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Revisiting South Park’s First Season: ‘Death’

Fri, August, 25 by

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

Episode 6? 666? Like The Devil? The guy who wants to kill everyone? When you’re killed you die and when you die you’re dead. Your “death” is how you died and the name of the guy who makes you dead. “Death” is the name of this episode. Holy, I’m like, so freaked out.

Here are previous posts on Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4, Episode 5

“Death” premiered September 17, 1997.

Plot Description

Stan’s grandpa doesn’t want to live anymore while the parents of South Park don’t want Terrance and Phillip on the air because they’re rude. There’s tons of pooing and farting in this episode that takes place in South Park and New York City. The Grim Reaper shows up but he doesn’t speak English.

Pop Culture References

This episode fulfills the promise of its title by dealing directly with death. While on the subject, Kyle mentions a “Jack Laborkian” meaning Jack Kevorkian, a pathologist who killed a bunch of willing participants in the 90s.

The fictional “Cartoon Central” TV network is protested against which is a less than subtle nod to South Park’s corporate overlords, Comedy Central. During the protest, Sheila Broflovski says, “We want more QUALITY television like Full House,” which was the prequel to popular Netflix show Fuller House and follows the adventures of a freaky family completely bereft of personality and vice.

When Grandpa Marsh tries to show Stan what being elderly is like he locks him in a dark room and plays a parody of “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” by Enya, an alien woman who made songs that people who love win are really into. The song is called “Gonna Fly” and is performed by South Park voice actor, Toddy Walters.

Cartoon Central replaces Terrance and Phillip with She’s the Sheriff starring Suzanne Somers. I just learned this show actually existed, which further strengthens my pop culture knowledge that could finally land me a spot on the trivia team that shunned me for not knowing who Madeleine Stowe is.

Best Quote

“I killed my grandpa when I was your age!” – Marvin Marsh

South Park-isms Introduced

  • Stan’s grandpa Marvin is sewn into the quilt that is South Park.
  • This is the first of many instances where the show using the trusty “parents trying to protect their children” story device.
  • Terrance and Philip make their debut though they’re not identified as Canadians and even wear American flag patches on their space suits.
  • We get our first taste of Sheila Broflovski, who is referred to as “Carol” by Liane Cartman. What’s even stranger is that Sheila calls Sharon Marsh “Carol” as well.
  • With Sheila comes Cartman’s first ever insistence that she is a bitch.
  • This episode is largely the basis for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
  • Death is introduced and returns briefly in Season 2.

Facts We Stole From Wikipedia

  • “The episode, along with the Terrance and Phillip show, were inspired by early criticism that South Park was little more than flatulence jokes and primitive animation.” It then inspired many of us to fart more in our everyday lives.
  • “The subplot of Kenny’s diarrhea problems came from a real-life high school experience from Stone, who said students used to offer each other $20 if they would pass a note to the teacher explaining they had “explosive diarrhea”, like Kenny did in the episode.” This fact stinks! hehehe

Does It Hold Up?

In a way it doesn’t because kids don’t really watch TV anymore and the stuff they see on the Internet is way worse than cartoon characters farting. But the themes are still resonant and it’s cool seeing one of the earliest examples of the show making fun of itself and showing that that behind its silliness are serious undertones, like Stan’s questioning of why assisted suicide is wrong and their speech on spending time with kids and not censoring what they watch.

Rating

If you’re really bored and you want to watch this episode you might as well just watch South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. BUT if you only have 22 minutes to spare because mom’s coming home soon with a bushel of nectarines, watch it because it’s really good. The introduction of Terrance and Phillip alone is huge so I give this episode 68 out of 70 degrees.

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