epically loud pornographic session. Meanwhile, we learn that the source of all the world’s internet is physically represented by a gigantic wireless router. Kyle, upon seeing it, knows what he must do to bring back the internet to the rest of the world.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Another South Park episode, another parody. This time, The Grapes of Wrath gets a modern upgrade, instead pointing the conversation towards humanity’s obsession with all things internet in a world with plenty of options outside of it. Randy’s masturbation session, alongside his excuse that he was attacked by a ghost that covered him with ectoplasm, is embedded in the series’ referable lexicon for all time. The episode plays into the reliable “complex problem is solved with an easy solution” formula that the series uses well, coming to a conclusion that is hilarious in its simplicity.
Quote: Randy: “There wa- … there was a ghost! This .. .ectoplasm! Did you see the ghost? It ran through here, and, and slimed me! That wasn’t me; it was a spooky ghost!”
42. “Ginger Kids,” Episode 9.11
Synopsis: Cartman gets bitten by the karma bug after going forward with a hate speech class presentation denouncing anything and everything to do with “gingers.” Kyle, also of red hair, decides to get some help breaking into Cartman’s place at night to die his hair, lighten his complexion and dot henna freckles on his face so he can face the discrimination that he brought onto ginger kids. Instead of learning his lesson from the experience, however, Cartman takes it the other way and goes Hitler-esque in his goal of making Gingers become the chosen race, trying to eradicate all others.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: This episode is controversial not because of what Matt Stone and Trey Parker sought to do with their ironic messaging, but with how the public reacted. Cartman’s reaction builds upon the strength of his characterization, embracing Gingers begrudgingly because of his affiliation and vowing vengeance on those that make fun of him. It’s clear that the allusions to Nazi Germany should make the irrational hatred of people with fair skin and red hair obviously wrong, and not the fault of South Park that others still react negatively toward Gingers to this day.
Though maybe they shouldn’t have made the Ginger Kids legitimately creepy within the show’s universe …
Quote: Cartman: “I will not live my life as a goddamn minority!”
41. “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe,” Episode 1.1
Synopsis: The episode that started it all, America was introduced to this eclectic cast of characters with a plot that sees Cartman kidnapped by gray aliens and probed to relay information about Earth back to the mothership. The main kids, Officer Barbrady, Ms. Crabtree, Chef and others get their proper first steps into the South Park universe as Kyle searches for his brother. Kenny receives his first formal death, Cartman remains in denial, and Kyle vomits upon seeing Wendy and the visiting aliens reveal their idea of cows as the most advanced form of intelligent life found on Earth.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Right out of the gate, South Park separated itself from the field of low-brow animated cartoons of the time with their focus on representing kids in their purest form. Kids aren’t sweethearts, but rather try to be adults while remaining with a childlike innocence. They have a basic understanding (an understanding, nonetheless) of the life around them and the complexities within, but remain clouded about the long-term effects of what happens to them. Cartman’s continued denial of alien activity boils to a funny reveal, setting the course for what will be multiple decades of hilarity.
Quote: “Oh my god! They killed Kenny! You bastards!”
40. “The Wacky Molestation Adventure,” Episode 4.16
Synopsis: When Cartman gets tickets to a local concert, Kyle’s parents forbid him from attending. At Cartman’s suggestion, Kyle calls the police on his parents, claiming they molested him. Seeing that it works, eventually, all the kids of South Park start calling the police on their parents, creating a Children of the Corn scenario where only kids are left living and running South Park. A giant line runs down the town, dividing the factions of kids between “Smiley Town” and “Treasure Cove,” devolving into chaos within a short ten days without parents.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: I’m a big fan of when the show melts into chaos and the children are faced with a terrible situation that they themselves created. Sure, it seems great to be able to do what you want at all times, but once the hardships come down, kids will learn that they need their parents. The innocence that the kids have at their core disappears when they become de facto adults, taking on the same self-involved sentiments that so many of the grown-ups in South Park embody. It’s the kids at their rawest and untapped, leading to a top-form episode.
Quote: Mrs. Broflovski: “Sure, Kyle. You can go to the concert after you clean your room, shovel the driveway, and bring democracy to Cuba!”
39. “Medicinal Fried Chicken,” Episode 14.3
Synopsis: This story combines Cartman’s lament over Colorado’s last KFC closing with the replacement, a medical marijuana dispensary, catching the attention of Randy. Attempting to score some pot, Randy also laments the fact that it will only be served as medicine. Instead of taking a logical approach, Randy intentionally absorbs radiation on his testicles to develop cancer, allowing him to score a prescription while enjoying the “benefits” of a bigger package. Meanwhile, Cartman runs illegal KFC through the state, dealing with one very alive Colonel Sanders himself in their illegal smuggling operation.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: For a plot that, on the surface, looks to be surface-level in its complexity, this episode of South Park underhandedly deals with some very serious matters. Cartman offers a number of scathing criticisms of then-Pope Benedict’s covering up of the church’s child abuse scandals with his, “Is the Pope Catholic?” responses while mirroring the movie Scarface. The writers planting the idea that women like big testicles as well-understood fact was humorous in its deadpan, widespread acceptance, and the pogo-like visuals of the South Park men jumping up and down on swollen testes is an unforgettable image.
Quote: Woman #1: “Sharon, you got a scrotum coat?”
38. “The Biggest Douche in the Universe,” Episode 6.15
Synopsis: During a time when Kenny is officially dead, he has now possessed Cartman’s body, hospitalizing him. Chef and Cartman’s mom try their best to exorcise Kenny, with Chef taking Cartman and the kids to the set of Crossing Over with John Edward. John provides little help for Cartman but insists Kyle’s grandma wants him to find four white birds. Out of options, Chef takes Cartman back to his parents to attempt an exorcism. Due to Kyle’s biting on John Edward’s faux medium skills, Stan attempts to show how saying vague words can make you into a “psychic.”
Why it’s a great South Park episode: In the early stages, South Park was about finding humor through the twisted eyes of a child, with an occasional looking glass moment. As the seasons went on, however, we got to see more of Matt Stone and Trey Parker lampoon society with pointed criticism, bringing attention to fakes like TV psychics. Regardless of how direct commentary got, it was still backed with laughter, especially upon meeting Chef’s family. It is also the episode that pointed out Rob Schneider’s ridiculous movie premises, with “The Stapler,” “A Carrot” and “Da Derp Dee Derp Da Teetley Derpee Derpee Dumb” as movie references. People still quote “tree fiddy” to this day, cementing a solid story involving a wider variety of character beyond the boys and their classmates.
Quote: John Edwards: “But I’m a psychic.”
“No dude, you’re a douche.”
37. “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo,” Episode 1.9
Synopsis: As South Park Elementary prepares to host a Christian Nativity scene, Kyle’s mother protests the religious elements of the show, demanding their removal. As a result, anything and everything Christmas related is removed from the town. Kyle, lamenting being a lonely Jew on Christmas, befriends a talking piece of poo, Mr. Hankey, and is the only one in town who can see him talk. Mr. Mackey, upon seeing Kyle’s misunderstood obsession with poo, has Kyle committed to a mental health institution.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Nine episodes in, the first real step into public commentary for South Park came with this episode, as the creators looked to target political correctness head on for the first time in a decades-long series of conversations on that very topic. Their deconstruction of the over-protective PC crowd was very poignant, and was paired with an excellent recurring character in Mr. Hankey. It was a bold first Christmas episode, ending with the first instance of Kenny not dying and keeping a fun, mean spirit while carrying an episode-long musical tradition.
Quote: Cartman: “Kyle’s mom is the one that started that damn club and all because she’s a big, fat, stupid bi …”
36. “Kenny Dies,” Episode 5.13
Synopsis: In a simple twist of fate, Kenny is afflicted with a terminal disease, leading the entirety of South Park’s citizens concerned for his well being (as opposed to unaware of his death-an-episode history). Stem cells could help cure his disease. However, the government has deemed stem cell research illegal. Everyone tries their best to reverse the decision, with Cartman’s reasoning being that he found dead fetuses off the back of a cargo truck, hoping to resell them. While he doesn’t end up selling them, Cartman ends up using them for a way more nefarious purpose.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: This was an oddly emotional episode of South Park, with Chef offering serious words of wisdom as Kenny slips slowly but surely into a “permanent” death. Once again, Matt and Trey took the criticism of banning stem cell research to aggressive ends, taking a more prominent stance than what many had done in their criticisms of the time. Cartman, already an established monster, had more concern in building his very own Shakey’s Pizza with the stem cells instead of saving his dying friend. It helped him as Kenny’s worst friend, even though it brought us a great moment with the singing of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment.”
Quote: Woman: “So, Kenny, if you could have one wish, what would it be?”
“What’s your wish, pal?”
“I guess the only thing I wish is not to die.”
35. “The Passion of the Jew,” Episode 8.3
Synopsis: Cartman, after seeing The Passion of the Christ, goads Kyle into watching the movie in order to “prove” that everybody hates the Jewish people for what they did to Jesus. Kyle, horrified at the actions of his people during the film, is put into fits and nightmares over the depiction. Sadly, he says that Cartman was right, the words that Cartman lovingly shares with a poster of Mel Gibson. While Cartman tries to rally more people to his “cause” (goose-stepping and Hitler-esque costume in tow), Kyle seeks answers from his Jewish community as he and Cartman’s Mel Gibson Fan Club come to a clash.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: It was weird that Mel Gibson independently funded, directed and produced a film that focused on Jesus’ final days at the hands of the Jewish people, and South Park put their foot down in this episode. They called Gibson out (albeit with a Daffy Duck affectation) more than two years before his drunken, racist tirade became hit international headlines. The guys went hard with their Nazi allusions, with Cartman being the ever-lovable cartoonish stand-in for Hitler once again. There are so many cautious laughs in “The Passion of the Jew,” playing right into the show’s wheelhouse.
Quote: Mel Gibson: “I have to use that money to build my own church. I’ve brought the fire and brimstone back to Christianity with The Passion, and now I’m going to start my own church. And do you know why? So I can play banjo! Jesus, oh how I love Ya, how I love Ya, Jesuuus!”
34. “Marjorine,” Episode 9.9
Synopsis: With the boys biting into silly nonsense and treating it as seriously as possible, Cartman brings back “proof” that the girls can predict the future using a paper fortune teller. In an ultimately intricate move, the plan to steal it involves having Butters fake his own death by jumping off a skyscraper, returning to school the next day as a girl called “Majrorine,” and trying to get into Heidi Turner’s slumber party to have a guy on the inside. As Marjorine will learn, however, it’s hard to fit in as the new girl.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Butters taking the lead in a South Park episode is almost guaranteed to be a good time. His genuine innocence and willingness to fit in have him jump incredible leaps and bounds, including faking his own death, but it is packaged in with the Stotch parents. Their grief over Butters’ death has them dig up his “body” and try to revive it and even kill visitors to feed their “demon child” once he reveals he’s still alive. The absolute grim despair and their overreactions are always a treat and are on full display in this episode.
Quote: Butters: [as Marjorine] “Well, I’m just a typical little girl. I like dancin’, and ponies, a-a-and … getting my snootch pounded on Friday nights.”
33. “Grounded Vindaloop,” Episode 18.7
Synopsis: Cartman’s up to no good again, tricking Butters into believing he’s experiencing virtual reality when the truth is that Cartman is making it up. While Cartman wants to use Butters’ gullibility to make him do Cartman’s chores, things quickly go awry as Butters starts treating his virtual reality participants as “fake,” punching and getting stabbed into a trip to the hospital. It takes another deeper step as it turns out that Cartman is truly stuck in virtual reality. His friends try their best to get him out by calling customer service, requiring one of them to go into virtual reality to bring him back out.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Whenever South Park gets complex with its comedy, you start to see the true genius of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Those sudden reveals just get more and more ridiculous, just as it is to bring Steve, the customer service rep, to explain the complexity of the situation, referring to all sorts of sci-fi movies. The creators do their best to constantly confuse their viewers, staying one step ahead and using the confusion of the kids to reflect the humor of the situation. The late reveal of the kids filmed as real-life counterparts is just the cherry on the top of an excellent episode.
Quote: Kyle: “Well, are you happy, Cartman? Butters is completely traumatized.”
“I’m happy that I totally got away with it.”
32. “Tweek x Craig,” Episode 19.6
Synopsis: A lot of people make a whole lot of assumptions, as the “Asian Girls” at South Park Elementary present a slide show of Yaoi slash art of Craig and Tweek intimately together. The boys assume that they’re a couple, wondering how they should react. “Creek,” however, try to use the situation to find a neutral way to “break up,” as the rest of town eventually finds support for the “couple.” Meanwhile, newly-minted PC dad Randy investigates how the Chinese decide who are couples with their Yaoi art, despite the style being attributed to the Japanese.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Not only does it play into the South Park “presumptions = truth” mantra that makes for great comedy, but it plays into a very real subsection of South Park fandom. Slash art featuring both Craig and Tweek has been going on for years, starting after the “Tweek vs. Craig” episode 16 years prior. The show’s creators specifically asked for real-life submissions to make it into this episode, which are featured throughout. A great accompanying gag is all the adults not being able to deal with having an uncomfortable conversation about Creek’s sexuality, instead offering them $100 as a means of not having to talk about it.
Quote: Tweek’s Dad: “Tweek’s just up in his room playing. You can go on up. Oh, but keep the door open, alright?
[on Tweek and Craig, to his wife] “They’re so gay!”
31. “Fishsticks,” Episode 13.5
Synopsis: Jimmy and Cartman are hanging out together as Jimmy is working on his comedy routine. He asks if Cartman is a gay fish after prompted to answer if he likes fish sticks and if he likes putting them in his mouth. As the joke spreads throughout, Cartman takes responsibility and credit for the joke. Meanwhile, Carlos Mencia goes on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and takes credit for the joke, while Kanye West has thugs beat him to death because he just doesn’t understand the joke at all. Cartman and Jimmy respond on Ellen, saying they both created the joke, with Cartman coming up with unbelievable means of how he did it.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: As The Life of Pablo is released and Kanye goes full meltdown on Twitter, the “Fishsticks” episode of South Park will be forever cemented as an early document of anti-Kanye criticism, and more specifically his ego. It takes criticism towards joke thieves like Mencia and shed light on Ye’s ego just months before he went on stage to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. The idea that Kanye accepts who he is and becomes a gay fish further cements the characters’ obliviousness, feeding into an excellent ending. South Park would be further mentioned in more than one of Kanye’s songs.
Quote: Jay Leno: “So apparently more and more Americans are eating fish sticks. Have you seen this? Have you read about this? Loving fish sticks, kinda makes me wonder, you know? What is everybody, a gay fish?”
30. “Cartmanland,” Episode 5.6
Synopsis: It’s a simple episode with a grandiose idea. Cartman inherits a million dollars from his grandma, as she determined the rest of his family would spend it on crack. Instead of making a wise investment, Cartman decides to build Cartmanland, a theme park designed for just him to ride the rides all day. As Kyle loses the will to live and his faith in God over Cartman’s luck and success, Cartmanland runs into unforeseen costs, requiring the park to take in participants to pay for security, engineers and people to run the park. Cartman loses the utopia he just built, and eventually things get even worse.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Despite a ton of great complex South Park episodes, other fantastic ones come from simple places. Cartman is set up immediately as a success because the downfall is slow, meticulous and spectacular, fitting into the style of the show in a “this is why we can’t have nice things” way. The idea that a hemorrhoid “spreading to Kyle’s lungs” is what’s killing Kyle plays into the plain old dumb reasoning that the show’s universe takes seriously on its face, without anyone questioning how such a thing could happen. It’s absurdity dumped into one simple plot, creating a basic episode full of great ironic humor.
Quote: Eric Cartman: “So much to do at Cartmanland, but you can’t come! Especially you Stan and Kyle.”
29. “Night of the Living Homeless,” Episode 11.7
Synopsis: The simplest of actions creates the grandest of reactions, as mobs of homeless people invade the city of South Park after Kyle feels bad for one such gentleman and gives him his saved-up $20. Instead of treating the situation with open hearts and a bit of humanity, the situation quickly turns into a zombie movie as the homeless mob people asking for “change.” After learning that the mob acts like a herd, with other towns transferring the problem to others, the kids make a last-ditch attempt to save the city of South Park by convincing the homeless to visit California instead.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: As a fan of zombie films like Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, this episode was on point with the zombie film parody. It also points out society’s lack of will to address the homeless problem because of the view of them as less than human, which is exemplified multiple times with Cartman’s attempt to jump his skateboard over them. This South Park episode gets the most out of its entire citizen base and uses an iconic parody of 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” that remains memorable to this day.
Quote: Glenn: “There’s no help coming! Because of all the homeless … because of all the homeless in South Park, property values have plummeted. I had two liens against my house, and now the bank is foreclosing. I don’t have a home anymore!”
[Randy cocks shotgun and aims at Glenn] “Randy, what are you doing?”
“He’s homeless now. We aren’t safe!”
28. “Le Petit Tourette,” Episode 11.8
Synopsis: Ever trying to skirt the rules, Cartman makes a magical loophole in what he can say in polite society once he sees a boy with Tourette’s syndrome at a toy store. Learning that the boy can’t control his words, it turns on the “brilliant idea” switch in Cartman’s mind, with him ultimately trying to get himself diagnosed with the disorder. Being so free to swear as much as you like without consequences does come with an eventual price, however, as he starts saying embarrassing things about himself without self-control. Kyle tries to stop Cartman from going on Dateline to spew anti-Semitic rants.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Not only did it sneakily bring a balanced understanding of Tourette’s syndrome to the general public, we got to see Cartman immediately feel the consequences of his actions in a way that turns his nonsense on himself. While doing so, because of its informative nature, South Park got to indulge in 95% uncensored innovative swearing, with the one exception of the F-word getting bleeped. What Matt Stone and Trey Parker do with that power is impressive, even if just a small percentage of people with Tourette’s actually experience cursing as part of their symptoms.
Quote: Cartman: “Alright, hold on just a second. Are you telling me if you have this Tourette syndrome, you can say whatever you want all the time and never get in trouble?”
27. “You’re Getting Old,” Episode 15.7
Synopsis: In what ended up being an important turning point for South Park in its later years, Stan turns ten years old and suddenly starts changing dramatically. Everything from commercials at the theater to ice cream to music is described as “s—” to him. His doctor, upon hearing this, diagnoses Stan as a “cynical ass—-.” It causes a major drift among the kids, with Stan and Kyle irrevocably distancing themselves from each other. To the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” Stan’s family becomes separated, Kyle and Cartman strengthen their friendship and Stan is left staring skyward, alone in bed.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: When this episode came out, it marked the mid-season finale of South Park, leaving fans absolutely bewildered about the future of the show. It was clear that Stan was a stand-in for the show’s writers, as they have become more and more cynical over the years as production of the show just went on and on. The absolute deconstruction of all of the conventions that made the show work seemed to fall apart, with us as the audience just as fearful for the future as Stan was. The storyline was eventually picked up, however, serving an excellent, humbling experience that changed how the show would continue to operate.
Quote: Doctor: “Oh dear. I think I know what this is. You see Stan, as you get older, things that you used to like start looking and sounding like s—, and things that seemed s—-y as a child, don’t seem s—-y. With you somehow the wires have gotten crossed and everything looks and sounds like s— to you. It’s a condition called being a cynical ass—-.”
26. “Stanley’s Cup,” Episode 10.14
Synopsis: For Stan to get his towed bike back from the town council, he agrees to coach the local Pee Wee hockey team. All out of shape and playing poorly, Stan’s team of bad hockey-playing children must learn to quickly turn things around for teammate Nelson Brown, who has terminal cancer. Nelson asks Stan to win the next game for him, though it ultimately ends in a tie. After the match, the doctor deems that Nelson’s health is in limbo, coming to as much a draw as the hockey team. Stan has to win in order to save Nelson, but when the other team fails to show at a game at the Pepsi Center, the Colorado Avalanche offer their spots against the Detroit Red Wings. Everything wrong imaginable follows.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Always down for a parody, this episode of South Park featured a guy following Stan as a fill-in narrator, dictating what Stan must do to save the boy’s life. It very much mimicked the kind of underdog stories you see in Mighty Ducks, but with an ending that sees a kindergartner die of cancer because his team lost so heavily against a team of grown hockey players. Just how grim the scenario was, with adults bashing in the faces of little children in a game of full contact hockey to the utter horror of Stan, is dark comedy at its core, leading to a conclusion so hilarious in just how wrong it all is.
Quote: Nelson: “Will you do me just one favor, Coach? That game tonight? I’m gonna be watching, so … could you … make it so I don’t have cancer?”
25. “The Losing Edge,” Episode 9.5
Synopsis: Baseball is boring to the kids of South Park, but it’s also boring to all competing teams. It seems to be of excitement only to the parents, whose competitive natures have turned cheering into personal grudge matches. Randy is the ringleader for Team South Park, drunkenly taking out oncomers while getting arrested for brawling other parents. The team eventually gets to the State Finals, which will prompt a run at the National circuit for the winning team. Randy must take on the large, drunken “Bat Dad” to solidify himself as the best while Kyle brings in a “loser ringer” with Kyle’s stereotypically Jewish cousin.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Despite my personal love for baseball, the idea of a sports episode involving trying to lose to avoid playing baseball was hilarious as a concept. Following “Stanley’s Cup,” it showed the other side of the coin regarding playing sports for comedy while bringing back the beloved Kyle Schwartz and all of his mannerisms to the proceedings. Somehow, the South Park creators managed to make an episode where players are trying to lose still maintain an entertaining edge, which is very difficult to do within the confines of animation without looking inherently awkward.
Quote: Cartman: “At this point in the baseball movie, they usually get a really sweet player to help them win the championship.”
Kyle: “Like the motorcycle kid in Bad News Bears?”
Cartman: “Yeah! So we need a player who totally sucks ass.”
24. “Professor Chaos/Simpsons Already Did It,” Episodes 6.6, 6.7
Synopsis: Our first multi-episode entry in the list, Butters has been fired as Kenny’s replacement for the kids’ “fourth friend.” After being spurned, Butters creates his iconic alter-ego, Professor Chaos. Vowing to commit acts of evil, Professor Chaos’ acts are more of the mild nuisance variety, including switching around orders at a restaurant, crinkling clothes that are in drawers and other low-key disturbances. Meanwhile, the kids run auditions for the vacant fourth friend spot, eventually picking Tweak after a lengthy selection process. Under his request, General Disarray joins Professor Chaos as they continue to drain water from lawn hoses and spray aerosol into the ozone.
In the second half, it turns out that all their plans for evil have already been covered on The Simpsons. As a result of the show always having the upper hand on Butters, he starts to get delusions of his entire life existing within the fictional Springfield universe.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: South Park takes great strides at growing their side-characters, and with episodes like these, the show grew Butters into a reliable major character who had depth beyond that of a punching bag. Taking the major part of two episodes (with a side plot consisting of the boys finally getting rid of their awful 4th-grade teacher through inadvertent Sea Monkey manslaughter), we got to see just how lame Butters is, highlighting the humor in his attempts to go beyond the sweet, wholesome innocence that the character had always embodied.
Quote: Cartman: “It’s alright, Chef! We got our sea people out of the teacher’s stomach, and we put them back in their aquarium!”
23. “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson,” Episode 11.1
Synopsis: Coming right out the gate to start the season, Randy channels his inner Michael Richards and accidentally says the N-word on Wheel of Fortune instead of the correct answer, “naggers.” Randy’s attempts of kissing the ass of Jesse Jackson is not enough for people to forgive his transgressions, which get him labeled as “N—– guy” and persecuted by society. While he tries to get that phrase banned, Stan struggles to understand from Token why Randy hadn’t gone far enough, while Cartman is in hysterics as the man who talks to the school about sensitivity as a little person. They end their episode-long war of words with a physical fight.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Never one to pass up a hot topic, South Park did a brilliant deconstruction of all sides surrounding the hysteria of Michael Richards’ hateful standup act. They lampooned the act of banning the word N—- while teaching a very important lesson about those who are not black and the effect that the powerful word will never have on them. Balanced within the dialogue was the absurdity of Cartman and the little man, especially thinking that he could get the upper hand with the child. Stooping down to his level and acting like the moral victor after getting tossed around by Cartman was a visual and a half.
Quote: Cartman: “Token forfeits. Whites win! Whites win! Race war’s over everybody! Whites won again!”
22. “Grey Dawn,” Episode 7.10
Synopsis: Not unlike a horror movie, the elderly of South Park have engaged in more and more traffic accidents, with younger citizens crying for action to be taken on anyone driving over the age of 70. The old people gather to voice their complaints, instead forgetting why they gathered in the first place. Randy, upon realizing that all the town’s old people will be driving home at the same time, runs frantically through town warning everyone. As the AARP fly in and take over South Park (killing hostages should their demands not be met), it’s up to the only people who get up as early as grandparents (the children) to save the town.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Once again, a silly premise taken to an absurdist’s logical conclusion drove the humor of this South Park episode, with the outlandish driving of the elderly becoming a tacit problem to the town. The rules were set, and everyone followed them fluidly, with the kids taking down the AARP by taking out their only means of food supply: Country Kitchen Buffet. It took the stubbornness of a kid with the understanding of an adult for this idea to stick, which sold the premise excellently as old people took out hostages to show the crazy extent to which old people are willing to go.
Quote: Randy: [upon realizing all the seniors will be driving home from the Park County Community Center at the same time]. “OH MY GOD!”
21. “Black Friday/A Song of Ass and Fire/Titties and Dragons,” Episodes 17.7, 17.8, 17.9
Synopsis: A three-parter that focuses on the Black Friday launch of the PS4 and Xbox One in North America. With massive savings reserved for the first people shopping at the South Park Mall, the kids debate about which console they should all buy to enjoy online play together. It splits the kids into PS4 and Xbox One camps, fighting with each other. Randy takes a job as mall security in an attempt to get in on some of the deals while the kids waging war seek backdoor deals and betrayals a la Game of Thrones.
As Butters seeks out the book’s author, George R.R. Martin, the war gets even bloodier, involving the CEOs of both Microsoft and Sony, as South Park Mall cuts prices to 96% off for the first 100 inside. A Red Robin Wedding is held, and the Garden of Betrayal is host to many backstabs and side-swipes.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: While the timing of the trilogy was for the oft-delayed South Park: The Stick of Truth video game, which was primed for a fall launch (actually delayed until March 2014), it fired on all cylinders for a solid hour of pointed criticism on consumerism, console wars and the effect of Black Friday on the average American. The video game references were on point, using proper context to make sense within a Game of Thrones sensibility at the same time. Overall, a well-conceived, non-stop onslaught of laughter from adults and children alike.
Quote: Butters: “The dragons are still just on their way! They keep promising dragons, but all I get are more floppy wieners in my face!”
20. “Asspen,” Episode 6.2
Synopsis: The ultimate 80’s movie parody, “Asspen” sees the boys traveling to Aspen, CA to enjoy the slopes as a free incentive for listening to a half-hour timeshare pitch. While the parents get trapped in a sequence of escalating traps trying to force them into renting out a timeshare, Stan gets caught up in a rivalry with a bully named Tad, challenging him to a race down the mountain. Eventually losing, it’s a cute redheaded girl that has Stan accidentally engaging in a rematch. What follows is the most 80’s movie series of events possible.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: To a point, this may be one of the more “complete” parodies that South Park has ever created. So perfect are the soundtrack, the style of dialogue and the “bully vs. hero” story beats that the story took on, juxtaposed with a mostly-nonplussed South Park group of kids. Stan getting roped in, however, pushed things right over the edge, leading to the memorable montage where Stan learned to ski very, very poorly. The ski instructor Thumper, despite a one-and-done appearance, remains one of the more memorable side characters in the South Park universe to this day.
Quote: Stan: “NO! We can’t keep track of when you ‘pizza’ and when you ‘French fries’ and when the hot-shot ass—- skier takes your girl if you are supposed to race him the first time or train first and beat him on the really difficult mountain so you can save the dorky but hot girl’s youth center … skiing sucks!”
19. “Cartoon Wars,” Episodes 10.3, 10.4
Synopsis: In what unwittingly set up a controversial duo of episodes for South Park’s bi-centennials, “Cartoon Wars” has Cartman trying to shut down an episode of the in-universe Family Guy that will depict an uncensored version of the prophet Mohammed. As the citizens of South Park opt to bury their heads in the literal sand, Cartman tries to convince Fox to shut the episode down. The ultimate reveal, however, is that this version of Family Guy is written by manatees, who do not comprehend the idea of a terrorist threat in such a way. All they do is make five idea balls line up for a joke for the show.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Overflowing with controversy, Matt Stone and Trey Parker were hoping to stand up for free speech by depicting Mohammad within the South Park version of Family Guy. Comedy Central, however, refused to depict it. This would set up for Episodes 200 and 201 of the show, which were heavily censored by the broadcaster. While that clouded the two episodes, we were still treated to a heavy roasting of Family Guy and its hack joke style of making references to random objects and locations and hoping it all worked out. “Winning a date in Mexico with Gary Coleman” remains a go-to reference for the formulaic show.
Quote: Cartman: “Do you have any idea what it’s like? Everywhere I go, ‘Hey Cartman, you must like Family Guy, right?’ ‘Hey, your sense of humor reminds me of Family Guy, Cartman.’ I am NOTHING like Family Guy! When I make jokes, they are inherent to a story! Deep, situational and emotional jokes based on what is relevant and has a POINT! Not just one interchangeable joke after another!”
18. “Tsst,” Episode 10.7
Synopsis: With Cartman’s mom admitting defeat in the long-running attempt to control her son, she brings in a host of TV nannies in to do the job. Each failing, her last-ditch effort results in Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan coming in, teaching Liane to treat Cartman like a submissive dog, as she is to presume the dominant parent. Slowly but surely, it has a lasting effect on Cartman, who previously tried to have his mother killed. He behaves, right up until Liane gives into Cartman’s wishes as soon as Cesar leaves.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Any episode that takes Cartman down a peg works, simply because it’s shown to be a difficult task. Cartman is such a twisted, evil, manipulative character, one who always has a defeating quip ready to take down those who threaten his skewed sense of superiority. Convincing two TV nannies to leave, one of them so distraught they are committed to a mental health clinic, the dichotomy of a Dog Whisperer and the image of treating Cartman like a dog was so striking. The comedic irony of it all is that it worked with Cesar Millan, but because he can’t stay forever, the balance of power shifted back almost immediately. There is no taking down Eric Cartman.
Quote: Cartman: “What the hell is this? Skinless chicken, boiled vegetables and salad? This is just like Auschwitz!”
17. “You Have 0 Friends,” Episode 14.4
Synopsis: The kids are all caught up in Facebook despite Stan’s repeated attempts to avoid signing up. He doesn’t want to be like third-grader Kip, who Kyle friends out of pity. As soon as that happens, though, Kyle starts to lose Facebook friends dramatically, leaving him alone with Kip on the social media site. Cartman hosts his own Mad Money-like Facebook podcast, while Stan somehow amasses close to a million Facebook friends. He gets trapped in the computer once he tries to shut the account down, entering a virtual reality not unlike Tron.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: 2010 might have been near peak popularity for Facebook, as hundreds of millions of adults started to join teens and young adults on the social media platform. It’s episodes like this that started to look at the paranoia and obsession with online personas that come with social media, and it’s no surprise that South Park was leading the charge. “You Have 0 Friends” was a great way of taking the piss out of the topic, while ending on a bittersweet note.
Quote: Cartman: “Kyle, this is the way the world works: if you wanna find some quality friends, you gotta wait through all the d—s first.”
16. “Butters’ Very Own Episode,” Episode 5.14
Synopsis: Ever the curious scamp, Butters gets his very own episode in which things turn sideways very quickly. Sent off by his mom to spy on his dad to find out what he’s getting her for their anniversary, Butters discovers that Mr. Stotch has been frequenting gay sex theaters and bath houses. Once relayed to Mrs. Stotch (with Butters unaware of his words), she goes on a psychotic breakdown, attempting to drown Butters in the river. Just as Mr. Stotch stops his wife from committing suicide and blaming the murder of Butters on “Some Puerto Rican Guy,” Butters comes in and scolds his parents for trying to lie.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Perhaps the most devastating example of Butters’ innocence coming back to hurt him, South Park went to extreme lengths to present a happy-go-lucky adventure for the character that quickly descended into madness. Highlighting Gary Condit, O.J. Simpson and the parents of JonBenét Ramsey as the real people who should come forward as the responsible parties for murders in their lives was a brilliant touch in an episode so perfect in tonal dissonance, hilarious hijinks and absolute mayhem, as a sweet little boy went on an adventure of his own.
Quote: Background Singers: “Everyone knows it’s Butters!”
Butters: “That’s me!”
15. “All About Mormons,” Episode 7.12
Synopsis: A family from Utah moves to South Park, with a student named Gary joining the boys’ class and excelling at being a perfect student. While Stan is prepared to beat up Gary (eventually joined by Randy), the two are taken in by the perfect life this Mormon family has at home. As they learn about Mormonism, the show cuts to the story of Joseph Smith (who was a prophet; dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb), who paints his stories of the early moments of the religion as unbelievable in nature. Stan can’t get past how seemingly impossible the story is, with Gary once again coming out on the side of virtue.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Serving as a first step into Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s skewering of the Mormon religion (later followed by The Book of Mormon), “All About Mormons” crept into its satire and criticism by painting those questioning the historical story as “smart, smart, smart, smart, smart.” It’s only with that sudden insertion into the story that the episode took a brilliant turn, leading to an honest-to-goodness open question about the value of historical accuracy of religious beginnings over the practices that the religion promises. South Park would go on to perfect this method with later episodes based on specific religions.
Quote: Gary: (truncated)”… The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.”
14. “Major Boobage,” Episode 12.3
Synopsis: A new fad of getting high invades the citizens of South Park, which involves the urine cats make when marking their territory. Kenny is successful, transporting to a fictional world similar to that of Heavy Metal. Upon seeing a large-breasted woman while “cheesing,” Kenny does his best to stay in such a drug-altered state. Meanwhile, the city decides to ban cats to prevent further indulgence, with Cartman trying to hide Mr. Kitty and many local cats up in his attic. Gerald and Kenny fight over the large-breasted woman in their altered reality.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: There was so much effort put into this episode, with animation made from scratch to follow the style of Heavy Metal. The absurdity of everything being related to major boobage fit the style of the animation for both the 1981 film and its 2000 sequel, serving as one of the most impressive parodies the show has ever produced. Cartman unwittingly harboring cats against an oppressive regime had hilarious parallels to Nazi Germany, considering Cartman’s aversion to Kyle and the Jewish people. Overall, just a solid production that excelled on all levels.
Quote: Major Boobage: “The Fate of these two will be decided at the Breastery Area in Nippopolis!”
13. “Cartman Joins NAMBLA,” Episode 4.5
Synopsis: Cartman, tired of being “too mature” for his friends, seeks older guys to hang out with. Innocently enough, he enters a “Men Who Like Young Boys” chat room, only to unknowingly hanging out with a pedophile. Mr. Garrison is one of them, and he’s arrested before a resuce attempt by the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Cartman, upset that his friends are likely sabotaging his attempts to find older friends, organizes a benefit dinner for NAMBLA and invites all the kids in town, with the police chasing down the pedophiles through hotel doors like a Scooby Doo chase scene.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: While it would seem nobody would actively defend NAMBLA, South Park went out and made Cartman human using the organization as a means of showcasing the lengths Cartman would go to find a friend at a more mature level. Butters was often thought as “the innocent one,” but in the grand scale, all the kids share some level of being unaware of their actions.
The end of the episode saw the pedophiles trying to grandstand about the rights of all people before brilliantly getting taken down by Stan and Kyle, who rightfully labeled them as criminals who prey on the young and impressionable. South Park and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart were early opponents of NAMBLA, helping to steer the conversation away from potential defenses of the organization.
Quote: Cartman: [chatting with an older man] “‘I’m eight and a half inches.’ Whoa, this guy’s tiny. He must be a dwarf.”
12. “Cartman Sucks,” Episode 11.2
Synopsis: Cartman “pranks” Butters by having his friend’s penis in his mouth. As soon as Kyle tells Cartman that makes him gay, he goes on a conquest to make Butters return the favor to “cancel out the gay polarity.” When interrupted by Mr. Stotch, he tells Butters he is bi-curious and send him to Camp New Grace in order to “pray the gay away.” While Butters is unaware of what he’s at the camp for, Cartman loses the original photo of his deeds, believing Kyle was going to show everyone. It forces his hand, submitting it as an “artsy photo” at a class show and tell. His mom calls at the last second to tell him he lost the photo, and it’s at home.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: South Park mixed subtle and blatant in their criticisms of our social culture, but never was it so (importantly) blatant as in this episode. Young boys were shown visibly killing themselves at these camps, playing as both dark comedy and as an important example of the real-world effect these “pray the gay away” camps have on young children. Cartman’s struggles to deal with his fears, alongside Butters’ oblivious nature while talking down his friends from suicide, presented this show at top form.
Quote: Butters: “I’m not gonna be confused anymore just because you say I should be! My name is Butters, I’m eight years old, I’m blood type O, and I’m bi-curious! And even that’s okay! Because if I’m bi-curious, and I’m somehow made from God, then I think your God must be a little bi-curious himself!”
11. “Christian Rock Hard,” Episode 7.9
Synopsis: Cartman is kicked out of his friends’ band, Moop, for suggesting they go Christian Rock. Fueled by a $10 bet to be the first to go platinum on a record, he brings in Butters as the drummer and Token on bass (who Cartman knows, and proves, can play the bass simply because he’s black). Faith + 1 is formed, making essentially love songs that replace a love interest with Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, Moop downloads some songs for inspiration, getting arrested and going on strike to fight against illegal downloading, even if the examples given to them see downloading prevent rich singers from making rich purchases.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: There are multiple ways that this South Park episode worked. First off, the idea that Christian Rock just replaces “baby” with “Jesus” is so simple, but so effective in how it seemed to work. Furthermore, it pointed out the minimal effects that the act of downloading songs had on the music industry, with punishments far overreaching the severity of the crime. Cartman got his comeuppance in the end, but the way he happened to be correct in his assumptions led to some great comedic payoffs throughout.
Quote: Stan: “You don’t even know anything about Christianity!”
“I know enough to exploit it.”
10. “AWESOM-O,” Episode 8.5
Synopsis: Cartman pretends to be a robot shipped to Butters’ address in order to learn his deep, dark secrets. Right before revealing himself, Cartman learns that Butters has a tape of him dressed up as Britney Spears making out with a cardboard cut-out of Justin Timberlake. Cartman then goes on a quest to get that tape back as Butters takes him on their L.A. trip, in which AWEOM-O pitches dumb movie ideas to Hollywood producers and is kidnapped by the government to use as a weapon.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Many of South Park’s greatest episodes involve Cartman and his eventual downfall, but none were doomed to fail quite like “AWESOM-O.” Cartman wasn’t fed, was in a hot costume all day long, was abused by Hollywood producers (and almost raped by one), tasered by government officials and almost turned into a weapon. The thing is, the show set him up so that he was deserving. He even let an innocent scientist, one that tried to save him, die to protect his identity from Butters. This episode was 21 minutes of pure unadulterated karma for all that Cartman has done.
Quote: Mrs. Stotch: “Well, the reason I’m calling is that Butters is supposed to go see his Aunt Nellie in Los Angeles this weekend, and since the boys are getting along so well, we were thinking of inviting Eric to come along.”
Mrs. Cartman: “Oh, well, I’m not sure. Actually, Eric is still supposed to be grounded for trying to exterminate the Jews two weeks ago.”
9. “Lil’ Crime Stoppers,” Episode 7.6
Synopsis: The boys like to play games, with the theme of the week being detectives. Opening up their detective agency, the issues to solve are quite simple in nature. After finding a local girl’s doll (and suspecting Butters of stealing it), the South Park Police Department make Junior Detectives. Instead of being an honorary position, however, the PD task them with taking down a meth lab, which leads to the truth that many of the cops on the force are corrupt. The boys, armed with only their finger guns and willing “bang bang bang” sound effects, single-handedly bring down corruption within the department.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: The kids getting the meth lab assignment was the turning point for the episode, creeping slowly toward the other shoe dropping. Not only were they well in over their heads, but fate was in the kids’ favor, as literally every obstacle in their path took care of itself. Even the corrupt cops took each other out, with the final one not being able to even trust himself. The humor lie in just how outrageously each scenario played out, with a childlike innocence making it seem like a video game to the Junior Detectives. Remember, it’s not “pew pew,” it’s “bang bang bang!”
Quote: Strip Club DJ: [rushed voice]”Alright guys, put your hand together, be sure to tip the dancers, li-, di-, bi-, pi- ti-, for Brannndyyyyyy!”
8. “Woodland Critter Christmas,” Episode 8.14
Synopsis: Playing in poetic rhyme, Stan stumbles across a group of adorable creatures dressing up a Christmas tree. After helping them with a star to place atop the tree, they find him at his home, pleading for him to defeat the mountain lion so their animal savior can be born. With great effort, Stan defeats the lion, only to find that the critters tricked him. They are Satanists who sacrifice a rabbit to commit a blood orgy. Stan brings it upon himself to take them down, while the animals kidnap a “non-baptized, non-Christian,” in the form of Kyle.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: When you see South Park go decidedly cutesy and wholesome, it’s only a matter of time before the reveal comes. It’s the subverted expectations that made this episode magical, with some of the most graphic depictions of Satanic rituals being performed by woodland critters. The juxtaposition was important, painting a story that seemed too unbelievable to be made up. Of course, as Santa entered the story and Kyle wanted to become the Anti-Christ to further the world for the Jewish cause, the second reveal came into play. An excellently creative venture that deserves to be called the best Christmas episode the show has ever done.
Quote: Woodland critters: [singing] “What special time, what special place! / It’s Woodland Critter Christmas!”
Squirrely the Squirrel: “Hail, Satan!”
7. “Imaginationland,” Episodes 11.10, 11.11, 11.12
Synopsis: It all starts with a bet over if leprechauns are real. Quickly, it transcends into a feature-length trilogy, in which human children (the creators of imaginary creatures) face off against evil creations conceptualized within the magical Imaginationland. With Hollywood directors unable to come up with a plan and the gate between the good and evil creatures of Imaginationland destroyed, a full-scale war breaks out. Butters is the key to the legion of good, as he can will the lives of imaginary creatures as someone who is real. Whether he can overcome his fears and save Imaginationland, however, is the ultimate question.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Never has South Park been so grandiose, concise and epic in its comedy, but it’s fitting in this three-parter. The wealth of characters involved in the story, including a host of returning guest characters, was a delight, providing depth to a highly visionary episode. Accepted truth piled on the jokes over and over again, especially considering the roster of the Council of Nine (imaginary figures) included Aslan, Gandalf, Popeye, Luke Skywalker, Glinda the Good Witch, Jesus and more. Highly detailed, large-scale conflicts paired with a simple, yet building subplot were executed to perfection.
Quote: Military Leader: “Those are not ideas, those are special effects.”
“I don’t see the difference.”
“I know you don’t.”
6. “Good Times With Weapons,” Episode 8.1
Synopsis: At the local fair, the boys purchase weapons from the Far East, allowing them to pretend they are ninjas. It transforms them into anime characters, each with their own separate powers. After Butters is denied playtime with the gang, he returns to his Professor Chaos alter ego and challenges the boys to a fight, ending with a shuriken deeply embedding into Butters’ left eye. The boys panic as they try to pass him off as a dog in an attempt to avoid getting into trouble, as Butters tries his best not to get put down for an eternal rest.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Among the first episodes of the show to air in HD, the change allowed for a detailed art style transition, playing into the anime sensibilities of the ninja portion of this episode. Despite South Park being a Western show, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s limited understanding of Eastern culture made for a memorable outing, complete with “Let’s Fighting Love” theme song and an (im)mature version of a child’s show. The stinger at the end took the cake, with Cartman getting so caught up in the act that he forgot people could really see him when he takes his clothes off.
Quote: Cartman: “Okay. Go ahead, Kyle. Throw your nunchucks away. If you can. But you know damn well that your Jewish blood won’t let you. You can’t throw away something you paid 15 bucks for. Go ahead and try. Mel Gibson was right, Kyle. Right now the Jew in you is screaming ‘No! Those cost money! Get your money back!’ You know this to be true. Go ahead. Prove Mel Gibson wrong, Kyle. Do it.”
5. “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers,” Episode 6.13
Synopsis: The boys are make-believing as characters from The Lord of the Rings. The Marsh family lends a copy of the movie to the Stotchs, asking the boys to send it over. They treat it like a quest while, unbeknownst to them, the tape actually contains the pornographic film Back Door Sluts 9. Butters, accidentally viewing it, turns into a Gollum-like creature alone in his room, as the boys try to return “the evil” back to whence it came: the Two Towers video store. The sixth-graders, having discovered the film’s actual contents, follow suit, as the parents who own the copy seek the kids out to provide context.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: In one of the greatest examples of misunderstandings South Park has provided, the boys only learning half the story played perfectly. To them, treating a quest with humble fealty to their parents reigns above all else. The show, however, relied on its satire strengths by portraying a Tolkien-esque adventure, filled with following ghouls and goblins in the form of sixth-graders. Ending with one of the more stunning reveals, it was the twist at the very end that brings uproarious laughter. Every party played their part dutifully, never going too hard into their parodies.
Quote: Stephen Stotch: “Backdoor Sluts 9 makes Crotch Capers 3 look like Naughty Nurses 2!”
4. “Casa Bonita,” Episode 7.11
Synopsis: Cartman’s obsession with the restaurant Casa Bonita rears its ugly head when Kyle invites Butters over Cartman to the trip there. After multiple sad attempts at trying to be nice in order to convince Kyle he’s a deserving friend, Kyle insists he can come if Butters, for whatever reason, can’t make it. Of course, Cartman takes this as a chance to convince Butters a meteor is about to hit Earth, forcing him into a bomb shelter for the weekend. As he moves Butters into an abandoned fridge and the jig is eventually up, Cartman uses his last minute of freedom to enjoy all that Casa Bonita has to offer before being sent to Juvenile Hall.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: This was probably the second best example of Cartman at his purest evil form, going to obscene lengths to get what he wants. His efforts were so elaborate, showing great cunning at an instant. He’s best when paired off against Butters, who brought humor in the contrasting personality embodied by his inherent innocence. Give Cartman an inch, he’ll take a mile, providing a madcap ending that showed that, in his mind, pretending the Earth is in an apocalyptic state to swindle a trip to a restaurant was “totally” worth the consequences.
Quote: Kyle: “That isn’t it, Cartman.”
Cartman: “What isn’t it?”
Kyle: “That isn’t being nice. That’s just wearing a nice sweater.”
Cartman: “I don’t understand the difference.”
Kyle: “I know you don’t.”
3. “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” Episode 5.4
Synopsis: Cartman tries to prove his manhood by being the first in his group to get pubes. The boys know that they aren’t his, so Cartman tries to get his money back from the provider, Scott Tenorman. Cartman vows revenge, trying to train a local farmer’s ponies to bite Scott’s penis off. After that doesn’t work, Jimbo and Ned offer help in trying to exploit Scott’s weaknesses. As Cartman stumbles, Tenorman shows the town citizens a video of Cartman as a pig begging for his money back. Cartman, more determined than ever, sets in motion a series of events the likes have which changed the dynamic of the character forever.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: Until now, Cartman was the arrogant bully character of South Park, selfish in his demeanor and his actions. This episode, however, changed the very fabric of the show, turning Cartman into an unstoppable monster, willing to go to the very lengths of evil to right those who have wronged him. In this episode, he indirectly had Scott Tenorman’s parents killed, took a hacksaw to their bodies, cut them up, mixed their meat into a chili and fed it directly to Scott –all while the band Radiohead (with the band providing their real voices) mocked the child (a huge fan of the band) for being a crybaby. While not my all-time favorite, without a doubt “Scott Tenorman Must Die” was the series’ most important regarding character development.
Quote: Kyle: “Dude, I think it might be best for us to never piss Cartman off again.”
Stan: “Good call.”
2. “Trapped in the Closet,” Episode 9.12
Synopsis: In what is widely regarded as the most controversial South Park ever, Stan unknowingly submits himself to a series of tests run by Scientologists. His Thetan levels are off the charts, leading the president of Scientology to dub him the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. Tom Cruise, after hearing Stan doesn’t approve of his acting, traps himself in the closet, with the likes of R. Kelly, Nicole Kidman and John Travolta unable to get him out. Eventually, as leader of the religion, Stan learns the story of the church’s creator, Xenu, and that the religion is ultimately deemed a scam.
Why it’s a great South Park episode: South Park is known to push buttons politically, religiously and socially, but the effects of “Trapped in the Closet” are still felt to this day. Not only did it cause a rift between Tom Cruise and Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom, it also brought attention to the understanding of the religion’s fantastically unbelievable origins. Even the niece of the current Chairman of Scientology learned of the story through South Park. Nobody had the gall to take on the bullying shutdown tactics of the Church of Scientology until then, with Matt Stone and Trey Parker taking incredibly brave steps that led to further investigations into the church.
Being so damn funny didn’t hurt their case, either, as the episode was one of the few ever to have been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Quote: Field News Reporter: “Breaking news here in South Park. Tom Cruise and John Travolta still will not come out of the closet.”
1. “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” Episode 10.8
Synopsis: The boys pick up playing World of Warcraft, but are bummed when a high-level character kills their own despite not agreeing to duel. This cheater is killing players all over the virtual world, to the chagrin of admins and Game Masters. The boys, including their friends, undergo an intensive month of training in order to team up and gank the player over an epic duel. As a result, they all grow fat and pimply, as Randy undergoes an important quest to recover “The Sword of a Thousand Truths.” Will the boys overcome evil, or will they end up as pwnd noobs?
Why it’s a great South Park episode: This was the quintessential South Park experience, featuring barbed criticism of unhealthy gaming habits, relating to a hot trend of the time, complete with training montage parody, killer set-ups and punchlines, graphic gross-out humor and the town uniting as one to conquer evil. There’s a reason that this is widely regarded as a fan favorite, and why this particular episode won an Emmy award: It was simply the best the show has ever been.
Quote: Blizzard Exec #1: ” … Whoever this person is, he has played World of Warcraft nearly every hour, of every day, for the past year and a half. Gentlemen, we are dealing with someone here who has absolutely no life.”
Blizzard Exec #4: “How do you kill that which has no life?”