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"Dead Celebrities"
South Park episode
SouthParkep1308.jpg
Ike is haunted by the ghost of Billy Mays
Episode no. Season 13
Episode 8
Written by Trey Parker
Directed by Trey Parker
Production no. 1308
Original airdate October 7, 2009
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List of South Park episodes

"Dead Celebrities" is the eighth episode of the thirteenth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 189th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on October 7, 2009. In the episode, Ike is haunted by the ghosts of dead celebrities, and is eventually possessed by the spirit of Michael Jackson.

The episode was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. "Dead Celebrities" included references to several actors, singers and famous people who died in the summer of 2009, when South Park was on a mid-season hiatus. Among the celebrities featured in the episode were Billy Mays, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Walter Cronkite, DJ AM, Patrick Swayze and David Carradine. "Dead Celebrities" also parodied the films The Sixth Sense and Poltergeist.

The reality series Ghost Hunters and it stars, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, were mocked in the episode. Hawes and Wilson said they loved the parody and encouraged fans to watch the show on their Twitter accounts. A subplot claimed food at the Chipotle Mexican Grill resulted in customers defecating blood, a claim which was disputed by the restaurant chain within days of the episode's broadcast. "Dead Celebrities" received generally mixed reviews. According to Nielsen ratings, "Dead Celebrities" was seen by 2.67 million overall households.

Contents

Plot

Ike is terrified by frequent encounters with the ghosts of recently deceased celebrities. He is haunted by people such as Farrah Fawcett, David Carradine, Ed McMahon and especially Billy Mays, who repeatedly tries selling Ike products from the afterlife. When Kyle finds out about the ghost his brother is encountering, he is terrified. He tells Stan, Cartman and Kenny about the encounters and Cartman doesn't initally care at all, but when Kyle mentions that Billy Mays is one of the ghosts haunting Ike, Cartman suddenly changes his mind. He is an enthusiastic supporter of "Chipotlaway", a product Mays advertised which cleans blood stains from people's underwear caused by eating food from Chipotle Mexican Grill, and therefore decides to help. The boys call the team from the reality television series Ghost Hunters in to help, but they quickly become frightened and run away after urinating themselves. Eventually, Ike goes into a coma because of his multiple experiences with the dead ghosts.

The boys seek help from a medium, who explains the celebrities are trapped in purgatory, which she compares to being stuck on a plane waiting endlessly on a runway for permission to take off. The ghosts of these annoyed celebrities are shown in this purgatory, which literally resembles the interior of an plane, complete with seats, flight attendants and pilot voice-over announcements. The medium manages to contact the spirits and Walter Cronkite, another recently deceased person, tells her that are trapped because Michael Jackson refuses to acknowledge his death. The medium and the boys try to contact Jackson and convince him he is dead, but Jackson insists he is not only alive, but is a little Caucasian girl. His denial is so strong, he emits a powerful force which sends the medium through the open window of Ike's hospital room and makes her fall to her death.

After the energy disturbance, Jackson's spirit takes over Ike's body, causing Ike to speak, sing and dance like Jackson himself. The boys realize the only way to make Jackson accept his death is to make him experience the acceptance he sought in life, so they take him to a child beauty pageant for little girls. Dressed like a little girl, Ike/Jackson impresses two of the male judges, but they are promptly arrested for masturbating while watching the children, leaving a single, unimpressed female judge. When Cartman notices the judge eating Chipotle, he bribes her with knowledge about the Chipotlaway product, and she declares Ike/Jackson the winner as a result. A few of the other contestants are physically beaten by their parents for losing. Having found his acceptance, Jackson leaves the body of Ike, who is surprised and annoyed to find himself dressed like a little girl. Jackson and the other celebrities in purgatory are finally able to lift off. Initially happy, they are soon taken to Hell. To their annoyance, however, a flight attendant tells them that they must again wait as Hell is a tow gate.

Production and theme

Pop singer Michael Jackson (pictured), who died in June 2009, was prominently featured in "Dead Celebrities".

"Dead Celebrities" was written and directed by series co-founder Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. It first aired on October 7, 2009 in the United States on Comedy Central. The day after "Dead Celebrities" was originally broadcast, T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts based on the episode was made available at South Park Studios, the official South Park website. It featured a frightened Ike standing above the phrase, "I see dead celebrities".[1]

"Dead Celebrities" includes references to several actors, singers and other celebrities who died in the summer of 2009, when the thirteenth season of South Park was on a mid-season hiatus.[2][3][4] The episode serves not only to parody the celebrities themselves, but also to provide commentary on the tendency of American media to exploit, idolatrize and excessively report on the lives of celebrities.[4][5] The most prominently featured of these celebrities is pop singer Michael Jackson, who died from a cardiac arrest on June 25.[2][4]

Billy Mays, a television advertisement salesman, is the first dead celebrity featured in the episode, and plays a large role in the early part of the script.[2][4] The spirit of David Carradine is shown wearing bondage gear, a reference to his June 3, 2009, death by autoerotic asphyxiation.[3] Among the others featured in the episode were actress Farrah Fawcett, journalist Walter Cronkite,[4] disc jockey Adam Goldstein (DJ AM), politician Ted Kennedy, actress Beatrice Arthur,[6] television personality Ed McMahon, actor Patrick Swayze,[5] actress Natasha Richardson and actor/chef Dom DeLuise.[7]

Cultural references

"Dead Celebrities" makes frequent mention of the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain, describing the food as extremely tasty, but claiming it resulted in bloody stool. Shortly after the episode first aired, a Chipotle spokesperson said via a Twitter message that the claim was false.[8] Ike's ability to see the spirits of dead celebrities serves as a parody of the 1999 thriller film The Sixth Sense, which stars Haley Joel Osment as a young boy who can see ghosts. Ike's line, "I see dead celebrities", is a reference to that film's most famous line, "I see dead people."[6][7] The old lady psychic with a very high-pitched voice is a reference to the character played by Zelda Rubinstein in the 1982 horror film, Poltergeist.[6] "Dead Celebrities" also mocks the Syfy reality television series Ghost Hunters by featuring the show's stars attempting to contact the celebrity spirits, only to be frightened and run away.[2][9] The episode also satirizes children's beauty pageants and the tendency of stage mothers to become unhealthily obsessed with their children winning such contests.[4]

Reception

"When I first learned of the premise of this episode, I was expecting some biting social commentary on our culture's obsession with celebrities and the hypocrisy of treating them like dirt when they're alive and practically worshiping them when they die. But the writers kept it simple, and just went for the laughs, and enough time had passed for the jokes to not seem too tasteless."

Ramsley Isler, IGN[2]

In its original American broadcast on October 7, 2009, "Dead Celebrities" was watched by 2.67 million overall households, according to Nielsen ratings. It received a 1.8 rating/3 share, and a 1.5 rating/4 share among viewers aged between 18 and 49.[10] Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, the stars of Ghost Hunters said they loved the parody of themselves in "Dead Celebrities" and encouraged fans to watch the show on their Twitter accounts.[11]

The episode received generally mixed reviews. Ramsley Isler of IGN called "Dead Celebrities" one of the best episodes of the season, adding the jokes at the expense of the deceased were not too tasteless. He praised the parodies of The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist and Ghost Hunters, but said some jokes, like the masturbating judges at the children's beauty contest, were offensive and unfunny.[2] Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, stars of Ghost Hunters, declared that "far from being offended or incensed [...] they loved being made fun of alongside Michael Jackson and Billy Mays.[11] Carlos Delgado of iF Magazine said "Dead Celebrities" was an especially funny episode that also featured a "crapload of story" that was well-timed for the Halloween season.[12] Josh Modell of The A.V. Club called it "a decent episode", but felt the dead celebrities were too obvious targets for South Park satire, adding, "It's easy to make the same jokes that the rest of the world already has." Modell said the Sixth Sense and Poltergeist references "fell a little flat", but he praised the Chipotle subplot, which he called "beautifully random [and] totally ridiculous".[3]

Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly said the episode was in bad taste, but added, "I laughed until I choked". Tucker described the Michael Jackson impersonation as "first-rate" and felt solution to freeing Jackson's spirit served as "a ruthless parody of child beauty pageants".[4] Ingela Ratledge of TV Guide favorably described the episode as the exact opposite of award show segments that reverentially pay homage to the year's departed celebrities, calling it "a wonderfully tasteless farewell."[13] Sue Bergerstein, an arts and celebrity writer with Examiner.com, called "Dead Celebrities" a "new low" for South Park, adding "It's not only tasteless but this episode just adds to the sadness currently experienced by all the mourning relatives."[5] Alan Sepinwall, television journalist with The Star-Ledger, said many of the episodes seemed rehashed and predictable, especially those targeting Michael Jackson and children's beauty pageants. Sepinwall added he liked the Chipotle subplot, but commented, "Overall, 'Dead Celebrities' was a misfire."[14]

References

  1. ^ "southpark: I See Dead Celebrities". Zazzle. 2009-10-08. http://www.zazzle.com/southpark/gifts?cg=196644159677766458. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Isler, Ramsey (October 8, 2009). "South Park: "Dead Celebrities" Review". IGN. http://uk.tv.ign.com/articles/103/1033150p1.html. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Modell, Josh (October 7, 2009). "South Park: Dead Celebrities". The A.V. Club (The Onion). http://www.avclub.com/articles/dead-celebrities,33818/. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Tucker, Ken (October 7, 2009). ""South Park" season premiere: "I see dead celebrities"". Entertainment Weekly. http://watching-tv.ew.com/2009/10/07/south-park-chipotle-celebrities/. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Chivers, Tom (October 9, 2009). "South Park shows Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze in purgatory". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/6279830/South-Park-shows-Michael-Jackson-and-Patrick-Swayze-in-purgatory.html. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c DiNunno, Gina (October 8, 2009). "South Park Mocks Dead Celebrities". TV Guide. http://www.tvguide.com/news/south-park-mocks-1010643.aspx. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (October 7, 2009). "South Park Sees Dead Celebrities, Then Mocks Them". E!. http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/b147980_south_park_sees_dead_celebrities_then.html. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ Walters, Chris (October 9, 2009). "Chipotle Says Their Food Does Not Cause Underwear Blood". The Consumerist. http://consumerist.com/2009/10/chipotle-says-their-food-does-not-cause-underwear-blood.html. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  9. ^ Hale, Mike (December 10, 2009). "Consigning Reality to Ghosts". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/arts/television/13paranormal.html. Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  10. ^ Seidman, Robert (October 8, 2009). "Wednesday October 7 cable ratings: Mythbusters, South Park, Real World / Road Rules: The Ruins and more". TV by the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/10/08/wednesday-october-7-cable-ratings-mythbusters-south-park-real-world-road-rules-the-ruins-and-more/30018. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Sagers, Aaron (October 29, 2009). "Syfy 'Ghost Hunters': Living Normally Within Paranormal Pop Culture". PopMatters. http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/115513-syfy-ghost-hunters-living-normally-within-paranormal-pop-culture/. Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  12. ^ Delgado, Carlos (October 8, 2009). "TV Review: South Park: Season 13 - "Dead Celebrities" - Fall Season Premiere". iF Magazine. http://www.ifmagazine.com/review.asp?article=3542. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  13. ^ Ratledge, Ingela (October 19, 2009). "Watercooler: R.I.P. ...And LOL!". TV Guide: p. 64. 
  14. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (October 8, 2010). "South Park, "Dead Celebrities": Ignorance, not bliss". What's Alan Watching?. http://sepinwall.blogspot.com/2009/10/south-park-dead-celebrities-ignorance.html. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 

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