Last night’s South Park was the second part of its 200th-episode celebration that collected various celebrities and in-jokes from episodes past — including the prophet Muhammad, who was involved in a Family Guy-baiting episode and brought back this time for complicated reasons involving Tom Cruise and other delicately constituted famous people who had previously been skewered by the show. Well, and perhaps for a bit of point-making publicity as well; the last time Muhammad was brought into the mix, Comedy Central censored all visual depictions of him, much to the ire of series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
“201” was the conclusion of last week’s “200,” and during the week between the episodes’ airings a Muslim group posted a photo of Theo Van Gogh as a way of showing what could happen to Parker and Stone. “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show,” read the photo’s caption. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.” (That’s a nice bit of etymology there, especially considering that a link to a piece on a Stone and Parker-owned home in Colorado Springs was apparently also linked from the missive; in another sign of the power of aggregators, the authors allegedly linked to HuffPo.)
Lest the more cynical among you think that this whole thing was planned and carried out so as to maximize the episode’s dissemination, know that the episode has so far as I can tell aired only once, which is a rarity in these rerun-saturated times; Comedy Central showed “201” at its normal first-run broadcast time of 10 p.m. ET but did not reair it during its normal midnight South Park rebroadcast, and the episode page on the South Park Studios site is videoless, with just a message that says: “After we delivered the show, and prior to broadcast, Comedy Central placed numerous additional bleeps throughout the episode. We do not have network approval to stream our original version of the show.”
Among the censored bits: Visual and spoken references to Muhammad, as well as most of the episode’s show-closing “I learned something today” monologue. Who censored which bits? Who knows! (Although I’d bet that the moralizing bit at the show’s close was bleeped out by Parker and Stone for the purposes of Making A Point, since some of the controversial statements were uttered by O.G. South Park guest stars Santa Claus and Jesus. Also, have you ever tried to lip-read a cartoon that’s supposed to mimic paper cutouts? It’s kind of challenging!) Illicit copies of the show are still floating around the Internet, which is probably as good as you’re going to get for now.