'Restore Stephen Baldwin' The Underlying Message Of Last Night's 'South Park,' 'Crippled Summer'

Restore Stephen Baldwinthe Underlying Message Last Nights South Park

For the past two Wednesday nights, 'South Park' creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone managed to tap back into the sort of controversy that originally put them in league with Hollywood's edgiest creatives. Episodes '200' and '201' received a lot of press for (not really) portraying Muhammad, the founder of Islam, as a character. This is something which has been a no-no since 2005, when a Dutch newspaper was censored for the same reason, inciting a maelstrom of commentary and criticism.

After '201' was censored by the network, viewers attempting to stream it on the South Park Studios website were greeted with a message that the stream would be delayed due to some surprise, last-minute edits but they'd 'be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.'

Well they were back last night. And it was something completely different. The underlying message? Don't do drugs. That, and Restore Stephen Baldwin .

Amidst an 'Intervention' parody, a torrent of mildly offensive Looney Tunes references and a summer camp color war, there was nary a funny moment to be found in last night's episode, 'Crippled Summer.' The biggest laugh I could find was a non-sequitor moment when Cartman, during the climactic Towelie intervention, uses his time on television to -- what else? -- excoriate the Jews. Thus reinforcing the belief that any 'South Park' time away from Eric Cartman is time misspent.

I'd like to say that 'Crippled Summer' feels like a missed opportunity -- it certainly does -- but there's only so much Parker and Stone can do disagree with the network that pays for their series. Last week's edits were ostensibly made to protect the people who work on the show, which is understandable given the veiled threats that surfaced from certain parties before '201' aired.

That said, I'm disappointed with 'Crippled Summer' mainly because it just wasn't very funny. Maybe I'm becoming more conservative in my 'old' age, but characterizing a group of disabled children as Looney Tunes characters seems more pointlessly mean that it does funny. Parker and Stone make a big deal out of poking fun at everyone equally, and there's a certain amount of subtext to last night's episode being deemed network-acceptable when last week's was not, but this is TV comedy. The message ought to be secondary to the entertainment, and that was definitely lacking last night.

I wonder what you readers think. Does last night's episode serve to make a point about the absurdity of what is and isn't TV acceptable? Can the relatively lame and boring outing be forgiven all the more for how it stands in contrast to the far funnier, less edgy (Muhammad concerns aside) narrative in '200' and '201'?