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Revisiting South Park’s First Season: ‘Volcano’

Fri, August, 18 by

This is part three in a thirteen part series of hand-typed Internet posts concerning the first season of South Park, the show not the town.

Am I a South Park expert? MAYBE. Honestly, I already messed up this series because I posted “Weight Gain 4000” before this one, which does not reflect the order in which they aired. If you care, I’m sorry, if you don’t, I love you. The more important question is, “Was I 15-year-old when South Park premiered twenty years ago?” UNEQUIVOCALLY YES.

I was just ripe enough to enjoy both the show’s crude humour and cute cartoon characters, so despite my mistake I’m going to forge on like a guy who got the orchard too late for apples but still early enough to pull young carrots. Here’s part one and part two. Part three? Why it’s right under your nose!

“Volcano” premiered August 20, 1997

Plot Description

The boys’ hunting trip is threatened by activity from a nearby volcano and a mysterious creature called Scuzzlebutt.

Pop Culture References

Just as “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” was influenced of the alien craze of the ’90s, “Volcano” finds inspiration in disaster movie-mania that figuratively destroyed cinemas of the post-grunge era. You see, unlike the hellscape of today, 25 years ago disasters were the stuff of fantasy and not everyday reality so entertainment seekers were delighted by cautionary yet unrealistic tales like Volcano.

Step by Step star Patrick Duffy makes an appearance as Scuzzlebutt’s leg. I just checked and yes, he’s still alive.

Educational films teaching baby boomers how to hide from nuclear bombs were spoofed in ‘Volcano’, which was no problem for Parker and Stone who made a live action bit of similar ilk before South Park even existed.

At one point Mayor McDaniels tells an aide to call “Inside Edition, Rescue 911, and Entertainment Tonight,” two thirds of which are still somehow on the air despite the Internet rendering them useless.

Best Quote

“Well, we’ll be doing plenty of drinking on this trip; After all, hunting sober is like …fishing …sober.” – Jimbo

South Park-isms Introduced

  • First appearance of Ned.
  • Randy Marsh is introduced but he’s not revealed as being Stan’s dad.
  • Debut of Scuzzlebutt who later appeared in Season 2 as well as video games South Park 10: The Game and South Park Rally.
  • Cartman’s tendency to say ridiculous things that end up being true is birthed.
  • Popular South Park catchphrases “It’s coming right for us!” and “Cartoons kick ass” enter the lexicon.

Facts We Stole From Wikipedia

  • Stan’s hesitation about hunting mirrors Parker’s real-life feelings toward it
  • “Parker and Stone came up with the character of Scuzzlebutt during a random conversation with Comedy Central executive Debbie Liebling.”
  • “Comedy Central executives did not object to most of the content of the episode, but said the scene in which Kyle farted while talking to Stan should have been removed because nothing happened after the fart, and they said it was not funny. Parker and Stone, however, insisted it stay in the episode, and they said the lack of any reaction whatsoever to the fart was what made it funny.”
  • “A cat featured in the background of one of the outdoor scenes was designed to look exactly like Parker’s cat, Jake.”
  • “The voice of Ned was inspired by a waitress who worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, where Parker and Stone would visit while attending the University of Colorado.”

Does It Hold Up?

It’s pretty tight, but its reliance on the disaster movie trope and its Patrick Duffy reference definitely age it like the grey mane of Duffy himself.

Rating

This episode gets .32 gauges out of .46 because Jimbo and Ned were really funny even though we’ve seen plenty of redneck type characters come and go from pop culture since. The only issue I had is that the A/B plots of this one don’t intertwine as delightfully as the show has proven itself to be capable of. It’s a minor quibble but if I sat here and said every episode is peaches and cream it wouldn’t be very interesting now would it?

South Park returns for its 21st season on September 13 on Much!