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Wow, 200 episodes, it’s almost hard to fathom that a cartoon whose pilot revolved around an anal probe inserted into an 8 year old boy, could run for almost 13 years? A lot has changed over the seasons and although South Park remains crude and abrasive, it has matured to include some not so subtle, but rather intelligent satire and social commentary, specifically on celebrity culture and religion.
In the 200th episode we are treated to a look back at every celebrity and public figure that the show has mocked and ridiculed, as the disgruntled characters decide to band together behind the litigious strength of Tom Cruise. It’s actually quite incredible to see all of these characters on-screen at the same time and it’s astonishing that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have managed to get away with it for so long. But this is the genius of their deceptively satirical creation. If the show was not so outrageous and uncompromising, then it would have never have succeeded. Its brilliance lies in the fact that no one is safe. It does not discriminate; South Park persecutes everyone.
There is however one individual who has escaped South Parks’ wrath. One person who is protected from offense and the reason behind the only episode to be heavily censored before it could be broadcast. This is the premise of the 200th episode. The angry celebrities threaten to sue the town unless it’s citizens can show them the Profit Mohammed so they can steal his anti-ridicule power. It is classic South Park, an incredibly complex and provocative issue presented in a kind of Televisual reductionism: If Mohammed is the only person in the world who people cannot mock, then he must therefore have some kind of special power.
The employment of childish logic is at the heart of the majority of South Park episodes and highlights the ridiculous nature and hypocrisy found within many contentious issues. At one point Jesus and other religious profits are discussing the issue of Mohammed and explaining that there is nothing different about Islam and that no religion will tolerate offensive material towards them. At this point Jesus turns to Buddha and asks: ‘Oh Buddha, are you taking coke in front of kids again’. In one small sentence the show highlights the extreme double standards that exist within our freedoms of speech.
The episode itself does not actually stand out a great deal. It played like a retrospective look at some of the best moments in the show’s history and presented the opportunity to work over the likes of Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton once again. Numerous references to past shows are present and there is even a cameo from Mr Garrison’s long lost partner as well as the return of Barbra Streisand, who is looking as beautiful as ever.
Most of the jokes revolve around how much of Mohammed the town can show. Repeatedly people turn to one another and as if talking to the camera, ask if they think they are allowed to show him in a bear costume or a coat of armour, the response being: ‘I guess we’ll see’. Not as funny as last week which had me crying with laughter, but there are several moments when I did laugh out loud, often because I couldn’t believe they were walking the line so precariously.
A good episode that is definitely worth watching if you’ve followed South Park from the beginning. It’s great to see all the past characters and the show’s premise is cleverly worked into their obvious dig at censorship. There are several moments of genius within the mandatory Jew jokes and many references to Tom Cruise’s sexuality, but the cliff-hanger at the end has been done before and was a frustrating tease the first time, broken up by a Terrance and Phillip special which was probably the worst episode in the show’s history.