"South Park" has been, and still is, the defining show of my life. When I was a kid, I treated it the way others treated HBO softcore porn—sneaking into my living room late at night to watch it, hiding my viewing habits from my parents.
As I got older and those viewing habits were able to be more public, I've watched the show become legendary, the greatest source of satire in our country. Look back over the last 15 years. It's the show of our generation.
Tonight, "South Park" airs the premiere of the second half of its 16th season. So what better time to rank the 16 best episodes in the show's history?
As with any list, there's bound to be a few disagreements here. There are a disproportionate number of episodes from the time I consider the show's heyday (roughly, seasons 6-9), and the more recent legendary episodes may rank lower than you'd like, as it's difficult to figure out how they'll hold up against the classics. Truthfully, it was a stunning process to go back through and make these choices, just because of the sheer number of great episodes Trey Parker and Matt Stone have produced. Tonight will be "South Park's" 231st episode. Well over half of those have more than enough merit to warrant consideration on this list.
Before we go any further, the runners-up:
- With Apologies to Jesse Jackson
- The Imaginationland trilogy
- Krazy Kripples
- The Losing Edge
- The Cartoon Wars series
And for good measure, my picks for the three worst episodes ever:
- The Coon series.
Alright, let's do it.
16. Starvin' Marvin
Aired: November 19, 1997
Best Quote: Mr. Garrison: "Who knows what a can food drive is?"
Cartman: "Isn't that where they cut open a chick's stomach to get the baby out?"
Mr. Garrison: "No, that's a caesarian section, Eric, but remember there are no stupid questions, just stupid people."
Best Cartman Moment: Showing Starvin' Marvin the town's All You Can Eat buffett. "This is where everyone comes here on Tuesday nights, except for Kenny's family because for them, $6.99 is two year's income," he says.
The best episode of the first three seasons, which surprisingly don't hold up that well. This one royally pissed off Sally Struthers, who is portrayed as a grossly obese hoarder of all the donated food sent to Africa. She publicly complained about her treatment, so in a later season Parker and Stone drew her as Jabba the Hutt.
15. Broadway Bro Down
Aired: October 26, 2011
Best Quote: Randy: “What makes you the authority, bro?”
Stephen Sondheim: “West Side Story, bro! Sweeney Todd, bro!”
A quintessential episode for one of the show's best characters, Randy. He discovers that Broadway writers are in reality "just total bros, Sharon," and all write musicals to get women to give them blowjobs. Randy wants to join in the phone and writes his own number. The song his acting troupe performs, "Put that Heart to Work," is one of the funniest in "South Park" history.
Aired: April 14, 2004
Best Quote: Movie exec: "Within one day, that robot has come up with 1,000 new movie ideas. 800 of which feature Adam Sandler."
Best Cartman Moment: A tie between sticking a suppository up Butters' ass, and when he gets off a plane without eating for days and eats toothpaste.
The Butters-Cartman relationship is one of South Park's great dynamics. It's also always been fun to see Cartman's evil plans be broken by his own hubris. That happens to hilarious detail when he pretends to be the robot, Awesome-O.
13. Timmy 2000
Aired: April 19, 2000
Best Quote: "TImmy!"
Best Cartman Moment: Killing Kenny after seeing pink Christina Aguilera monsters (you kind of have to see the episode).
The Timmy episodes have always worked because "South Park" never really makes fun of the mentally handicapped kid. It's the "sane" adults who are portrayed as the real idiots. This episode, about doctors over-diagnosing ADD, fits that bill.