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South Park pays homage to the live-action sitcom from its creators

South Park has grown from easily dismissed crass animated entertainment to a television institution widely recognized for its insight into political and social issues. It’s crude in every sense of the word, from its originally shocking vulgarities and mature themes to its simple paper-cut visuals, now made with cutting-edge digital effects programs but still reflecting the original stop-motion work. -motion from creators Matt Stone and Trey. Parker.

At first standalone with only the slightest effort made towards continuity and serialization, in recent years South Park had arcs spread across multiple episodes and seasons. At the center of many of them is geologist and family man Randy Marsh. Fed up with the current state of the world, Randy chose to move his family to the countryside and live off the land. Opening Tegridy Farms in the 22nd season episode of the same name, Randy became a cannabis grower and entrepreneur, drawing on the expertise of South Park “worst character ever” Towelie, a genetically modified talking towel and marijuana enthusiast.

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The following season of South Park had an extended arc at Tegridy Farms, renaming the series with new opening titles for the first six of its ten episodes. As if acknowledging the ridiculousness of Randy’s arc and the continued absurdity of its storylines, the 23rd season premiere “Mexican Joker” debuted with a piece of music introducing farm scenes, a brief riff saxophone sound that is reminiscent of those heard in old and familiar sitcoms. The authenticity of the line owes to the fact that it is genuine sitcom scene transition music, despite coming from a neglected chapter of Stone and Parker’s oeuvre.

While working on the fourth season of South Park in 2000, Stone and Parker devised a live-action sitcom to air the following year based on presumptive presidential winner Al Gore. Things did not go as planned, and the project Everybody love Al became This is my bush, starring Timothy Bottoms as George W. Bush, Carrie Quinn Dolin as First Lady Laura Bush, and Kurt Fuller as Councilman Karl Rove. As they point out in an audio commentary track on the series’ 2006 DVD, the two creators hate sitcoms but saw the potential in the setting, particularly playing with audience expectations by mostly avoiding any substantive political speech. in favor of three-camera sitcom shenanigans and casting the lead as a “lovable jester”. And no matter how cheesy a punchline was, an ever-hungry studio audience was ready to swallow it.

Prior to the April 2001 publication of This is my bush, particular attention was paid to audition sides featuring the president’s daughters as lesbians. Although these scenes were never intended to appear in the series finale, the controversy led Comedy Central to issue an executive order prohibiting their inclusion, much to the annoyance of Stone and Parker, as they had intended the series to be a family sitcom. . While avoiding every iota of meaningful discussion, each episode of This is my bush had a hot topic in the foreground wrapped in a hackneyed sitcom plot. For example, death penalty issues are discussed on the same weekend as George’s former fraternity brothers come to visit, or Laura grapples with overbearing stepmother Barbara Bush as George deals with the war on drugs.

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A high episodic budget and lower than expected ratings – only a third of South Park – saw the series end after just one eight-episode season. Sensing that would be the case, the stops were pulled in the May 2001 season finale “Fare Thee Welfare”, which saw George and Laura mixed together in a series of familiar ersatz sitcom spin-offs when they been ousted from the White House by Vice President Dick. Cheney. On the aforementioned DVD release, Stone and Parker lament the end of the series after immensely enjoying the process of its creation and development. Nevertheless, they remain skeptical about the advisability of continuing the series in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.

This is my bush remains an underrated piece of Stone and Parker’s filmography, little remembered other than an animated cameo by the This is my bush thrown into the South Park episode “Super Best Friends” and cast member Kristen Miller providing the voice of female lead Lisa in 2004 Team America: World Police. Bottoms would go on to portray Bush in several independent projects, including the Showtime TV movie DC 9/11: Crisis Times. While serving as an unheralded early example of their view of the state of American politics – who else could have guessed Karl Rove’s prominence in the Bush administration in early 2001 – a more fitting legacy for the Stone and Parker sitcom parody and the precision sought in its presentation is the appropriate reuse of the transitional musical cue, ultimately giving This is my bush a very slight, though highly deserved, measure of longevity.