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Blame anyone or anything – even blame Canada – but never blame yourself.
That seems to be the comic message we’re in for with the 14th season premiere of "South Park," which is set to air Wednesday night and will take a swing at the Tiger Woods scandal. We can expect to see Eric Cartman standing behind Woods as the golfer offers his now famous (or infamous, depending on your view) public apology for his rampant infidelities.
"It's such an important issue in America right now — the sex addiction outbreak," show co-creator Matt Stone told The Associated Press, evidently employing sarcasm. "We're all really concerned about him and hope he gets better."
With “South Park” entering its 14th year and nearing its 200th episode, Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny aren’t getting any older – but they're getting better.
The Woods case – conveniently back in the news with the golfer’s announcement Tuesday that he’s returning to the links for the Masters next month – offers a grand slam of fodder for “South Park,” which is a long way from Augusta.
Stone and partner Trey Parker are at their strongest when excoriating the pomposity, hype and rituals surrounding modern celebrity, and lampooning the absurd ways in which scandal plays out in the press and popular culture.
The duo set the tone in Season 1 with the attack of Mecha-Streisand, a literally larger-than-life, out-of-control superstar. All these years later, the animation and the scenarios are still often crude – but Park and Stone have become more adept at getting their point across.
The 2005 episode attacking Tom Cruise and Scientology inspired a strong reaction because it made the leap from silly to satire. “South Park” won its Peabody Award barely six months later.
No celebrity is safe in the little Colorado town: We've seen Bono refuse to come in No. 2 in a contest better left not described. We’ve seen George Lucas and Steven Spielberg pictured as fallen heroes for making a fourth “Indiana Jones” movie. We’ve seen Kayne West portrayed as a clueless egomaniac, long before his MTV Video Music Awards microphone-grabbing shenanigans.
In perhaps the strongest episode of the past season, Cartman morphed into a Glenn Beck-like broadcasting demagogue when he took over making the morning announcements at his elementary school.
Parker and Stone also seem to have a fascination with the arc of scandal, which, as in Woods’ case, often leads to the purportedly cleansing ritual of public confession and penance.
In one episode, Stan's father moronically utters the N-word on national TV and literally has to kiss the Rev. Jesse Jackson's butt to make amends. The show's made-up celebrity, the annoying stoner Towelie, goes on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to confess his memoir, "A Million Little Fibers," is a fraud.
Another element Parker and Stone are adept at tapping into is the hype surrounding highly anticipated, but drawn-out media non-events – like Woods' statement on Feb. 19, nearly three months after his marital troubles became public.
We saw this in the episode where South Park goes into a frenzy over a curse set to be uttered on an "NYPD Blue"-like cop show. More pointedly, the world goes bonkers when an image of the Prophet Muhammad is slated to appear on "Family Guy," in a 2006 two-part take on censorship, religion and fear that ranks among Parker and Stone’s most impressive achievements.
Those two shows also took shots at “Family Guy,” which comes closest to “South Park” among established animation programs to regularly producing potent celebrity-targeted satire. Still, in “Family Guy,” the barbs often are delivered as an aside, such as with the controversial recent jibe aimed at Sarah Palin.
"South Park" generally takes a more direct approach – and the Woods episode, titled “Sexual Healing,” doesn’t appear to be an exception. Check out the clip below featuring the unlikely team of Cartman and Woods:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.