Underrated South Park Episodes: Part 2

Season 20 of South Park premieres this Wednesday! With that in mind we’re continuing to take a look back through the seasons to highlight some of the most underrated episodes the show has to offer.
Season 11: Cartman Sucks

One of the best character dynamics in all of South Park is the relationship between Cartman and Butters. Cartman is always up to no good and Butters, in his eternal naivety is always along for the ride. Cartman Sucks centers around Eric’s repeated sleepovers with Butters in which he does awful things to Butters in his sleep and photographs it for his scrapbook. He pulls off what he thinks is his best prank, by photographing himself with Butter’s penis in his mouth. Determined to mess with him, Kyle and Stan insist this makes Cartman gay and the only way to “reverse it” is to get Butters to put his penis in his mouth. Cartman’s attempt leads poor Butters to be put in a conversion camp complete with an accountabilabuddy. Watching Butters navigate the misunderstanding, his own confusion, and the insanity of it all while Cartman attempts to outsmart Kyle, leads to a truly classic episode.

Season 12: Over Logging

South Park is often at its absolute best when it takes a simple idea to ridiculous heights. In this case, the people of South Park have lost the internet and head out to Californie in search of access. The loss of internet access reverts everyone to Grapes of Wrath-esque behavior, complete with black and white animation. The real strength of this episode is the great Randy Marsh who, in his search for internet porn, sneaks into a Red Cross office and, well, what follows is one of the most absurd, hilarious moments in South Park history. All I’ll say is watch out for spooky ghosts!

Season 13: Butters’ Bottom Bitch

The same way that Butters and Cartman’s relationship has become one of the high points of the show, Butters himself has developed into a really dynamic character. When Butters finds out about Sally charging boys $5 to kiss her in the school yard, he gets the bright idea to help her drum up business for a cut of the profits. And just like that, little naïve Butters becomes a lucrative pimp, changing the game with his kindness and access to Medicaid and low income housing loans. Meanwhile, Sergeant Yates is running a prostitution sting in which he, as the undercover prostitute, takes things way too far, continually carrying out the acts before arresting the perps. The payoff to his story line is typical South Park absurd hilarity.

Season 14: You Have 0 Friends

This is one of those South Park episodes that are full of so much truth it really hits you where it hurts. Stan gets pressured into signing up for Facebook which leads to all kinds of frustration. Wendy is constantly offended, his dad berates him to respond to his grandma, and even strangers on the street are pissed when he ignores their friend requests. Trying to delete his profile leads him to get sucked into Facebook Tron-style. Meanwhile Kyle has Facebook friended Kip, who has no real life friends. This causes Kyle’s friend stock to plummet as Cartman has begun rating profiles like stocks Jim Creamer style. The episode says a lot about the stock we put into our online lives and the priority they can take over our actual lives. The Kip character is especially tragic and really hits you in the feels. This is one of a handful of special South Park episodes that can deliver laughs and some pathos too.

Season 15: History Channel Thanksgiving

Every once in awhile South Park takes on a person who or topic that really needs to be raked over the coals. There is a strange phenomena in modern culture where channels like The History Channel and The Learning Channel (TLC) actually seem to have very little to do with history and learning. They’re more concerned with aliens and reality shows. This particular episode rips The History Channel a new one by positing that aliens were present at Thanksgiving. When the boys report this for their class project, History Channel agents hail them as experts and the “true story” of Thanksgiving is revealed in an elaborate parody of Thor in which the Pilgrims and Indians are cosmic races at war. This is one of those South Park episodes that are basically absurd opera.

Season 16: I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining

Again, this is another simple idea executed PERFECTLY. Stan proposed the boys go ziplining to capitalize on the last of their time off. It escalates into a nightmare adventure in boredom. A perfect panoramic shot of Cartman entering and exiting frame yelling. Versions of the boys played by real world actors. This episode takes the simple idea of being stuck on a group tour/trip with strangers and builds it into an epic parody of “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”.

Season 17: Informative Murder Porn

I love when the kids of South Park have to parent their parents. This is one of those episodes. Peter Mullen tells the class that their parents are watching “murder porn”, shows like Southern Fried Homicide on Investigation Discovery. To avoid their parents watching too much of this amoral programming and possibly murdering each other, the kids put parental controls on the cable box, specifically asking a security question about Minecraft. After getting nowhere with the cable company, an amazing running gag throughout the episode, the parents decide to learn Minecraft to get their informative murder porn back. Seeing the dynamic between exasperated Stan and petulant Randy is a real joy in this episode.

Season 18: Freemium Isn’t Free

While not the biggest problem facing society, Freemium Isn’t Free takes on poorly designed, addictive, and “free” mobile games that require micropayments to advance. Small increments like $0.49 or $0.99 add up for Stan until his parents angrily inform him that he’s spent over $400 on Terrance and Phillip’s crappy new game. Speaking of the Canadian duo they’re getting a crash course in mobile gaming that exposes just how rigged to mine cash these types of games are. This episode is similar to Biggest Douche in the Universe from Season 6 that famously breaks down the practice of cold reading used by “psychics”. Trey Parker is remarkably adept as breaking down these techniques, marketing, and hypocrisy and it’s endlessly entertaining to watch. The episode also has a great through line involving Randy Marsh who if it’s not already clear, is the Mariano Rivera of South Park, always sealing the deal.

Season 19: Tweek X Craig

South Park is known for being topical and of the moment, but every once in awhile they choose a subject that’s relevant but seemingly out of left field. Tweek x Craig finds Tweek & Craig the subject of yaoi, a Japanese fan fiction of sorts that focuses on love and sexual relationships between boys. Art created by the Asian girls at school leads to the assumption that Tweek & Craig are gay and were made gay by the girls or Asians at large. The parents of South Park fall all over themselves to accept the boys as gay, no one seems to care whether they actually are or not. Somehow the whole town becomes invested in this relationship that grows out of control when the couple in question attempts to spin the narrative and “break up” to end the whole thing. This episode feels very random but is ultimately wonderful in the way it encapsulates the group think of the residents of South Park.
Season 20 of South Park premieres September 14th at 10PM on Comedy Central.