'South Park': 21 'They Did WHAT?!' Episodes
Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Emmy-winning series proves year after year that its creators retain the ability to outrage and incense the unsuspecting (and delight fans!)
''HUMANCENTiPAD'' Season 15
To parody today's rapidly advancing technology — and Apple — South Park introduced audiences to the HUMANCENTiPAD. What is the HUMANCENTiPAD? Do you really want to know? Yes? Okay: Let's just say it's a piece of technology that involves three conjoined humans, including Kyle, who got into the fix after failing to read the Apple agreement he signed off on when upgrading iTunes. ''HUMANCENTiPAD'' might just be South Park's most disgusting offering — and that's saying a lot from a series that has prominently featured cannibalism, bodily fluids, and plenty of poo.
For reaction to this South Park episode, see Ken Tucker's TV
''THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS,'' A.K.A. ''JESUS VS. SANTA'' Pre-Comedy Central
This animated short film, produced prior to the creation of South Park, explored the meaning of Christmas through an epic, bloody showdown between Santa Claus and Jesus. Small potatoes compared with the content of South Park's later episodes, but the film served as a great introduction to creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker's twisted little town in Colorado.
''NOT WITHOUT MY ANUS'' Season 2
On April 1, 1998, South Park fans eagerly tuned in to the show's second-season premiere, which promised to answer the first-season finale's cliff-hanger question ''Who is Eric Cartman's father?'' Instead, Parker and Stone pulled an April Fools' joke on their audience and aired the Terrance & Phillip cartoon ''Not Without My Anus'' instead. Fans were decidedly not amused, and the incident became so infamous that South Park even parodied it years later in the April 1, 2009, episode ''Eat, Pray, Queef.''
''CARTMAN JOINS NAMBLA'' Season 4
Hoping to make friends with older, more mature boys, Cartman logs on to an Internet chat room that boasts the topic ''Men Who Like Young Boys.'' You know where this goes — the chubby fourth-grader soon meets some very old boys, with an interest in very young boys, and is encouraged to join NAMBLA, or the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Funny, until you learn the association actually exists.
''RED HOT CATHOLIC LOVE'' Season 6
What type of God does the Catholic Church worship? In South Park's world, a giant, intergalactic, spider-shaped God, apparently. Parker and Stone tackled Catholic molestation charges in this episode, which featured images of several priests holding little boys on leashes. Oh, and the horrifically unforgettable image of Cartman pooping ... out of his mouth.
''RED SLEIGH DOWN' Season 6
A parody of films like Three Kings and Black Hawk Down, this episode found Santa Claus in the middle of Iraq, where he is shot down and taken captive. Immediately, the jolly holiday episode transformed into a violent program that showed Santa's crotch being electrocuted, and Jesus being shot to death. Merry Christmas, everyone?
''CHRISTIAN ROCK HARD'' Season 7
Cartman might have formed a Christian rock band with Butters and Token in this episode, but for once, the episode's really controversial content had nothing to do with religion. Instead, Parker and Stone decided to use the episode to join the illegal downloading debate. When Stan, Kyle, and Kenny decide to download music from the Internet, they are immediately arrested, and shown firsthand the damage their free downloading has caused: Britney Spears must downsize her private jet from a Gulfstream IV to a Gulfstream III, and Lars Ulrich has to wait a few months to install a gold-plated shark tank bar next to his pool. Guess we know what side Matt and Trey were on.
''ALL ABOUT THE MORMONS?'' Season 7
A Mormon family moves to South Park. When they try to explain the origins of their faith — Joseph Smith, Native American angels, translating ancient buried gold plates, etc. — the re-created story is punctuated by a cheery chorus singing ''dum dum dum dum dum.'' Over and over again.
''THE PASSION OF THE JEW'' Season 8
Since his 2006 arrest, Mel Gibson has become a popular pop-culture punching bag. But Stone and Parker beat late-night talk shows to the punch way back in 2004. Right after the actor-director released his blockbuster The Passion of the Christ — a film many believed to be anti-Semitic — South Park aired their response, The Passion of the Jew. In the episode, Stan and Kenny equate Passion with a snuff film, and road-trip to Malibu to demand their money back from Gibson, who's depicted as a torture-loving crazy man. Cartman, meanwhile, is inspired to pick up where Hitler left off after seeing the film. Though certainly controversial, ''The Passion of the Jew'' was widely acclaimed, and received enough good feedback that Comedy Central released a stand-alone DVD spotlighting the episode.
''THE JEFFERSONS'' Season 8
A man with a striking resemblance to Michael Jackson named Michael Jefferson moves to South Park with his son Blanket, who he ignores. ''What's wrong with his face?'' asks Kyle about Mr. Jefferson. ''Be cool, I think maybe he's a burn victim or something,'' replies Stan. It just gets worse from there; for one thing, by the end, Mr. Jefferson's face has melted right off.
''BEST FRIENDS FOREVER'' Season 9
Kenny dies, again, but this time it's because heaven needs his supreme skills on the Sony PSP to battle the otherwise-overwhelming forces of Satan's invading army. (Naturally.) But when modern medicine brings Kenny back — as a brain-dead vegetable — a media frenzy erupts about whether he should be allowed to die, with heaven's fate in the balance. The best twist to a most timely satire of the real media frenzy surrounding Terri Schiavo? Thanks to Kenny's will giving his PSP to Cartman upon his death, South Park's resident fourth-grade devil ends up on the side of heaven's angels.
''TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET'' Season 9
When Stan is declared the second coming of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, it's not clear who or what gets skewered worse: Hubbard's religion, which has its sci-fi-soaked origins retold with the subtitle THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE; or Scientologists Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who somehow end up in Stan's closet, refusing to leave or even acknowledge that they are, ahem, in the closet.
''BLOODY MARY'' Season 9
How's this for a controversial image? Randy makes a pilgrimage to a statue of the Virgin Mary — in hopes it will cure his alcoholism — after people begin discovering that the statue is bleeding ... from its bum. The episode would have incited anger if it had aired any day of the year, but its original airdate — the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception — incensed the Catholic Church even more. The Catholic League demanded an apology from the network, and several protestors insisted that Comedy Central withdraw the episode from scheduling. Needless to say, they didn't — a bloody good decision for South Park fans.
''HELL ON EARTH 2006'' Season 10
This episode, a parody of MTV's My Super Sweet 16, surrounded Satan's L.A.-based Halloween party, which was, in part, planned by hell-raisers Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Audiences didn't so much have a problem with Parker and Stone lambasting spoiled teens and serial killers as they did with the pair's cartoon representation of one particular party guest: the recently deceased Steve Irwin, who was depicted on screen with a stingray protruding from his chest. Crikey.
''CARTOON WARS PART II'' Season 10
In the fall of 2005, parts of the Islamic world erupted in violence after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. So, of course, Parker and Stone mounted a two-part episode about censorship in which the writers of Family Guy (i.e., manatees) demanded the right to depict Muhammad. At the end, there was indeed supposed to be a depiction of Muhammad, but Comedy Central refused to air it. So instead, Parker and Stone showed Jesus and President Bush crapping on an American flag. The biggest irony in this whole kerfuffle? The show had already depicted Muhammad five years earlier in the freely available episode ''Super Best Friends.''
''WITH APOLOGIES TO JESSE JACKSON'' Season 11
Randy Marsh is on Wheel of Fortune's final round. The category is ''People Who Annoy You.'' After all the preselected letters are revealed, Randy sees ''N_GGERS.'' The correct response was ''Naggers.'' Randy ... doesn't guess that one; he opts for the N-word instead. By the time Michael Richards shows up, well, you can probably see where this is going — er, except for the little person who ends up wrestling Cartman.
''CARTMAN SUCKS'' Season 11
After a clueless Cartman takes a photo of himself with a sleeping Butters' penis in his mouth as a prank, Butters is placed in an ex-gay camp by his father. It would all play as a pointed satire of the ex-gay movement if it wasn't for a typically South Park-ian touch: the truly shocking sight of ''confused'' and ''bi-curious'' kids repeatedly committing suicide.
''BRITNEY'S NEW LOOK'' Season 12
Inspired by Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, this episode follows Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Butters as they publicly humiliate Britney Spears, then attempt to save her from the paparazzi's incessant prying eyes after she attempts suicide. The concept doesn't seem that outlandish for South Park — until you consider that Spears' attempted suicide left her with only 1/3 of a head. The garish image — which persisted for the entire half-hour — was not only jarring but also made the episode almost unwatchable for sensitive folks.
''THE CHINA PROBREM'' Season 12
You'd think with that title, you'd know what was controversial about this episode, and indeed, Cartman — horrified by the opening ceremony of the Chinese Olympics — does take a P.F. Chang's hostage disguised in buck teeth and squinty eye makeup. But no. What got Parker and Stone in hot water was their depiction of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas physically raping Indiana Jones in the style of infamous rape scenes in The Accused and Deliverance. Execs at Comedy Central's corporate cousin Paramount even reportedly met to discuss what to do about the episode.
''THE RING'' Season 13
This episode starts off innocently (as many South Park episodes do): To bond with his new Jonas Brothers-loving girlfriend, Kenny agrees to wear a purity ring as a pledge of abstinence. But then Parker takes us backstage at a Jonas Brothers concert, where an evil, violent, and abusive Mickey Mouse is forcing the threesome into a sexless teenage existence in order to sell their sex-starved image to teenage girls. (The logic: Girls think of purity rings — and thus sex — when they think of the Jonas Brothers, and sex sells.) The band — and Disney — never commented publicly on the episode, but claimed they enjoy making fun of themselves.
''200'' and ''201'' Season 14
Trey Parker and Matt Stone celebrated South Park's 200th episode with some old friends: Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, a giant mechanical Barbra Streisand, and, of course, Muhammad. Every celebrity who has ever been ribbed on the show gathered to file a class action lawsuit against the town, which they agree to drop only if Stan and the gang bring them the one person immune from South Park's ridicule: Muhammad. After the episode aired and an extremist Muslim organization warned Parker and Stone that they could suffer bodily harm, Comedy Central censored parts of the follow-up episode, bleeping out every reference to the Muslim prophet — and practically all of Kyle's final monologue. But along with the controversy, episodes ''200'' and ''201'' earned two Emmy nominations.