This is a bit of a tricky placement, because the reality is I have an ambivalent relationship with the show these days. And I don’t even necessarily blame South Park for this, but I wonder how much it weaponized apathy or even nihilism in the generation that grew up watching it? That “It all sucks, nothing matters” mindset that has bled its way into our current level of discourse. I also believe a lot of viewers saw the show’s genuinely admirable pursuit of the idea that comedy shouldn’t be censored, and the lesson they took was “Hey, I shouldn’t face repercussions if I’m a dick.” Finally, South Park has absolutely contributed to the Memeification of Internet debate. Why try to have a discussion in good faith when you can just say “Douche or Turd” and “‘Member” any time someone gets even a little bit sincere?
South Park has tried to do some course correction in recent years, with episodes that are critical of apathy and reluctance to accept a changing society, and even an episode that walks back earlier skepticism of climate change. But I do wonder, has South Park actually damaged society? He said, in his apparently positive review of the sixth season? We should probably get to that, but it is something I think about.
The sixth season was and remains good enough to make me forget whatever misgivings I have about South Park. There’s an innocence to Season 6, and it’s my favourite iteration of what I think this series can be. It’s topical, but it’s not political. It’s got an edge and a point of view, but it’s not overly cynical. It takes things that are in the culture, and sends them up with crude yet clever humour. It’s amazing how genuinely funny so many of these episodes are, considering how quickly they’re churned out.
This was an unusual year for South Park. It was the one in which Kenny had died for longer than usual and Butters joined the main circle of friends. I love this character, I’m always a fan of the one innocent soul in a really dark and mean spirited show, even if that innocent soul is just around to be a punching bag. And it’s great that the writers valued him, because even after he was kicked out of the group, he remained (and continues to remain) a huge part of the show.
Aside from Butters’ increased role, a lot of my favourite South Park moments come from Season 6. Stan Darsh, Russell Crowe foightin’ everyone, Professor Chaos, everyone drawn as Simpsons characters, the City Wall, Butters discovering porn, and Rob Schneider as… a carrot!
If I Had to Nitpick…: The infamous ending of the first episode, “Jared Has Aides.” But hey, I may criticize their awful “Child abuse is funny” sequence, but I’ll defend with my life their right to make it. Had there been a fedora on my head, rest assured I would have just tipped it.
Notable Episodes: “Asspen,” a dead on parody of a certain sort of sports movie formula I have so little tolerance for. “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers,” great fun for a LotR fanatic like myself. “The Death Camp of Tolerance” has some of the most memorable moments of the series.
Honorable Mentions: Season 5 has a lot of greats as well.