'South Park' Plug Goes a Little Haywire

(Associated Press)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, July 14, 2006

PASADENA, Calif., July 13

Viacom suits want to promote the upcoming DVD of the creators' favorite 10 episodes to coincide with the 10th anniversary of "South Park." Viacom wants to make sure it sells like gangbusters.

So Viacom's Comedy Central cable network schedules "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to plug the 10th anniversary and DVD before a couple hundred TV critics and reporters at Summer TV Press Tour 2006 here on Thursday.

Only, Stone and Parker are still angry that Comedy Central in May yanked a repeat of the "Trapped in the Closet" episode lampooning Scientology and its most famous member, Tom Cruise.

At the time they were told it was being pulled because suits at Viacom, which also owns Paramount, thought it could turn people off Cruise and his upcoming Paramount flick "Mission: Impossible 3." (Turns out Tom was quite capable of doing that all by himself without Matt and Trey's help.)

Fortunately, what with "M:I3" come and gone, the episode is no longer such a corporate issue. So, the day before Stone and Parker appear at the press tour, Viacom announces through trade paper Variety that Comedy Central finally will rerun the "Trapped" episode next week.

Quel coincidence! And no, there is no way to be too cynical when covering the super-vertically-integrated entertainment industry.

"First of all, we can't take any questions about Tom Cruise or Scientology or 'South Park,' " Stone cracked right off the bat at the Q&A.

"How much did you wrestle with the Scientology episode?" was the first question.

"Since that pertains to 'South Park' we can't answer," Stone responded.

Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox, who was also up on stage, told the reporters the episode was pulled so that they could instead air an episode paying tribute to Chef, played by Isaac Hayes.

(Hayes, who is a Scientologist, quit the show on which he had not been much of a presence the past five years, in May. He said he was quitting because Matt and Trey were disrespectful of religion and spirituality. Did I mention that the episode had already aired multiple times?)

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