By Ryan Broderick, Editor-in-Chief
"South Park" does satire really, really well. In the cartoon TV show wars, its niche has always been lampooning pop culture in not only a way that goes beyond the typically low angle they take it from, but isn't nearly as disposable as something like "Family Guy" or recent episodes of "The Simpsons."
But that's all old news. What's important though, is that on tonight's 200th episode everything that works about "South Park" came together so simply, so smoothly, and so hilariously that it forgives the last couple lame duck episodes of the season. I'm sure the writing of this episode is probably what led to the lukewarm punch lines of late.
Above everything though, the episode avoided all the typical misfires of "...th" TV specials. It was self-referential sure, but there was a plotline and a purpose. And the plot at its heart was something really almost poetically fitting for a show like "South Park." The episode's thesis was a statement on free speech and the limits of comedy.
The grit and edge, though, was probably what made it so strong, the fact the entire episode boiled down to listing why celebrities are stupid and dressing the Muslim prophet Mohammed up in silly costumes made sure the higher layers of the plot didn't knock you over your with the message. The silliness versus message tug-of-war is usually what makes or breaks "South Park." If anything it's the choice between Mark Twain and Monty Python, do Matt Stone and Trey Parker want to have people with butt faces farting out poop on Ben Affleck or do they want to have Jesus and Santa Claus shooting Iraqis in Baghdad on Christmas?
Tonight, they rode the line and they made something really special, and like any good "…th" its got to remind you what makes the show so good in the first place without being a clip show. Tonight, Stone and Parker gave us a strong reminder of why "South Park" has earned its status as a comedy institution (SPOILERS): A 20-story tall robot dragon Barbara Streisand descending upon a small town besieged by radical redheaded children trying to capture the prophet Muhammad dressed up in a silly bear costume.