South Park began airing its TWENTIETH season this year, which is a feat only a handful of heralded shows have accomplished.
To me, South Park is the greatest comedy television show of all time. The Simpsons was a little before my time, and Family Guy is trash. South Park, once known for its dirty humor, shocking images, and extreme subject matter, is now known for all three of those things, plus being scathing social commentary. It’s hard to believe, but Cartman, Stan, Kyle, Kenny & Butters have been in our lives for two decades.
In honor of the beginning of its 20th season, we decided to rank all of the seasons of South Park to figure out which is the best!
19. Season 14
This is the season with the prophet Muhammad. While the two episodes surrounding the censorship fiasco are strong, the rest of the season is just not that great. While there is no such thing as a truly bad season of South Park, this is the weakest.
18. Season 12
I’m judging these rankings by which seasons have the most memorable episodes, hence season 12 being this low. I’ve watched a lot of South Park in my day, and there are only a couple of episodes I can remember from this season. One is ‘The China Problem,’ which is the one where they make fun of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for essentially sodomizing Indiana Jones. The other, which admittedly is one of my favorite episodes is ‘About Last Night,’ where Obama and McCain are actual partners in the 2008 election, making fun of Ocean’s Eleven. Boom baby.
17. Season 3
This is back when South Park was less societal commentary and more cut and dry shock humor. The is also the season where Butters is first introduced. Another reason this stands out is due to one of the most famous South Park episodes of all time, ‘Chinpokomon,’ which absolutely shredded the cultural phenomenon of Pokemon.
16. Season 16
Another rather mediocre season, season 16 is maybe the most average season of South Park there is. While there are no out and out bangers, there are also no duds. However, within this season is another one of my favorite all time episodes: ‘Insecurity.’ “Meanwhile the milkman’s f*cking your wife.”
15. Season 13
This is where it really starts to get hard, because as I’ve said earlier, there is no such thing as a bad season of South Park, there is only good and better. Season 13, while not classic, full of memorable episodes such as ‘The Coon’ ‘Fishsticks’ and ‘Margaritaville’.
14. Season 18
I hold season 18 near and dear because this was the first season that Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduced continuity to South Park. While South Park was showing no signs of slowing down, the addition of season-long arcs added a whole new, fresh dimension to the show. Plus, this is the season where we found out that Lorde is a 40-something-year-old male geologist from Colorado.
13. Season 2
Season 2 is wayyyy before I actually started watching, so these are episodes I watched years after the jokes were relevant. None-the-less, it’s still a hilarious string of episodes, and set the precedent for what was to come.
12. Season 17
Oh man, Season 17. Season 17 is this high on the list because of three episodes: the Game Of Thrones trilogy. Game Of Thrones was just beginning to establish itself as a cultural phenomenon, and South Park’s spin on it was absolutely sublime.
11. Season 4
Season 4 is important in the show’s lore, for it is the season the boys move from third up to fourth grade. While season 4 had its fair share of classics, there are a handful of filler episodes that keep it from being an all-time great. This is also the season that had Pip, whose role as the group’s b*tch would eventually be occupied by Butters.
10. Season 8
What I remember about season 8 is that it contains maybe the darkest characters to ever come out of the show: the Woodland Critters. If you don’t know, or remember, who and what they were, don’t even bother. It’s downright disturbing.
9. Season 15
Season 15 was another year where Trey and Matt seemed to reignite their creative juices. With brilliant episodes such as ‘Humancentipad,’ ‘City Sushi’, ‘You’re Getting Old’ season 15 was the best run the show had in a couple of years. After the success of The Book Of Mormon, and a downtick in quality, critics wondered in South Park would even continue. Not only did it continue, but it rounded out into the funniest show on television.
8. Season 11
Season 11 is when I truly started to fall in love with South Park. Season 11 is home to the best, and most imaginative, multi-parter in the show’s run: Imagination Land. The cultural references alone make these episodes great, let alone the truly hilarious plot idea that terrorists had decided to attack our imagination.
7. Season 7
Season 7 should be remembered as the season of Cartman. Cartman has always been far and away the show’s most famous character, but it seemed to be around this time that Trey and Matt realized the depths to which they could take him. The three episodes that center around Cartman display all of the different aspects of his sociopathic personality. This is also the season that has ‘Casa Bonita,’ which is the best Cartman/Butters episode to date.
6. Season 9
Season 9 is home to another one of South Park’s most famous, and most controversial, episodes: ‘Trapped in the Closet.’ Stan is dubbed the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard by a local group of Scientologists, causing a chain of bizarre events, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta locking themselves in Stan’s closet and R&B singer R. Kelly turning the whole affair into an urban opera. I mean, if that’s not that most South Park episode of all time, I don’t know what is. In fact, TV Guide ranked this episode #17 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes. Combined with other classics such as ‘The Death of Eric Cartman’ and ‘Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow,’ Season 9 just narrowly missed the top 5.
5. Season 5
I’m of the opinion is that season 5 was the launching pad for the South Park we all know and love today, and it’s all thanks to one episode. When (if?) South Park comes to the end of its run, the conversation about its legacy begins and ends with one episode: ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die.’ As I said earlier, Eric Cartman is South Park’s most famous, and most pivotal character, and this episode is where he was born. Without this episode, the show would never be where he is today.
“Dude, I think it might be best of us to never piss off Cartman again.”
4. Season 6
I remember this season for being the first without Kenny, after Trey and Matt finally permanently killed him off in the prior season. Season 6 continued the momentum the show gained in season 5, with classics such as ‘A Ladder To Heaven,’ ‘The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers,’ and ‘Asspen.’ The reason season 6 is so strong is because the death of Kenny opened up new possibilities for the show, mainly, the promotion of Butters to a main character. Some argue that, along with Randy and Cartman, Butters is one of the funniest characters on the show.
3. Season 1
Season 1 is this high on the list because of its lore: the first season of South Park was unlike anything television has ever seen. Yes, including The Simpsons. I mean, hell, the FIRST episode was called ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe.’ Critics suggest that the launch of South Park transformed Comedy Central from a “not-so-funny” network to “a cable industry power almost overnight.” South Park became immediately one of the most popular shows on cable television, averaging consistently between 3.5 and 5.5 million viewers. A show, and a season, that impactful deserves to be in the top 3.
2. Season 19
That’s right, I consider South Park‘s most recent season to be its second best. Continuing the serialized storytelling that they introduced in the prior season, South Park seemed to get a full grasp of how to handle season long arcs and plots, and boy, did they take off. Season 19 proved that not only is South Park as funny as ever, but it has the capability to support legitimately quality story telling. For the first time in its run, the show was able to perfect balance humor and story, creating a nearly perfect comedy television show.
1. Season 10
Season 10 is far and away the greatest season of South Park, and frankly, it isn’t even close. This is a season full of all-time greats, such as ‘Make Love Not Warcraft,’ ‘Hell on Earth 2006,’ ‘ManBearPig,’ and of course, ‘Cartoon Wars’ (the Family Guy episodes). As I have been saying all along, these rankings are more or less based on which seasons had the most memorable episodes, and in that regard, the tenth season is the clear cut winner. Side note: this is the first season in which Kenny does not die and the last season featuring Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef.