Update: All 8 ‘South Park’ TV Specials, Ranked
South Park: Not Suitable for Children, the eighth TV special made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone under their new “short seasons plus twice-annual extra-long episodes” deal, hit streaming this morning, leaving South Park fans with important questions to ponder, like, “How does it stack up against all the other specials?” And: “Are Parker and Stone getting better at writing extended stories?”
Under the confusing and contentious current South Park contract, Parker and Stone elected to reduce each season to just a measly six episodes on Max while they make twice annual TV movie-esque specials for Paramount+. This means that fans now have to endure longer wait-times between larger content dumps from South Park while the streaming giants engage in an extended street fight over who should have the show’s exclusive streaming rights. (Hey, that sounds kinda familiar…)
The resulting specials have shown how Parker and Stone handle a longer leash when discussing the timely topics they deem most ripe for parody. Here is my ranking of each South Park special from worst to best, starting with…
South ParQ Vaccination Special
This special was the last one before Parker, Stone and Comedy Central signed their new “movie deal,” and South ParQ Vaccination Special plays like it’s just a longer-than-normal South Park episode — because, well, it is. Though the quips about QAnon and the side plot of senior citizens clubbing at Walgreens still make it worth a watch, this special is unfortunately the most forgettable.
The Pandemic Special
The first South Park TV special is held back by the same problems as its sequel, but, as is true with pretty much every South Park two-parter, the setup was funnier than the punchline. Randy and Mickey’s trip to China alone earns The Pandemic Special a positive rating, even if it didn’t have as grand of a scope as the later installments made for Paramount+.
South Park: Post Covid: The Return of Covid
The Avengers: Endgame of the South Park future saga, South Park: Post Covid: The Return of Covid wrapped up the pandemic parody arc in an almost satisfying manner. Though the Butters/NFT diversion was a delightful addition to the storyline, most of the best stuff in this special was just a continuation of jokes and bits begun in the previous part. Also, Cartman’s revised future felt like a wet fart compared to how hilarious his original eventuality was.
South Park: Not Suitable For Children
The surprise(ish) release of South Park: Not Suitable for Children fit with the special’s poignant message about the unchecked marketing toward minors that’s rampant in the social media industry, but it’s too bad that the payoff for the unprompted special fell short of a satisfying conclusion. Significantly less grand in scope than the rest of the Paramount specials, the story of this one was much, much weaker than its cultural commentary as Not Suitable for Children amounted to little more than an introduction to Clyde’s stepmom.
South Park: Joining the Panderverse
Besides giving every annoying alt-right culture warrior their new favorite catchphrase to tweet any time a woman appears in a Disney movie, South Park: Joining the Panderverse put forth possibly the best takedown yet of the annoying and lazy multiverse structure that every big-budget franchise in modern entertainment has adopted. “An infinite number of universes with an infinite number of pants and shirts!”
South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2
For some South Park fans, The Streaming Wars Part 2 deserves a spot in the top three simply for marking the end of Parker and Stone’s obsession with Tegridy Farms. The hilariously meta transformation from Karen to Randy to Karen again was the creators’ way of teasing the fans who had been complaining about Randy’s character arc in the last half decade while still indulging in everything fun about it – and almost literally drowning all the crypto celebrities in piss was a big plus.
South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 1
South Park thematically threw its hat over a high wall in the first half of this two-parter, choosing to simultaneously tackle climate change (or ManBearPig — the terms are used interchangeably at this point), water scarcity and, of course, the TV streaming industry, and they managed to keep every single plate spinning — while spraying Matt Damon with piss at every opportunity. Seriously, it’s so great how they made every A-lister who hawked crypto bullshit drink piss.
South Park: Post Covid
In terms of setup, South Park: Post Covid is the most ambitious special Parker and Stone have produced to date. Launched at a time when COVID fatigue was at its most irritable, the 2021 special showed us how every South Park character’s life would play out in a mid-to-post pandemic world without taking any short cuts or unrealizing any potential punchlines. You absolutely cannot beat Eric Cartman growing up to be an Orthodox Rabbi.