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Revisiting South Park’s First Episode: ‘Cartman Gets An Anal Probe’

Fri, August, 11 by

For most, August 13 is spent celebrating the birth of Fidel Castro, the affable Cuban dictator who finally made smoking cigars look cool. Now that he’s dead, we’d like to draw your attention to another important August 13 milestone: the birth of South Park, a beloved animated comedy that made its television debut on that day way back in the Puff Daddy-dominated summer of 1997.

The spawn of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone made immediate impact on pop culture thanks to its crude humour, crude animation and colourful cast of characters who at times made Springfield look like Sesame Street.

After 20 seasons and one major motion picture, the show’s legacy has gone well beyond shock value and is now better known for its intelligent and hilarious commentary on our stupid world at any given time, filtered through the potty mouths of four small town grade-schoolers.

Rather than drive to Colorado, kidnap four kids, dress them up like Stan, Kenny, Kyle and Cartman, then force them to perform the series premiere live, we’ve decided to celebrate by watching the entire first season all over again and analyze each episode.

We’ll do it in the standard “start from the beginning and end at the end” style, which means that OUR premiere blog post is THEIR premiere episode. Grab some Snacky S’mores, kick up your feet and enjoy this overview of Season 1, Episode 1, “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe.

Plot Description

Aliens land in South Park and kidnap Kyle’s little brother.

Pop Culture References

Parker and Stone were clearly influenced by the alien “invasion” of the mid-’90s in creating of this episode, taking cues from the X-Files, which was heading into its fifth season and the height of its popularity. It also references forgettable abduction movies, namely Fire in the Sky (1993), with Ike even mumbling the film’s title after he’s rescued by Kyle.

Other references include Cartman recalling a dream where Scott Baio gives him pinkeye, Cartman claiming a crop circle in his likeness actually looks like Tom Selleck, Kyle telling Ike to do his “impression of David Caruso’s career” by jumping out of a spaceship and Chef talking about watching Sanford and Son.

Best Quote

“This is nothing unusual, cows turn themselves inside out all the time” – Officer Barbrady

South Park-isms Introduced

  • Kyle introduces his favourite game to play with Ike, “kick the baby.”
  • Cartman’s tendency to not know what something is (in this case, a dildo), his “screw you guys I’m going home” catchphrase, as well as his outright denial that anything is wrong with him when something clearly is (the satellite in his ass) is established in episode one.
  • Garrison teaches his first of many factually incorrect lessons.
  • Stan begins his love affair and subsequent barf-a-thon with Wendy.
  • Chef gives his first piece of inappropriate advice to the boys in the form of the track “Love Gravy,” which later appeared on the Chef Aid performed by Rick James.
  • Kenny dies for the first of many times, yet without the “Oh my God, they killed Kenny! You bastards!” coda.
  • The tradition of the boys learning a lesson at the end of each episode is introduced with Kyle learning that he loves his little brother.

Facts We Stole From Wikipedia

  • Due to a lack of budget, this episode “remains the only South Park episode animated largely without the use of computer technology.” Take that, nerds!
  • In the original pilot “Cartman farts fire because some older kids feed him hot tamales, while in the shortened version, he does so because of the alien probe implanted in him.”
  • The character “Pip” was originally a big part of the pilot.

Does it Hold up?

Weeeellllll it does and it doesn’t. The characters are established fairly well and there’s some good South Parky shit that forms the basis of the series as a whole.

This episode does come across as being meaner and cruder than its successors, especially the part where Stan keeps calling the bus driver a “fat bitch.” But apparently Parker and Stone felt pressured to make the pilot more obscene to keep with the tone of the earlier shorts that made them popular, which they thankfully quelled going forward.

They seem to have even mocked themselves in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, where the movie within the movie starring Terrance and Philip is titled “Asses of Fire,” a nod to the flaming ass of Cartman in this episode. Similarly, in the Season 6 episode “Free Hat” where the boys take issue with Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas’ unnecessary tinkering with their own films, a “remastered” trailer for this episode is shown before a screening of a remastered Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Rating

7 out of 10 dildos due to historical significance and ability to evoke memories of my formative years.

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