The angels cheer: "They killed Kenny!"

In a brilliant episode, "South Park" mocks the surreal Schiavo train wreck -- and takes its first explicit shot at Republicans.

By Andrew Leonard
Published March 31, 2005 7:47PM (EST)

This week's episode of "South Park" (10 p.m. ET, Wednesdays on Comedy Central) begins with a tragedy. Cartman is determined to be the first to buy the new Sony PSP hand-held gaming device, but there are none left by the time he gets to the store. Even worse, Kenny, who probably suffers from the worst case of Asperger's syndrome of any cartoon character in the universe, was first in line.

Wow, I thought -- that's pretty timely. The PSP was just released last week -- those "South Park" guys are pretty good with their scheduling. But I had no idea what was coming next.

Kenny gets run over by a truck. It seems that heaven needs him! Satan is marshalling an army of 10 billion demons to storm the pearly gates. Kenny, with his amazing PSP gaming skills, is the only one who can organize heaven's forces to stop the evil horde. Kenny, it seems, is heaven's "Keanu Reeves"!

But wait! Kenny isn't dead! Doctors manage to resuscitate him! With a feeding tube! He's in a "persistent vegetative state." Heaven is doomed!

Or is it? It appears Kenny had a will, in which he bequeathed his PSP to Cartman. But the last page of the will, the one that purports to reveal whether Kenny wants to be kept alive by artificial methods, has been lost.

Cartman will not be denied. His lust for the PSP conquers all. He declares that he was Kenny's "best friend forever" and that Kenny told him he did not want to be kept alive. Kenny's friends and family don't believe him, but the courts do.

The feeding tube is pulled. "They killed Kenny," the angels cheer! Heaven is saved, as Kenny, using a gold-plated PSP given to him by Peter, defeats the forces of Satan.

OK, maybe the jokes aren't quite as funny the morning after, in the wake of Terry Schiavo's death. But that doesn't make the episode any less profound, or amazing. In 22 minutes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone manage to hammer politicians, the media, religious hypocrisy and every other aspect of the madness that is the Schiavo case. How they were able to put this together so quickly is astounding -- it's more timely than "The Daily Show."

On the "South Park" bulletin boards, where fans were rhapsodizing about how this was the best episode of the season, several posters mentioned that the show included, for the first time, direct Republican-bashing. I have no idea if this is historically true, but there's no doubt that it is blatant in this episode. Satan, in fear of Kenny, calls on his Republican minions to create a media storm in the hopes of keeping Kenny alive.

Ouch. Parker and Stone better watch out. The new head of the FCC, Kevin Martin, is an avowed crusader against indecency who believes that the protections given us by the First Amendment should be tempered by considerations of "good taste."

Wednesday's episode of "South Park" was in horrible taste. But it was also brilliant, important and one of the few signs of sanity demonstrated by anyone who has been drawn into the Schiavo vortex. Long live "South Park"!

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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