by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & South Park & r & & r & (various times, Comedy Central, and at www.southparkstudios.com) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & outh Park seems like old news, like part of the scenery beside indistinguishable seasons of The Simpsons and Family Guy. I'd always dismissed it because it was popular among my stupid peers in high school, and I didn't give it a chance until after I saw Team America, also by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Thus I learned that while South Park is indeed stupid and random, it has nevertheless evolved into a unique source of social commentary. It's the most punk-rock show on television.
My favorite episodes are the ones that get people. There's never a retort to getting trashed on South Park. Sometimes the targets are well-worn, but even then it's pleasingly cathartic to see a show directly naming Paris Hilton as a Stupid Spoiled Whore instead of just implying it strongly. And there are more obscure targets, like celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins. It tickles me that he's spent his whole life making a reputation as some sort of scientist and now a large portion of Americans will always think of him, if they think of him, as the guy so blind he humped Ms. Garrison -- Ms. Garrison being the former Mr. Garrison, after a graphic sex-change operation in an episode where the show indirectly equated transsexuals with humans trying to turn themselves into dolphins because they feel like dolphins inside. Edgy stuff, possibly even hate speech.
More galling to some would be South Park's ongoing war against the environment, which has been going on since the "Rainforest, Shmainforest" episode from the third season. Since then hybrid car owners, global-warming prophets in general and Al Gore in particular have been openly mocked the way they've deserved. "Boys, I don't want you hanging around with that ex-Vice President ... he's just desperate for attention," is possibly the smartest thing Stan's dad has ever said. The final verdict on Al Gore is that, without global warming, he's just a friendless loser.
Season 12 is currently showing on Comedy Central, not to mention streaming and free at www.southparkstudios.com, along with all prior seasons. One of the most recent episodes contains three scenes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg raping Indiana Jones, Crystal Skull-style. Thank you, South Park, I was in denial about that, too.
Hacking Democracy and Recount
It's a foregone conclusion that I'm going to be hearing about how the 2008 election was stolen in some form or other for the rest of my life. As Commander Data said regarding time travel, "It has occurred, it will occur." And yet despite this sense of the inevitable, I still resent HBO for programming these specifically to wind people up right before the election. (HBO, Monday, 7:30 pm)
Sex...with Mom and Dad
Talking about, not having. Gross, nonetheless. This show is the skin-crawlingest thing ever concocted by MTV to rape my occasional feeling that other people might actually be OK. The utter horror will set in when you reflect that, despite how fake reality TV is, after the cameras are gone these people act pretty much the same. Breeding. Nonstop. (MTV, Sundays, 8 pm)
Gangland: Aryan Brotherhood
This just might be the scariest gang ever, because they're a gang plus they're racist. The other gangs must really hate these guys, which probably just makes them tougher, like the Warriors but all white. (History, Saturdays, 8 pm)
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.