Last night's episode of South Park, entitled "201," was one of my favorite in the show's 14-year history. The episode hit every beat perfectly, from the opening Vietnam scene with Mitch Connor to the final reveal of Cartman's father at the end. The only thing that I didn't particularly care for was the excessive bleeping.
I thought Trey Parker and Matt Stone were using the bleeps in an artistic way, purposefully commenting (yet again) about the ridiculousness of not being able to show an image of the Prophet Muhammad on television. We can debate the merits of that argument all night, but my exhaustive thoughts on that subject aren't what I'm here to share with you. It turns out that Parker and Stone did not issue the bleeps themselves; Comedy Central stepped in and made the decision after they turned in their finished product.
In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.
I was completely taken aback by this news. I can understand (on some level) Comedy Central placing the "censored" bar over the image of Muhammad, but to bleep the entirety of Kyle's final speech? It's kind of a shady move on the network's part - by bleeping too much of the episode, they tricked audiences into thinking Parker and Stone made the decision themselves as a comedic tactic.
It should be noted that the duo received veiled threats from a revolutionary Muslim organization earlier this week, warning against the continued depiction of Muhammad on television (even though he was dressed in a bear suit). I'm sure this had something to do with Comedy Central's eventual decision to over-bleep the hell out of the episode.
In any case, I'm glad Parker and Stone came out and made this statement. It's good to hear that they aren't losing their edge. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for them because they had the balls to stand up to their network and make this statement in the first place. It's a bold move to paint their network in a negative light, but these guys are two of my favorite people in the entertainment industry and I'm proud of them for not going down without a proverbial fight. (Yeah, I know that's exactly what they're looking for - one more blogger's admiration.)
What did you think about last night's episode? Are you OK with Comedy Central censoring what is considered "sensitive" material? Or should everything be fair game?