Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I have ranked the top 68 television shows of the '00s, and will be presenting them, one-by-one, starting with 68 and working down. The rankings are more or less based on the show's popularity, it's cult status, it's critical acclaim, and my personal liking of it, with a heavy dose of arbitrariness added in. If a show was a big enough phenomena, I'll keep it on the list - but if I don't like it, I may drop it some spots. One other caveat - these are primetime shows (I apologize if I put a cable show that wasn't, I thought they were all primetime shows - the main point of this is just that no talk shows, no Colbert and Daily show that would be on otherwise).

20: South Park

I've seen tons of episodes of South Park and still have seen fewer than almost anyone else I know and I've never truly watched it religiously (and seriously, there are two hundred fucking episodes).

The bit I remembered most about the early seasons of South Park (as someone who didn't actually see the show, due to not having cable before the glorious summer of 1999) is the fact that Kenny died every episode leading to the statement, "Oh my God, they killed Kenny" - a bit that thankfully creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone realized eventually was getting tired, and that now that the show was a bona fide success, was unneeded anymore.

It's absolutely a good show, and a funny show overall, but there are a couple things about it that prevent it from being in my absolute upper echelon of comedies (I often say it's shows like this that come in for the most criticism from me - not the Two and a Half Mens of the world, whose reasons for my dislike are fairly obvious, and which could not be easily fixed - they'd have to be entirely different shows - rather shows that are oh so close to being great but come a little bit short for specific reasons - like Battlestar Galactica).

Here's my issue with South Park - at it's best it's uproarious but I think these happen the most when it's been silly and absurd rather than trying to make some sort of serious point and coming off as self-righteous and pretentious. So many episodes are pretty much written as - saw news story or major trend, must make immediate comment on how stupid it is or outlandish people are being, and for me, those just don't work. It's obviously not as if this type of humor can't work - political or critical humor can be hilarious - I think Daily Show and Colbert Report do a great job of it, I just don't think South Park does. For example, I watched the episode "Whale Whores" which was basically a half hour episode on how stupid the TV show Whale Wars is (I didn't know anything about the show, but I'll chalk it up to my lack of knowledge of non-scripted television, rather than it necessarily not being noteworthy) and I wanted to scream, as I often do at South Park, "I get it! You hate fucking [whatever they're bashing - in this case Whale Wars!]" But smack in the middle of the episode is a montage with a rendition of Poker Face sung by Cartman. And it's absolutely hilarious. You know they just put it in because they thought it would be funny to have Cartman sing Poker Face, and you know what, they were right - it was silly and it was wonderful.

Scott Tenorman must die, generally regarded as one of, if not the best episode of the series has no ax to grind with any political topic - it's basically a giant revenge scheme from Cartman who has been wronged by Scott Tenorman, who sold pubes to Cartman amongst other things, ending with Cartman feeding Tenorman his parents in a chili, and having Radiohead, his favorite band, call him a crybaby. The episode is vulgor and ludicrous but never serious and full of itself.

Everybody who is anybody knows essentially the two best characters are Cartman and Randy Marsh. I really don't have much else to say about that, but it has to be said.

South Park is a pretty essential show to my generation - if you had asked me without thinking I probably would have ascribed it more to the '90s than the '00s, but it's not at all - it started in 1997, and while it was an absolute sensation that first year, which counts for something it's been going strong all decade, one of not many shows to do so.

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