Season 1 of South Park seems quaint at this point. A show that has now become the sharpest voice in satire, it’s easy to forget that it started as a foul-mouthed version of Peanuts. Despite a different tone and an animation style that is so much cruder than the computer animation the show has now, South Park’s first episode-length Christmas episode is still a must watch each Holiday season.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone essentially have Christmas to thank for their careers, as a simple holiday e-card got them noticed all those years ago. Even now, it seems like they really bring their A-game to Christmas-themed episodes.
This is arguably the first great episode in South Park’s run, being just the tenth episode. If you haven’t seen it, South Park solidified its place in the annals of history (pun sort of intended) by introducing us to the most unique holiday mascot since Hanukkah Harry: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo. Early on, it was obvious that Parker and Stone wanted to separate themselves from their predecessor, The Simpsons, and if anal probing didn’t do it in the first episode, a singing turd clinched it.
The plot seems to be fortuitous to whoever believes in a War on Christmas: the town of South Park (led by Mrs. Broslofski) is in a PC nightmare when Mr. Garrison attempts to make the birth of Jesus the topic of the school Christmas play. The banning of the nativity during the play causes a snowball effect as everything from Santa Claus to Christmas lights to mistletoe gets banned from public display. With nothing left, Kyle, who is already upset that he has to be Jewish during Christmas, suggests Mr. Hankey as the new mascot. His insistence that a turd can talk has the whole town, including his best friends, wondering about the sanity of young Kyle and even lands him in a mental institution after several misunderstandings involving poo.
It’s a classic episode and it is amazing to go back and see just how far South Park has come from its cult-like beginnings. It’s also interesting to watch an episode in which Kenny dying in every episode is a running gag, though in this one, he actually survives; sort of a relic to a simpler time in the show’s history, but it is missed.