By Ken Tucker
March 12, 2009 at 07:04 AM EDT

The rather awe-inspiring season premiere of South Park last night looked, at first, as though it was going to pander to its audience by making fun of the Jonas Brothers, but once again triumphantly turned the tables on pop-culture hypocrisy. Invoking the time-honored power of rock music to inspire feelings of joyous lust, the 13-season opener found Kenny with his first girlfriend, Tammy, a Jonas fan who was moved to perform certain sexual acts in thrall to Jonas-music… until the noble band convinced her and legions of other fans to wear purity rings and abstain.

But this being South Park, the satire quickly expanded exponentially. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone suggested that perhaps the Disney company, as embodied here by a squawking, expletive-spewing Mickey Mouse, “can sell sex to the little girls” deviously: the Jonas Brothers are packaged as safe and chaste, even as their music inevitably gets the kids all hot ‘n’ bothered. When the Jonas boys decide they’re being used, Mickey yelps that he’s been in control of pop culture “since the ’50s” and goes on a cynical rant against Christianity that’s picked up by an open microphone and broadcast to a vast audience.

Thus did South Park ultimately come down on the side of religion and sexual freedom, with lots of big laughs in the bargain. Cartman’s delightfully clueless, crude warnings against sex must be seen and heard in context (I dare not print his magnificently warped view of the female anatomy here, but you can catch a rerun). And don’t worry, the show retained its traditions: Kenny dies, but in a new way I wouldn’t dream of spoiling for anyone who missed it.

All this, plus Cartman offers the most definitive, pungent critique of Grey’s Anatomy ever. This was an episode Kevin, Joe, Nick Jonas and you could get behind. Especially if you think a purity ring should actually stand for something. Trey and Matt are off to a great 13th-season start.