With their fifth-season episode "Kenny Dies," Trey Parker and Matt Stone shook up the central cast of South Park characters: Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny. In the aftermath of Kenny's apparently permanent death, South Park's sixth season experimented by showcasing other South Park youths.
Cowed by the comparative statement "Kenny would have done it," potential "replacement" Butters becomes the butt of all of the boys' hair-brained schemes. The de facto, weeks-long audition ends when Cartman ignominiously lets Butters go, creating the conditions for the supervillain origin story "Professor Chaos." As Professor Chaos, Butters pledges revenge on an unjust world. Unfortunately for him, his elaborate plans prove to be not only ineffectual, but pale reflections of Simpsons plots (in the self-satirical episode "Simpsons Already Did It").
If Frasier, at its best, specialized in French-farce pastiches, South Park's specialty is to establish a punning sexual misconception and ride it to absurd lengths. The season opener "Jared Has Aides" details the hysteria when Subway spokesman Jared explains admits that aides—by which he means personal trainers—helped him to lose weight. Everyone else thinks he's endorsing AIDS for everyone. In "Simpsons Already Did It," the kids' adoption of sea-monkey-like sea people leads to a confusion between seamen and semen (Cartman reports that he got the extra "seamen" he needed by closing his eyes in a back alley and sucking them out of a hose).
Granted: not everyone will find such outrageous humor amusing, but South Park leavens its raunch with parody ("Asspen," a spot-on spoof of disposable '80s youth movies), cultural allusions ("The Return of the Fellowship of The Ring to The Two Towers," about the boys' accidental, innocent escorting of a porn video to the video store from whence it came), absurdism (the mythologized journey of class-gerbil Lemmiwinks through the intestines of an S&M freak), and social satire.
The latter category includes thorough skewerings of celebrity foibles and fearless campaigns on taboo subjects. "Free Hat" mocks Lucas and Spielberg for their personal artistic revisionism. In the superb "The Biggest Douche in the Universe," Parker (the credited writer and director of every episode) makes mincemeat of his best target this side of George Bush: self-proclaimed psychic John Edwards. "Red Hot Catholic Love" and "Child Abduction is Not Funny" "go there" on the topic of child abuse, and "A Ladder to Heaven" makes light of human interest stories gone awry (complete with self-serving country-music anthems).
A few episodes eschew high concepts to simply tell a satisfying story about the South Park community and its hapless children. "Bebe's Boobs Destroy Society" cleverly explores the chaos caused by a girl's pubescent sprouting of breasts and "My Future Self and Me" spins an awfully clever tale of parental betrayal and the children's revenge. Aside from Professor Chaos, the sixth season makes South Park history by brutally offing Ms. Choksondik and installing caffeinated Tweak as Butters' replacement. But all bets are once again off by the season closer "Red Sleigh Down," a Christmas show involving Mr. Hanky, the Christmas poo; Santa Claus; Jesus Christ; and...Kenny?
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