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Revisiting South Park’s First Season: ‘Weight Gain 4000’

Wed, August, 16 by

This is part two in a 13-part series of hand-typed Internet posts concerning the first season of South Park, the show not the town.

The reason there will be thirteen of these is because there are thirteen episodes in South Park’s historic first season, with each one of these representing one episode, get it? Since the show premiered twenty years ago it seemed like a good time to do something like this. Here’s a link to the first one and heeeeere’s the second one:

‘Weight Gain 4000’, premiered August 27, 1997

Plot Description

Cartman wins the school’s essay contest, and a celebrity comes to town.

Pop Culture References

This whole episode orbits around Kathie Lee Gifford—she was famous for being the Kelly Ripa to Regis Philbin’s Michael Strahan back in the 90s. One of Mayor McDaniels’ assistants makes a joke about sweatshops, which has its roots in a 1996 scandal that revealed Gifford’s eponymous fashion line was made by the nimble fingers of child labour.

There’s a reference to the film Taxi Driver with Mr. Garrison taking a cue from Robert DeNiro’s wacky portrayal of an unhinged cabbie, which then transitioned into a goof on the JFK assassination when Garrison takes position in a book depository to get a clear shot at Kathie Lee just as Lee Harvey Oswald or some other dude did back in 1963.

Garrison would’ve had an easier time murdering Kathie Lee had she not been safely encased in a Pope-style car dome, which for centuries has protected the pontiff from heathens hurling skunks and all manner of Satan-approved detritus at him as he tours the world like a modern day Bon Jovi.

Once foiled, Garrison says “Well, I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids”, which is a reference to an old children’s cartoon about an easily frightened talking dog and his teenage masters who are also ghost detectives (Scooby Doo).

At the end of the episode we see Cartman the Geraldo show starring Geraldo Riviera, a mustachioed TV personality who once led a quest to find Al Capone’s gold. And he would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

Best Quote

“Damn, I guess I’m not the only person in America who’s thought of killing Kathie Lee Gifford”– Mr. Garrison

South Park-isms Introduced

  • South Park episodes famously being with a title card that warns against its naughty language and poor celebrity impressions. This is the first of many episodes where the impression warning actually comes into play.
  • This is the first appearance of Mayor McDaniels.
  • This episode offers the first glimpse of Mr. Garrison being a petty psycho and holding a grudge against someone for something very minor.
  • Cartman’s “Beefcake” line was an early catchphrase for the character that ended up on t-shirts and low quality sound files that dazzled the minds of early PC owners.
  • Both Bebe and Clyde speak for the first time.
  • Cartman debuts his legendary distaste for hippies.
  • We are introduced to Jimbo for the first time.
  • Kenny is killed in the pilot but this is the first time Kyle delivers the first ever “Oh my God, they killed Kenny! You bastard!” after he croaks.

Facts We Stole From Wikipedia

  • After ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’ didn’t test well with audiences, Comedy Central asked Trey Parker and Matt Stone to write another episode to prove they could hack it. That episode was/is ‘Weight Gain 4000’.
  • This is the first South Parkepisode made completely using computers, which had hackers across the globe licking their chops.
  • “The 30-page script was shorter than in later episodes, which would average between 45 to 50 pages.”
  • “Mr. Garrison’s hatred for Gifford was foreshadowed in ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’, where the sentence “I’m not positive, but I think Cathy [sic] Lee Gifford is much older than she claims to be”, can be seen on his classroom’s chalkboard.”

Does It Hold Up?

‘Weight Gain 4000’ accurately gives an idea of what the series would eventually become, including spoofing celebs and critiquing culture, earning this episode some of the show’s earliest praise.

It still feels a bit slow but according to our vast amounts of research Parker and Stone had yet to master the pacing of their voices that is later sped up to create the pre-pubescent sound of little boys, so it’s more a technical issue than one of quality.

If you’re too young to remember the heyday of Kathie Lee you might be like, “What the hell is this?” but otherwise it’s quite delightful.

Rating

I give this episode 3200 grams of saturated fat out of 4000 for being funny and good!

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