South Park

Rating: ★★★★★

Some shows are just giants. South Park has been providing a cynical, surreal perspective on contemporary issues for over 20 years. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have earned their damn dues: the show is constantly on the cutting edge of topics near to its audience's heart, and its positions are often pointed, insightful and unexpected. It is dark, it is funny, it is sometimes relentlessly critical and sometimes inspiringly sincere. South Park is, simply, a titan, and any show that dares approach its oeuvre needs to come prepared.

I don't love every episode, I'm not sure who could. The show's dogged attachment to remaining juvenile -- in part to stop it taking itself too seriously -- sometimes results in tiresome scenes full of farts and poop. This is the price of admission. At the other end, too, some of the extended multi-episode excursions become boring, with too much unfunny plot development and few jokes or insights.

When it lands, though, it lands hard. The show has routinely skewered people and platforms that think themselves safe from criticism, and the writers have refused to blink in the face of both Islamic extremists and the Chinese government. Their courage is often far greater than that of the networks that air their show. The show almost embodies the fundamental freedom to offend, and it can be beautiful to see them at work. High points for me are not just the creators' moral stands on free speech or other contemporary issues, but also episodes like the one where Cartman tricked a child into eating his own parents. There is a chaotic, demonic joy here in the hits that no run of dull misses could force me away from.