“South Park,” one of the most vulgar and crude shows in the history of television, is back to breathe new life into Comedy Central’s bad-1980s-movie and “Chappelle’s Show”-saturated lineup. It’s hard to believe the show many people thought was a one-joke animated nightmare has reached the golden sitcom age reserved only for enduring favorites like “The Simpsons” and “Friends.” “South Park” will always have its detractors, but its ribald gross-out humor and tongue-in-cheek social commentary has left an indelible mark on the face of TV culture.

After a number of surprisingly controversy-free seasons, the network stalwart was faced with an unusual problem when Isaac Hayes – the voice of popular character Chef – quit to voice his disapproval of the show’s send-up of Scientology last season. Not surprisingly, show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone responded by doing what they do best: criticizing it for their own twisted amusement. It wasn’t exactly a dignified send-off for the lovable Chef – he was graphically torn apart by bears – but any respectable action would be uncharacteristic of “South Park.”

In the season’s second episode, the show picks up where the last season left off, poking fun at the foibles of celebrities, activists and wannabe intellectuals in traditionally blunt and unmistakable fashion. The show derives much of its satirical power from its ironic use of the town’s clueless and blindly trendy adult citizens as foils to Stan, Kenny, Cartman and Kyle, who are seemingly the only voices of reason in this “quiet redneck mountain town.” The town’s citizens embody the show’s view of what is wrong with America, a country that, in Parker and Stone’s opinion, is quickly becoming intolerably vapid, self-satisfied and politically correct to a fault.

“South Park” tries hard to shove its views down the viewer’s throat, but as the series progresses the unabashed parody becomes tiring. It reached its pinnacle in recent years through its clever and brutal satirization of society’s ills, but now the show is sliding downhill as it tries to cling to the few scraps of society it hasn’t yet insulted into oblivion.

But “South Park” should keep its hit-or-miss satirical approach – as long as there are politics and entertainment, the world will always need someone to remind it of its occasional ridiculousness. “South Park” will always be there to remind us just how absurd society can really be.

South Park Season 10
Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
Comedy Central

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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