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Dec. 7 – Woodland Critter Christmas

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“It’s Critter Christmas, dude, it sucks ass”

This episode of South Park feels so infamous that I don’t feel the need to include South Park in the title of the post. South Park’s most recent Christmas special, now 13 years old mind you, is a rather notorious episode. It’s so farcical that it feels silly even by the standards of the show, and if you’re at all familiar with South Park you know how ridiculous it can get. After centering most of its Christmas episodes around a magical, talking poop, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone probably felt like there was little left for them to do with South Park. In the year before this episode, they sent the boys to Canada for a Wizard of Oz parody that felt a little off, as far as Christmas episodes go. It was the special before that, “Red Sleigh Down,” that felt like a conclusion to the stories they had been telling centered around the holiday. In some respects, it’s a bit surprising they didn’t stop there, but maybe since the show originated as a Christmas special they felt compelled to keep returning to the subject. And it suddenly makes sense that the framing device for this episode is a boy telling a story about Christmas. A woodland, critter Christmas, if you will.

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The little boy in the red poof-ball hat and his new “friends.”

The episode opens with a narrator, a narrator who will stick with us throughout the episode and is very obviously Trey Parker (like most of the voices on the show). The episode sets up South Park as a quiet little mountain town getting ready for Christmas, and we’re taken to the forest where the little critters are busy getting ready for Christmas too. It’s over the top in its sweetness, complete with a sappy song, but the episode does a good job of playing things off as sincere. The episode even gets its own title card with all of the critters as they sing their little song about Christmas being almost here. The narrator introduces all of the critters and they all have simple names which is just the name of the animal with an “e” sound added to the end, e.g. – Rabbitty the rabbit, Beary the bear, etc. The scene is evocative of “Frosty the Snowman” when the animals in that special decorate the forrest for Christmas. South Park takes it one step further by making these critters able to speak and they also all wear a festive scarf, sweater, or hat. It’s also probably inspired by the Chucklewood Critters, and if you aren’t familiar with that series then tune in a bit closer to Christmas for something on them.

A little boy in a red poof-ball hat happens upon the scene of the critters decorating their tree. The boy is Stan, and he’s kind of surprised to see animals behaving this way, but also couldn’t really care less. The critters need a star for their tree, but they can’t make one themselves, and they implore Stan to give them a hand. Stan is our unwilling participant in this story as he’ll need to be pushed along, often times trying to ignore the will of the narrator or being outwardly defiant towards him. Since making a star isn’t too bad, Stan obliges then goes home. The critters are appreciative and celebrate Stan (I should say, Stanny) as their new best friend while Stan walks away probably hoping to never see them again.

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Evil Satanic powers at work.

That night, the critters surprise Stan by visiting him in his room. They wake him up in the middle of the night with some “exciting” news:  Porcupiney is pregnant! There’s a catch though, she’s been impregnated immaculately and the critters believe she will give birth to their savior. A savior of their very own! They need Stan’s help though to build a manger for Porcupiney, and Stan reluctantly helps. He leaves the warmth of his bed to drowsily assemble a pretty decent looking manger, only for a mountain lion to show up and frighten he and the critters. It is then revealed to Stan that this happens every year:  a critter gets pregnant, and a mountain lion kills the critter before the birth can take place. The critters need Stan’s help to slay the mountain lion. Once again, Stan reluctantly helps out the critters and seeks out the mountain lion. He finds the creature in a cave and is able to get the beast to chase him up a mountain that looks suspiciously like Mt. Crumpet. There he is able to dodge the lion’s charge sending her plummeting to her demise in a scene reminiscent of Mufasa’s death from The Lion King. Once the lion strikes earth, its cubs emerge sad and dismayed to see their mother dead. Stan pleads ignorance, as the talking cubs question why he killed their mom and seem resigned to their orphaned state. Stan, speechless, slumps back to the critters.

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Well, we were all expecting the episode to take a dark turn at some point, but few probably predicted this.

The critters learn of the mountain lion’s demise and are elated. Now their savior can be born – Heil Satan! What?! Stan is beside himself to hear the critters praise the dark one, and is speechless as they sacrifice Rabbitty to the devil and take part in a blood orgy. The camera lingers long enough for us to see most of the details of the blood orgy as the critters pleasure themselves around the manger in a scene no one probably ever expected to see in a cartoon.

Stan returns to his home, seemingly resigned to the fact that he played a part in the soon to occur birth of the antichrist. He wants no part in what’s to come, but our persistent narrator gets Stan to get off of his butt and head back to the forest. When Stan attempts to take down the manger he built, the critters are forced to use their evil, Satanic powers on him shooting him with lasers and summoning demonic flames. Stan is forced to run and the narrator clues him in to the fact that three mountain lions still live that can maybe stop this. When Stan returns to the cubs he’s mocked by the trio as they’re quick to point out they can’t do anything to stop the critters. Then Stan has an idea – he can take the cubs to an abortion clinic. There they can learn how to perform an abortion and perhaps prevent the birth of the antichrist from ever occurring! Stan does just that and we get perhaps the weirdest montage to ever appear in a Christmas special as the cubs happily mess around in an abortion clinic while patients giggle and the doctor is happy to show them all he knows.

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Santa’s here and he isn’t messing around.

Armed wth this new found knowledge, Stan and the cubs return to the critters only to find out they’re too late. The antichrist has been born! The antichrist needs a human host though, and since Stan was raised Catholic he’s been baptized and thus can’t serve in that role. They had tried asking him earlier and were dismayed to know their old buddy couldn’t be of further use, but unknown to Stan the critters had happened upon his best friend Kyle. Kyle is Jewish, and therefore he has not been baptized. When Stan and the cubs find the antichrist born, they also find Kyle tied down to a stone altar of sorts. A red star bleeds in the night sky to mark the occasion, which also alerts Santa Claus of the danger. Santa arrives as the critters are preparing to put their savior in Kyle. Santa is rather displeased in the role Stan has played up to this point, and seems all together annoyed he has to deal with this situation. He produces a shotgun and immediately starts laying waste to the critters, their Satanic powers doing little to stop him.

With the critters destroyed all that is left is for the antichrist to die. Since it lacks a host, Santa informs the boys they don’t need to do anything, it’ll die on its own. That’s when Kyle springs into action. He wants the antichrist inside of him so he can make the world a better place for the Jews!

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Ever see a mountain lion cub perform an abortion on a nine year old boy? You have now.

We’re immediately brought to a classroom scene as Kyle shouts for Cartman to cease reading his story. Apparently this whole time Cartman was essentially our narrator as he reads a Christmas story to Mr. Garrison’s fourth grade class. Kyle doesn’t want Cartman to continue since it’s become obvious the whole story served as a means for Cartman to mock him for being Jewish. Mr. Garrison tells Cartman he can’t continue because Kyle’s mom will raise Hell if he allows him to make fun of Kyle for being Jewish. Cartman reluctantly leaves his stool at the front of the class while the rest of the kids in class plead with him to say what happens, with Stan asking him if he has a merry Christmas. Kyle theorizes on where the story goes with Cartman insisting he has it all wrong. When the other kids plead with Kyle to let Cartman finish the story he angrily relents and Cartman returns to the head of the class.

When the setting shifts back into the story, we find Kyle is now the antichrist, only it doesn’t feel so good. He immediately comes to regret his decision, while Santa informs him that he has to kill him now. Stan has a different idea though, and tells the lion cubs to use the knowledge they gained at the abortion clinic to fetch the antichrist out of Kyle’s ass. They get right to work, and sure enough, they yank the yapping little creature out of Kyle’s rectum. Santa then smashes it with a sledgehammer and the skies return to their normal appearance. Santa, now not so sour about what took place, tells Stan he deserves a special Christmas present for all he has been through. Stan asks Santa to restore the life of the mountain lion, which he does. Everyone is happy as the camera slowly pulls back on a shot of the snow-covered town. Then it cuts quickly to Kyle in a hospital bed and the narrator informs us that he got AIDS and died two weeks later.

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The critters returned years later as some of the chief villains of the Imaginationland trilogy.

“Woodland Critter Christmas” is an uncomfortably hilarious episode of South Park, and it’s not surprising they have declined to attempt a true Christmas special ever since. It’s one of the few episodes I can remember where everyone I knew was talking about it after it aired, “Did you see that episode of South Park with the woodland critters?” It takes the mold of a generic Christmas special and subverts it expertly. Most episodes that tried to do something like this probably would have abandoned the narrator after the first act, feeling the joke was done, but South Park keeps it up for the entire duration of the episode. The fact that the critters turn out to be a bunch of devil worshippers is not entirely surprising, since anyone familiar with the show knows there’s more to them than meets the eye when first encountered, but the angle is pursued in such an uncompromising fashion that it’s hard to believe. And it then takes things one step further by, in a Christmas special, using abortion as a tool to stop the antichrist and save the world. I remember being home for the holidays and making my little sister watch this episode on Christmas Eve because she hadn’t seen it. My dad watched with us up until the Satan reveal and then went to bed, remarking stuff like this is why America is so screwed up. I had never seen him react in such a way to anything before, and I haven’t since.

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This special, and all of the others, can be found on the Christmas Time in South Park DVD released in 2007.

Because the episode is so uncomfortable for some, I can understand if this isn’t exactly a beloved holiday classic. My very own sister thought it was pretty hilarious, but also doesn’t really enjoy watching it again. And to some extent, the episode doesn’t really hold up well with repeated viewings. Most of the humor is derived from the surprises that crop up and they’re obviously not surprising any longer. I still think it holds up as an absurd Christmas special. Maybe not a classic, but a lot of the shocking imagery still makes me laugh in an “I can’t believe they did this” kind of way, even though the show has probably done far worse since.

“Woodland Critter Christmas” is likely to receive numerous airings all month long on Comedy Central and wherever South Park is syndicated. The episode can also be found on the DVD set for South Park Season 8 and on the DVD release Christmas Time in South Park, which may be out of print at this point, but is still pretty easy and cheap to acquire. That set is pretty great if you just want all of the South Park Christmas specials, of which there are seven, in one convenient package.

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#8 – South Park: Mr. Hanky, The Christmas Poo

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“Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo” (1997)

You can always count on South Park for something perverse, and it doesn’t get much more perverse than a talking piece of Christmas shit. South Park has made quite a few holiday specials, and no holiday has received more attention than Christmas. South Park’s Christmas specials contain some of the usual suspects like Jesus and Santa Claus, but creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker apparently felt they needed their own Christmas mascot so they created Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo.

Mr. Hankey is the star of the show’s very first Christmas special which aired during the first season. Mr. Hankey is presented as a benevolent spirit of the holidays who packs more Christmas cheer into his tiny, little body than any man, woman, or child. Mr. Hankey is the star of the episode, but the plot centers around Kyle who feels left out at Christmas because he’s apparently the only Jewish kid in town. His mother flips out at Mr. Garrison for casting Kyle as Joseph in the school Christmas pageant which snowballs on Garrison as everyone apparently has a problem with some aspect of Christmas. The Jews want to ditch the nativity, the Christians want Santa out, the hippies want to stop the slaughter of trees, and so on.

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Mr. Hankey in Mr. Mackey’s coffee is probably the best gag in the entire episode, or worst, depending on your point of view.

Meanwhile, Kyle views Mr. Hankey as the solution to the town’s problem because he brings presents to all good girls and boys (so long as they eat their fiber), regardless of religion. It’s just that few in town are willing to embrace a piece of crap as a new Christmas mascot. Kyle starts seeing Mr. Hankey everywhere as a personified dookie with a Santa hat, which leads to some disgusting but hilarious gags, while everyone else just sees a regular old mookie-stink. Kyle ends up getting committed, only for the kids to find out Chef believes in Mr. Hankey, and the special actually wraps up in a pretty typical Christmas special sort of way, when you ignore the talking poop.

It’s funny, it’s ridiculous, but South Park actually does a pretty nice job of highlighting how non-Christian kids must feel at Christmas time. There’s a heart here, which is part of the humor as Parker and Stone prove to the viewer that we too can love a piece of poo. “Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo” can be found on the season one box set of South Park and also the “Christmas Time in South Park” DVD, which I reviewed previously. The special, along with every other South Park Christmas special, is almost certainly guaranteed to air on Comedy Central this year so check your local listings if you want to catch it. And lastly, every episode of South Park is available to stream on hulu if you want to watch it that way.


#4 Best in TV Animation: South Park

imageViewers have been going down to South Park for nearly 20 years. That’s pretty incredible considering its humble origins, and if it weren’t for The Simpsons, we would likely all be marveling even more at the show’s longevity. More so than any other series featured on this list, South Park has demonstrated a willingness to change with the times in natural, almost seamless, ways. Originally the show focused on its four main characters:  Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman. These four eight-year-olds got into trouble, cursed like sailors, and often found themselves being confused about the world around them. Even though it’s a comedy, it sometimes felt like a more authentic coming-of-age series than most programs that aim to be just that. Being constantly puzzled by the actions of the adults around them while more or less trying to act like them often reminds me of how I was at that age, when profanity was a new and exciting tool to make use of. Over the years, South Park has taken on a more satirical tone often poking fun at current events, politics, and celebrity culture. Throughout all of this, it’s remained one of the funniest programs on television.

By now most people are aware of the origins of the show. College students Trey Parker and Matt Stone experimented with a crude form of stop-motion animation that utilized paper characters as opposed to puppets or clay and created a short work depicting a fight between Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus. This short would be remade with Jesus taking the place of Frosty and would eventually lead to Comedy Central making them an offer to produce their own series. Ditching the pain-staking stop-motion process for computer animation that mimicked it helped to create the show’s signature look. The look of the program back in 1997 when it debuted could probably be classified as crude, but has improved by leaps since though the show has never abandoned its signature style. Improvements in technology mean Parker and Stone can now create great looking content in as little time as a few days. This quick turn-around makes South Park unique in the world of animation, and in non-live television in general, in that fairly recent events can be satirized rather quickly.

The show often looks to pop culture for its humor.

The show often looks to pop culture for its humor.

Part of the charm of South Park is that not only has the style changed with the times but characters have grown and changed throughout the years as well. Cartman is the most obvious as he’s gone from an annoying little twerp to a true sociopath with some homicidal tendencies. Randy Marsh has gone form a well-meaning father to become more of a narcissist with some (admittedly cliche by animation standards) moronic tendencies. Mr. Garrison has gone from a closeted homosexual, to transgender woman, and back again (I think?). Characters that initially existed for shock value, such as Big Gay Al when it was still rare to see homosexuals on television, have been discarded before they ceased to be funny any longer.

Perhaps most remarkable is how South Park has primarily remained a two-man show. Sure, Parker and Stone now oversee their own studio with a full staff but the two of them still write virtually all of the material for the show and do 90% of the voice work. It’s somewhat surprising they’ve been able to resist the urge to simply hand the show off to some underlings while sitting back to collect checks. Most shows that last this long see full turnover in their writing staff. Larry David didn’t last half as long with Seinfeld, for comparison.

While the show has become more intelligent, there's still plenty of gross humor to be found.

While the show has become more intelligent, there’s still plenty of gross humor to be found.

This isn’t all to say that South Park is a perfect show. There have been plenty of moments where the show seemed to be running low on creative ideas. In its lowest moments, some may have considered what the show would look like with new voices contributing content but Parker and Stone have shown an ability to bounce back. The show has yet to truly hit rock bottom, but it’s probably safe to say its best years have past. So much of the program relies on shock value and after so many years there’s little the show can do to shock its viewers. When Cartman first sought revenge against Scott Tenorman by tricking the boy into eating his own parents I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Now seeing the character casually murder someone brings a much smaller reaction. Characters have been vomiting and defecating on each other for so long that the gags are neither truly funny or gross at this point. And of course the show’s longest running gag of Kenny dying each episode has long since been abandoned when that ceased to be funny.

When the show is firing on all cylinders though, it still proves to be very funny. Last year’s season premiere which lampooned the NFL and crowd-funding sites was poignant with its observational humor and seems almost funnier now in light of recent events with the NFL and Roger Goodell, in particular. The show has been so good for so long that viewers just have great expectations. When South Park sets out to poke fun at the latest celebrity scandal it almost needs to go for the less obvious joke. To liven up the last two seasons the show has opted to adopt a more serialized format with plot lines lasting multiple episodes and callbacks being inserted. It’s a change I don’t think many saw coming, but it’s one that has worked to make even the lesser episodes feel more important.

By far, the show's greatest source of humor rests in its celebrity "guest" stars.

By far, the show’s greatest source of humor rests in its celebrity “guest” stars.

It remains to be seen how long the show will run for. Recently the season orders have been cut in half as Parker and Stone find it too daunting to create a full season’s worth of programs. Prior to that, the show had operated with two-part seasons occurring in the spring and fall so that Parker and Stone could have more material to work with. Clearly, it’s become more of a challenge for them to keep the show fresh but both insist that South Park is a part of them and the end is not yet in sight. This can only be considered a good thing for those enjoying satirical humor with their animation. The show has progressed from being about some potty-mouthed kids with an accident prone friend to something that’s actually pretty intelligent and cleverly produced (though the show is not above the occasional dumb or crude joke). And unlike most shows on this list, there’s still room for it to grow. Maybe in ten years we’ll be talking about South Park as the greatest animated comedy of all-time. Who could have predicted that back in 1997?


Christmas Time in South Park

Christmas Time in South Park (2007)

Christmas Time in South Park (2007)

South Park famously began as a video Christmas card, so it should come as no surprise that the television series (which just concluded its 17th season) has spawned many Christmas specials of its own.  Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone actually haven’t done a new one since 2004’s Woodland Critter Christmas, but still have output seven Christmas specials which have been conveniently compiled for the DVD release Christmas Time in South Park.  The first run of Christmas specials for the show actually felt connected to one another as they all explored the spirit of Christmas:  what is it?  What does Christmas mean?  Of course, this being South Park, don’t expect a lot of feel-good and overly sentimental holiday themes as is found in most Christmas specials, though surprisingly some of these episodes echo their tamer counterparts and some even have a good heart at the center of the story.

Lets talk about these episodes, and specifically, the DVD release of Christmas Time in South Park.  The DVD case and menus echo those Little Golden Book releases you may remember from your childhood.  The menus are animated and the characters will berate you for taking too long to select a feature.  The cursor of your DVD player, naturally, is represented by a smear of Mr. Hankey leavings.  All seven Christmas specials are featured in chronological order.  Unfortunately, all seven are also censored like their season release counterparts (for South Park’s older episodes, uncensored versions do not exist as no one anticipated there being a huge market for full seasons of TV shows) which means you’ll be hearing beeps whenever the characters utter a colorful phrase.  Also missing, is the short that started it all:  The Spirit of Christmas.  This seems like a huge and careless omission to me.  Why go through the effort of putting out a compilation of Christmas specials and leave out the very first one? My only guess is that the studio felt that The Spirit of Christmas was too strong a selling point for releases like South Park:  The Hits and its inclusion would harm other DVD sales.  Quite possibly, it was just forgotten as this DVD was slapped together quickly to cash-in on the holiday season.

The first Christmas special, and the one that introduced Mr. Hankey to the world.

The first Christmas special, and the one that introduced Mr. Hankey to the world.

At least there are still seven, mostly excellent, Christmas episodes for your viewing pleasure.  The first being Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.  This was South Park’s first Christmas special and apparently Parker and Stone wanted to create a new Christmas icon for the world they created so they turned to a talking piece of shit.  Parker and Stone hold nothing back when it comes to Mr. Hankey.  He’s disgusting, and they don’t want you to forget that so we get bits of him leaving poo trails everywhere he goes and even bathing in Mr. Mackey’s coffee, while he sips it.  The framework of the episode is Kyle feeling excluded from all of the Christmas excitement on account of him being Jewish.  Simultaneously, Kyle’s mother (the Jewish community) is upset about the inclusion of the nativity in a school Christmas play.  Her complaining to the mayor sets off a chain reaction where in response the devout Catholics in town demand to see Santa removed from the play, hippies want to get rid of Christmas trees, epileptics demand the removal of Christmas lights, and the virgins (presumably) want to get rid of mistletoe.  The show is clearly poking fun at all of the people that get uptight over Christmas, and Mr. Hankey is called on to save the day.  That the town needs to listen to crap in order to see the error of its ways is probably a commentary on something too.  Everyone thinks Kyle is insane for seeing and believing in Mr. Hankey, until the boys find out Chef does as well.  Once everyone believes, Mr. Hankey reminds everyone that Christmas is a time to be nice to one another, forget about all of the bad stuff in the world, and bake cookies.  Kyle is released from the nut house, and Kenny lives to see the end credits for the first time.  It’s a wacky Christmas special, that may still be the show’s best, with tons of gross-out and hilarious moments.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson! is the second season’s Christmas special and it’s subversive in a different way.  Rather than try to be absurd and gross people out with singing poop, Parker and Stone decided to use an unlikely character and have him saved by Christmas.  Enter mass-murderer Charlie Manson, faithfully depicted with a swastika tattooed on his forehead.  Cartman and his mom are heading to Nebraska to visit family for Christmas, and the boys have been invited along.  Kyle is allowed to go presumably because his family is Jewish and couldn’t care less that it’s Christmas while Kenny’s family is sending him on a  mission to bring back leftovers.  Stan’s mom is the only one who has a problem with her son being away from the family at Christmas, so Stan sneaks out and tells the Cartmans that his family is dead.  When the boys get to Nebraska (after a long and torturous car ride full of singing) they find that a house full of Cartmans is a horrible place to be as all of them basically act just like their own Eric Cartman.  They soon find out that Cartman has an incarcerated Uncle Howard, as he breaks out of jail and (stupidly) returns to hide-out in his parent’s basement.  He brings along his buddy, Charlie Manson, whom the boys are ignorant of.  When no one will take them to the mall to see Mr. Hankey, Manson offers to do it himself to avoid sitting and watching Christmas specials all day.  At the mall though, he watches a poop version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and begins to see the light.  He gets his tattoo altered into a smiley face, and takes the kids home, but not before attracting the attention of the local police.  They’re soon all trapped in the house as Uncle Howard takes the family hostage.  Manson, now full of Christmas spirit, convinces Howard to surrender and even reminds Stan that Christmas is a time for family.  The episode ends with the characters from the episode in Manson’s jail cell wishing him a merry Christmas, Charlie Brown style.  As Stan reminds us, this is some pretty fucked up shit right here.

If you don't like his special, he has some balls you can suck.

If you don’t like his special, he has some balls you can suck.

Season Three’s Christmas special is Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.  It’s just a collection of songs, some traditional and some new, sung by the characters of South Park.  It’s kind of a love it or hate it episode, and one I’m not really fond of.  However, Mr. Hankey instructs the audience during the intro that if we don’t like it we can suck his tiny little balls.  As small as they may be, I don’t want to suck any poo balls so I’ll cease to speak of this episode right here.

Season Four brings us A Very Crappy Christmas and it could basically be re-titled as The Story of South Park.  That’s because in it the boys actually create and animate The Spirit of Christmas just like their creators.  Following the events of the first two Christmas specials, the people of South Park now understand that Christmas is a time for being merry and spending with one’s family.  The commercialism is gone, and the boys are pretty pissed off about not getting presents so they go looking for a strangely absent Mr. Hankey.  They find their favorite piece of crap has been MIA because he now has a wife and turds of his own.  As the boys lament the absence of what they perceive to be the Christmas spirit, they get the idea to make their very own Christmas special.  The mayor, who needs the commercialism to spur the economy, agrees to fund their little project.  Nothing goes right, but when Kyle channels his own inner Christmas spirit (and the Rankin/Bass feature Twas the Night Before Christmas) he gets everyone back on track.  Most of the episode is a parody of Twas the Night Before Christmas while also containing numerous in-jokes for longtime South Park fans.  In the end, they’re able to show the town The Spirit of Christmas and everyone realizes that Christmas is about one thing:  presents.  Everyone starts shopping immediately and the town’s economy is saved.  Yay!

The Hankey family expands in A Very Crappy Christmas.

The Hankey family expands in A Very Crappy Christmas.

Season Five was the first to not feature a Christmas episode, but season six restored order with Red Sleigh Down, a parody of Black Hawk Down and the conclusion of what I see as the Christmas story started in season one.  In it,  Cartman desperately wants some slick new toy but realizes he’s been far too naughty to hope to get anything from Santa so he goes all out to be nice at the last minute.  His scheming leads him to believe that if he helps Santa bring Christmas to Iraq that will be enough, so he enlists the help of Stan and Kyle (Kenny’s been dead all season) and eventually Mr. Hankey in order to do so.  Mr. Hankey is thrilled at Cartman’s Christmas spirit and agrees to help by taking the boys to the North Pole aboard the Poo-Choo Express (it’s just as disgusting as you imagine).  Santa agrees that Christmas should be brought to Iraq, and the boys watch from the North Pole as Santa’s sleigh is shot down by an RPG over Iraq.  Now feeling guilty and terrified by the prospects of no more Christmas presents, the boys enlist the help of the one man who can save Santa:  Jesus.  They all take Santa’s back-up sleigh to Iraq where Jesus becomes a one-man death machine as he takes out numerous soldiers to save Santa.  Their escape goes wrong when Jesus is shot from behind and dies in Santa’s arms.  They’re able to escape, but not before a vengeful Claus does finally bring Christmas to Iraq.  Back in South Park, the townspeople have been distracted by the speech impediment of Jimmy who’s attempting to recite The Twelve Days of Christmas, an episode-long gag.  Santa lights the town tree and addresses the crowd telling them that Christmas should be a day to reflect on the sacrifice one man-made to save Christmas:  Jesus.  And with that, the spirit of Christmas is modified once again in the South Park canon to be a day dedicated to Jesus.

Santa and Jesus team-up in Red Sleigh Down.

Santa and Jesus team-up in Red Sleigh Down.

With the spirit of Christmas now fully defined, Parker and Stone decided to take the boys on a Christmas adventure to Canada, of all places.  The new Canadian Prime Minister has decided that all Canadian born children be returned to Canada, which means Kyle’s adopted brother Ike is required to go.  Kyle enlists the help of his friends to go appeal to the Prime Minister, though they’re all reluctant to risk missing Christmas.  They go anyway, and in Canada they find a world not unlike Oz where the locals instruct them to “follow the only road.”  Just like The Wizard of Oz, the boys encounter other Canadian citizens looking to appeal to the Prime Minister about something, while the villainous Scott, from the Terence and Philip special, makes a return.  In the end, they discover the new Prime Minister is actually Saddam Hussein in hiding, and his new laws are overturned while the boys do in fact miss Christmas.  Cartman is unable to see the bright-side in Kyle getting his brother back, while Stan laments on missing out on a Christmas adventure, oblivious to what just happened.  It’s Christmas in Canada is not one of my favorites, and it’s probably the weak link on this DVD, though I do know more than one person who finds the episode hilarious.  I think I would like it more if it had more to do with Christmas.  It’s not really a Christmas special, just an episode that takes place during Christmas.

"It's Critter Christmas, dude, it sucks ass!"

“It’s Critter Christmas, dude, it sucks ass!”

This brings me to the last episode on the DVD, and so far, the last Christmas episode South Park has done:  Woodland Critter Christmas.  Seemingly out of ideas for a Christmas special, Parker and Stone decide to just completely subvert the idea of a Christmas special.  In this episode we have an innocent sounding narrator tell the story of a boy trying to help a group of talking woodland critters so that they can have a merry Christmas.  The critters are intentionally made to seem sterile and innocent while the episode is also intended to appear to be a cookie-cutter Christmas special with little thought or effort (the main character has no name, all of the animals names are just the name of the animal with a long “e” sound at the end, such as Deery the deer, Rabbity the rabbit, and so on).  Of course, the catch is that these animals are trying to bring about the birth of their lord and saviour.  Porcupinie has been impregnated by their god, but a mean old mountain lion wants to kill her, so the boy (Stan) is enlisted to help.  He succeeds by killing the mountain lion, who also happened to be a mother to three cubs, only to find out the critters worship Satan and the porcupine is set to deliver the anti-christ.  The tables are turned and soon Stan is left trying to prevent the coming of the anti-christ and he’ll receive help from Santa and a little thing called abortion.  Woodland Critter Christmas basically sets out to be the most obscene Christmas special one could dream up.  It’s almost as if Parker and Stone just wanted to top their prior specials in terms of shock-appeal and perhaps because they haven’t thought up a way to top this one is why we haven’t seen any new Christmas specials from South Park.  If this is the type of thing you can laugh at, then Woodland Critter Christmas should do the trick.  It’s ridiculous, but also pretty damn hilarious.

These specials are a big part of my memories growing up, even into college.  It seemed like each one was a topic of conversation when it originally aired because people generally couldn’t believe what they just saw.  South Park has had a lot of moments like that over the years, and for whatever reason, Christmas seems to bring out the best in it.  I love the sappy, sentimental Christmas specials that dominate the air during this time of year, but sometimes it’s nice to watch something that is decidedly less reverential towards the holiday season.  South Park does the trick, and Christmas Time in South Park is a convenient release and a suitable way to get my laugh on during the month of December.