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'South Park' 200th episode review: Muhammad, Tom Cruise, and Cartman's daddy issues

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It sounds simple, by South Park standards: The 200th episode was about a class-action lawsuit by 200 celebrities defamed by the show — er, the town of South Park. They were led by Tom Cruise, who demanded to see the Prophet Muhammad. But there was also the reappearance of “Jennifer Lopez,” a hand-puppet wielded by Cartman in the manner of Senor Wences. And ultimately, the half-hour was a cliffhanger about the true identity of Cartman’s father.

Gee, maybe it wasn’t so simple after all.

The episode was chock-full of celebrities South Park has mocked over the years. From a Tom Cruise working part-time a fudge-making company boxing up the stuff  (it was Stan referring to the Cruise caricature as one who packs fudge that inspired the lawsuit) to a George Lucas leading around a leashed, chained, and ball-gagged Harrison Ford, South Park upheld its low standards with great cunning.

Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone could not resist revisiting what is arguably the series’ greatest controversy, its attempt to show an image of Muhammad during the 2006 season that was deemed too sensitive by Comedy Central to be a figure of fun. But this week, the lawsuit brought by the celebrities (who also included everyone from Oprah to a gigantic, mechanically reconstructed Barbra Streisand) threatened the town’s very existence, unless it ceded to Cruise’s demand: He wanted to meet Muhammad and extract from him his “power not to be ridiculed.”

Opposing the celebrity demand was a terrorist organization — redheads, or “ginger fundamentalists” — who threatened to detonate bombs. Really, it all made sense, right down to “Miss Lopez” demanding “More tacos!” as the show paused for an actual Taco Bell commercial.

By the time the episode took its surprising turn — Cartman confronting Mr. Garrison and Mr. Hat to ask, “Who is my father?” — South Park had covered an immense patch of pop-culture ground. With jokes raining down like hell-fire, the 200th episode spared no one except the South Park kids themselves.

This was South Park distilled to its essence: Cartman and his friends caught up in the stupidity all around them, created by absurd, neurotic, fearful, repressed adults. Parker and Stone set themselves apart from all this by insisting on remaining juvenile — something like genius juveniles.

Did you watch? What did you think of the 200th episode?

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