There's something great about the fact that South Park decided to make Satan a likable and relatable character. He just wants what we all want, to have fun, be loved and respected. It's an interesting choice - considering "Satan" is supposed to be the embodiment of evil. But you need the Big Bad over there in the shadows to keep everyone in line. In that way, he's not evil, he's just a dude doing his job.
Satan's greatest moments are probably in the South Park movie where he has to deal with his dysfunctional relationship with Saddam Hussein. He has a terrific musical number and is one of the movie's protagonists. This is what established him as a fully fleshed out character who would go on to some terrific appearances in other episodes.
Who didn't root for Satan to get his act together with his new boyfriend, Chris? We knew it wouldn't last, because Chris was "too nice," and Satan is - well - Satan. We haven't seen him much lately, but whenever Satan shows up, it's usually pretty great. Hopefully the show finds a reason to bring him back in the not too distant future.
Towlie is a character that just shouldn't work. It's almost like Matt and Trey challenged themselves to create a character so absurd, so annoying and pointless - while still making it funny. South Park's ludicrously tight schedule (they make an episode in about a week's time) is now famous. The fact is that many times, the creators struggle for an idea that's truly worthy of an episode. You can almost picture them pointing to something lying around the room and going "Okay, a towel! It's about a towel!" Perhaps not the most efficient way to create a show, but that's the kind of high wire act South Park's been doing for years now.
And this time, it worked. Towlie picks up where Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo left off and takes South Park's brand of surreal humor to another level. He's some kind of genetic experiment, a stoner, but basically just an all around laid back dude. His first episode was a tongue-in-cheek sendup of conspiracy stories, and then of course -- there's the Oprah episode; which was a way of saying, "You think Towlie is crazy, wait until you see this..."
Unquestionably the Fifth Beatle, Butters has had a central role in several of the best episodes, with "Butters Very Own Episode" standing out as one of the best episodes of South Park ever. It came out of nowhere, shook off the typical formula of the show and was just hysterical.
Butters was just a background character until around the fifth season of South Park, and ever since it's hard to imagine the show without him. His relentless cheery optimism and bright-eyed innocence add an element to the series that helped things sort of click into place. And having him paired with Cartman is always funny.
Butters is one of the show's sweetest characters - and can be used only once in an episode and still get the biggest laugh. For a while, it seemed like Butters was much more of a main character, and then Matt and Trey decided to pull back on him a bit and use him more sparingly. It's interesting to see how they bring certain characters forward and elevate them from time to time. It's all part of the ongoing evolution of the series and why it seems possible the series could remain vital and fresh for years to come.
2.) Randy Marsh
We pondered naming Randy as South Park's greatest character. If you wanted to take that position in a series of debates, you'd probably convince a fair number of people. Randy is the archetypal confused and unsatisfied American male. He's not as idiotic as Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. However, he is just as susceptible to a mid-life crisis journey that could lead him down any number of insane roads.
Randy typically means well. Whether he's trying to bond with his son through World of Warcraft, leading his family West to find internet signal, or challenging other drunk fathers to fights in the stands at little league games - it's usually motivated by an attempt to do right by his family.
What's great about Randy is that he's always felt a bit more realistic (if that's a word that even applies to South Park) than some of his fellow cartoon fathers. He's more relatable -- perhaps too relatable -- and is often driven to "keep up with the Joneses" or simply stay relevant in a changing world or fighting off age in a culture obsessed with youth. It almost never works, and ultimately Randy's destructive escapades end with a level of acceptance of the inevitable.
Yep, it's the obvious choice. But come on... Sometimes the obvious choice is also the right one.
Cartman is one of the worst human beings in the history of fiction. He's a narcissist and a sociopath, for starters. He'll screw over his friends, his family, and anyone else that gets in the way of whatever petty and insignificant goal has grabbed hold of his attention at any given moment.
And yet, against all odds, he's the most loathsome character we've ever loved. Whether it's his horrible voice, his petulant whining, or his brilliant business ideas -- "Oh Randy, you're breaking my balls here. ...You're breaking my balls, Randy." -- there's stuff that ONLY Cartman can do. Only Cartman could feed Scott Tenorman his parents. Or get his mother arrested, or change the future of civilization so he can play the Nintendo Wii.
Cartman is that kid you hung out with - even though you hated him. Or he's that kid that you realize you hate when you're an adult and he's just a kid and man, you should cut him some slack. But some kids are already huge a-holes. At the same time, Cartman is our id. He's the guy who will say what we want to say but can't. Who will do what we fantasize about doing but thousands of years of civilization holds us back.
Cartman is the biggest contribution to the world of animated characters that South Park has made - and that's saying something. Even if you argued that he's one-note, you've got to admit... that's one awesome note.
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