Dec 14, 2009

102 - Weight Gain 4000

Synopsis: When Cartman's environmental essay wins a national contest, America's sweetheart, Kathy Lee Gifford, comes to South Park to present this award on national television. While Cartman is busy bulking up for his television debut, Mr. Garrison suffers flashbacks of a childhood humiliation at the hands of Mrs. Gifford. Mr. Hat convinces Garrison to even the score once and for all, and together they hatch a malevolent plot to kill Kathy Lee! Stan, Kyle and Wendy must stop the deranged Mr. Garrison before it's too late.
This episode is an extremely important part of the South Park canon, much more than I had previously realized. After the pilot's poor reception, Comedy Central requested one more script from Matt and Trey, the one that would decide whether or not South Park was to become a full-time series. Needless to say, this episode did the trick.
This episode, now completely computer animated, showed that South Park was capable of combining a witty, satirical edge with its shocking toilet humour. After starting with one of the most bizarre series of dialogue I have ever heard on TV (outside of South Park of course) about rainbows, we learn that Cartman won an essay contest and gets to receive his award live in national television, presented to him by Kathy Lee Gifford(!). Admittedly, I had to look up who Gifford was in a futile attempt to learn why Matt and Trey decided to spear her, before finding out she was chosen at random.
Anyhow, this introduces the two major themes of the episode; American consumerism and celebrity obsession.Cartman's inexplicable devotion to the 'Weight Gain 4000' and denial that it has had the opposite effect on his body than advertised acutely shows the brand devotion distilled in society, right down to his repetition of the slogan ("BEEFCAKE!"), and the fact that he completely ignores the health warning is indicative of our blind faith in brands. Also, his obsession with the fact that he is going to be on television reflects the 'fifteen minutes of fame' ideology, and the vacuous belief that being on television is the pinnacle of success for some.
More obviously mocked is the celebrity obsession in Western culture, clearly shown through the town's excitement of seeing Kathy Lee, and that she was regarded as some sort of deity, or higher being. Mr. Garrison was ousted for yelling, "To Hell with Kathy Lee Gifford!", as if she were perfect and free from fault.
The bizarre subplot is hilarious, and intertwines well with the A-plot. Expanding on the suggestion of a mentally unwell elementary school teacher, we find out that Mr. Garrison was not only beaten by Gifford in a talent show, but also bald as a child. Guided by his hand-puppet, Mr. Hat, he decides the only way he can come to terms with this injustice is to assassinate Kathy Lee. It is completely surreal and completely funny.
Summing up, this episode is definitely a step in the right direction, implementing not only the surreal humour that was to define the earlier seasons, but also the satire that was to define the series as a whole. It is still developing at this stage, but was pivotal in proving that the show could be though provoking as well as funny. - 6.9/10

Quotable Notables: "That's right! He's a black guy isn't he?" - Mayor McDaniels
Stan: "Dude, dolphins are intelligent and friendly."
Cartman: "Intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonnaise!"
"Cartman, you're such a fat ass that when you walk down the street, people go "Goddammit, that's a big fat ass!"" - Kyle
"BEEEEEFCAKE!" - Cartman

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