By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, March 23, 2006
"South Park" fans have struck back, threatening to boycott Viacom's upcoming Tom Cruise flick "Mission: Impossible III" until Viacom's Comedy Central puts back on its schedule the show's Scientology spoof episode the network yanked last week.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central and the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, hoped to placate the angry mob (as if) with a hastily thrown together season-opening episode in which Chef is brainwashed by "a fruity little club" whose members travel the globe having sex with children.
Celebrity Scientologist Isaac Hayes, who had provided the voice of Chef, South Park's beloved school cook, since the show started, announced early last week that he wanted out because he had discovered "South Park" pokes fun at "religious communities." Two days later, Comedy Central yanked the scheduled rerun of the "Trapped in the Closet" episode that skewered Scientology and its most famous member, Tom Cruise.
The response to Hayes's exit was last night's slapped-together 10th-season opener, "The Return of Chef!" The producers sliced and diced lines Hayes had recorded in previous seasons to produce Chef's new lines for the episode, a Comedy Central rep told The Post's John Maynard.
In the episode, pals Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman are thrilled when Chef, who'd left South Park to join the Super Adventure Club, returns. But in school the next day, he says to them, "How about I meet you guys after work and we make love . . . come on children, you're my sexual fantasy, let's all make sweet love." Those are the printable things, anyway.
The guys take Chef to a shrink, who pronounces him the worst case of brainwashing he's ever seen.
They take him to a strip club to try to deprogram him. Chef is cured, but then is shot with darts by members of the Super Adventure Club -- "South Park's" new, thinly veiled metaphor, in case you haven't figured it out yet, for Scientology.
Chef is taken back to HQ, where the Super Adventure Club continues the brainwashing.
The boys follow and learn the secret of the Super Adventure Club, founded by a guy who was an explorer, only every time he got someplace he discovered someone had beat him there. So he decided to become the first explorer to have sex with the native children in the various remote locations, which he felt would make him immortal.
Long story short: The boys rescue Chef and they run across the rope bridge over the deep ravine that takes them to safety. But once they're on the other side, the Super Adventure Club's big chief shouts to Chef, "Don't you remember why you left South Park in the first place? You sought adventure . . . because your life had become dull and empty."
The boys plead with Chef:
"Chef -- we love you!"
But Chef heads back over the bridge, only it's struck by lightning and falls apart. Chef plunges down the ravine and is impaled on a large stick and attacked by a mountain lion, then a grizzly bear.
Back in South Park, the townsfolk hold a memorial service for Chef. Kyle tells the residents that although a lot of them don't agree with the choices Chef made in the last few days, they should focus on how much he made them smile and -- here's the money quote -- they should not be mad at Chef but instead at "the fruity little club for scrambling his brain."
We're guessing the episode may still not be enough raw meat for the piranha-esque "South Park" fans, who took to the Internet yesterday urging people to write, phone or e-mail Viacom, or sign their Chef Gate petition, letting the corporation know they and their loved ones will not see "Mission: Impossible III" (due in theaters on May 5) until Comedy Central runs the more direct Scientology-skewering episode "Trapped in the Closet."
(Normally these kinds of petitions are quixotic and kinda sweet, but there's no denying that "South Park's" core demographic -- 70 percent male, 20 percent male teens, 30 percent men age 18-34 -- is a bull's-eye for action flicks such as "Mission: Impossible.")
In the episode, Scientologists become convinced that Stan is the reincarnation of founder L. Ron Hubbard. Cruise shows up at Stan's house seeking praise for his acting work, but Stan pronounces it inferior to "that guy who played Napoleon Dynamite." Cruise, crushed, locks himself in Stan's closet. For the rest of the episode, Stan, his family, celeb Scientologist John Travolta and R&B artist R. Kelly try to get Cruise to "come out of the closet."
Immediately after Hayes made his announcement last week, Stone and Parker claimed in interviews that his exit from the show was entirely about his being a Scientologist. The publicity ginned up by the kerfuffle drove viewers to the show, only to be disappointed when the "Trapped" episode did not run last Wednesday night. That set off speculation it had been yanked because Cruise, or someone acting on his behalf, had said he would stop promoting "M:I3" if it aired.
"We, the loyal viewers of television's 'South Park' do hereby protest against the removal of the episode 'Trapped in the Closet,' " the fans' petition reads.
"We demand that Comedy Central put this episode back on the air and show it as soon as possible; we want everyone, including Tom Cruise, to know that censorship is wrong."
Far more fun are the comments attached to some of the more than 2,000 signatures that had been collected by the time the petition's Web server apparently crashed around 7 p.m. yesterday:
· Stop being girly-men.
· I would expect more moxie from Comedy Central.
· Bad Tommy! No biscuit!
· Get a sense of humor Tom, you couch jumping freak.
And, our personal fave:
· Free Katie!
* * *
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Chicken Little has been sacked from "American Idol"!
After he finally delivered a passable performance of a frightened little mouse singing "When I Fall in Love," Kevin Covais got the fewest of the 35 million votes cast this week and was plucked from the competition last night.
Where are those http://votefortheworst.com/ voters when you need them? Oh wait . . .
Then, as if the sky falling weren't bad enough, Paula Abdul led the "Idol" audience in the Wave while Barry Manilow sang "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," which you'd think would have caused a plague of locusts to visit Hollywood before the commercial break.
Instead, it only caused "Idol" Bootee Weirdsmobile Extraordinaire Bobby Bennett, who was standing in the audience, swaying gently from side to side while singing along with Manilow, to break through security and get up onstage to give Manilow a big weirdsmobile hug at the end of "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing."
Who the heck is doing security on this show -- the Department of Homeland Security?