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"Pinkeye"
South Park episode
Southpark ep107 2.jpg
Chef and the other zombies dance in the episode's parody of Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 7
Written by Trey Parker
Matt Stone
Philip Stark
Directed by Trey Parker
Matt Stone
Production no. 107
Original airdate October 29, 1997
Episode chronology
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List of South Park episodes

"Pinkeye" is the seventh episode of the first season of the animated television series South Park. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on October 29, 1997, and was the show's first Halloween episode. In "Pinkeye", Kenny is killed and through a freak accident, he is brought back to life as a zombie and starts terrorizing South Park residents, who believe the rise of the living dead is an epidemic of pinkeye.

The episode was written by series co-founders Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with writer Philip Stark. It was directed by Parker and Stone, and was rated TV-MA in the United States. The episode was the first of a new slate of South Park episodes Parker and Stone made after Comedy Central agreed to permanently pick up the show. The duo were not happy with the episode, particularly the ending, and were surprised by the positive response they received from fans. Parker said he also wanted the episode to convey, in part, that Halloween is a positive holiday for children.

"Pinkeye" received generally positive reviews and has been described as one of the classic episodes of South Park. It was viewed by 1.75 million households the week it aired, an unusually high amount for Comedy Central at the time. The episode introduced the recurring character Principal Victoria. Cartman dresses as both Adolf Hitler. Principal then corrects Cartman's costume, dresses him as a ghost, and is recognized as a member of the Ku Klux Klan in "Pinkeye", which initially worried Comedy Central executives, but the negative feedback received due to those costumes was minimal.

Contents

Plot

The episode opens with the Mir space station falling from space and crashing into Kenny. His corpse is taken to the morgue and filled with embalming fluid. However, the coroner's bottle of Worcestershire sauce accidentally falls into the embalming fluid and turns Kenny into a zombie. He breaks free, biting the two coroners on his way out. The next morning, Kenny shows up at the bus stop as usual with Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, who observe Kenny has no costume for a school Halloween costume contest. Stan is dressed up as Raggedy Andy because his girlfriend, Wendy, is supposed to dress as Raggedy Ann. Kyle wears a store-bought Chewbacca costume and Cartman, much to Kyle's annoyance, is dressed like Adolf Hitler.

The two morgue workers visit the doctor, who discovers they have no pulse or heartbeat and an urge to eat brains. Based on their puffy and sticky eyes, he diagnoses them with pinkeye. Back at school, Kyle is disappointed when he sees almost all the children are dressed like Chewbacca. Even Wendy has dressed as Chewbacca, much to the consternation of Stan, who is mocked by the other students for dressing as Raggedy Andy. Principal Victoria and Chef are upset over Cartman’s costume, so Victoria makes him a new ghost costume, which ends up looking like a Ku Klux Klan uniform. Wendy wins the costume contest for her Chewbacca costume.

Zombies begin attacking residents throughout South Park, although everyone still believes it is a pinkeye outbreak. Only Chef realizes the epidemic is actually a wave of the living dead. He visits the doctor and tries to explain the problem, but the doctor doesn't believe him; they are attacked by zombies, and Chef narrowly escapes as the doctor is eaten. Chef also tries to warn Mayor McDaniels and Officer Barbrady, who are engaged in some sort of sex scandal, but they don't believe him either. As the zombies continue to ravage the town, the boys, also oblivious of the zombies, go trick-or-treating, but their attempts to get candy are constantly ruined when Kenny keeps biting everybody.

The boys angrily ditch Kenny and visit Chef, who tells them about the zombie problem. They visit the morgue, where they discover the bottle of Worcestershire sauce. A horde of zombies attack them there and turn Chef into a zombie (although he still keeps his personality). Stan and Cartman kill dozens of zombies as Kyle calls the hotline number from the Worcestershire sauce bottle. The operator first warns Kyle not to go killing zombies left and right, while Stan and Cartman are using chainsaws to kill zombies left and right. She then tells Kyle to kill the original zombie. A zombie version of Wendy walks toward Stan, but he cannot bring himself to kill her. Kyle uses a chainsaw to kill zombie Kenny, returning Wendy and the rest of the zombies to normal, although most of them have already been killed by now. Later, Kenny is buried at the South Park cemetery. After the boys are done paying their respects, Kenny suddenly comes out of his grave, only to have a statue from another grave fall on him, and a jet crash into the statue.

Production

South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone co-wrote and directed "Pinkeye".

Comedy Central originally ordered only six episodes of South Park for the first season's initial run. However, when the show proved to be a success, they requested an additional seven, the first ones of which creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had to produce quickly. "Pinkeye" was the first of those new seven episodes to be produced.[1] It was also the first South Park Halloween episode.[2] The script was written by Parker, Stone and writer Philip Stark, and was directed by Parker and Stone, who made the pinkeye a major element of the plot because they associate the illness with the elementary school experience. Parker said, "Pinkeye is just such a huge part of your life when you're in third grade. Pinkeye is the thing every third grader gets and it's just such a bizarre thing."[3] In writing the episode, Parker said he wanted to convey his belief that Halloween is a positive holiday, especially for children: "Halloween's a great thing. That was part of what we wanted (to say). I think kids having this kind of mythology is great."[3]

"Pinkeye" was the first South Park episode to feature a cold open, or an opening scene jumping right into the story before the opening credits are shown. In all previous episodes, and the majority of those following it, the episode starts after the opening credits and follows a three-act model, more in the style of a short film than a traditional television episode. "Pinkeye" was the first episode in which Kenny's death was a key element of the episode and a catalyst of the plot, rather than a throwaway gag. It was also the first time Kenny died multiple times: once in the beginning, once as a zombie and once at the end when he is resurrected a second time. The blood featured in the episode was deliberately designed to look primitive as a reference to The Spirit of Christmas, the 1995 animated short film by Parker and Stone that served as a precursor to South Park, in which the blood was literally drawn with a Sharpie marker. For the final scene when Kenny comes back to life a second time, the dramatic music was inserted at the last moment by Parker with a synthesizer.[3]

Parker and Stone had trouble deciding how to resolve the episode and bring the zombie characters back to life. Although they ultimately settled on having Kyle kill the "main zombie" to bring back the others, Parker did not feel the resolution made sense and described it as a deus ex machina. Parker said of the ending, "This was another big one of those episodes where we were sort of (like), 'How do we get out of this one?'"[3] Parker also described the ending of the episode as "a bloodbath, (which) is what a good zombie movie should be".[3] "Pinkeye" was the first South Park episode Parker and Stone felt unsatisfied with once production was complete. Parker said, "We were pretty bummed out, and we kind of thought, well, we're going to have a bad episode go on the air, and hopefully it won't alienate too many people, and we'll try to get our viewers back for Thanksgiving. But we were totally wrong, people totally loved it."[3]

Stone said he felt the episode solidified major characteristics embodied by the Chef character, particularly the fact that he is one of the only adults in South Park who always understands the truth of any given situation and believes the children almost all of the time. Stone said, "It's like the parents are all nuts that live in the town. The boys are kind of the most sane and Chef is really the only one in town who believes the kids when they say (something) is happening, when the kids are actually right and its the town that's crazy."[3] "Pinkeye" was also the first episode in which Liane Cartman, Eric Cartman's mother, was portrayed as a promiscuous woman who was previously a crack whore and is willing to engage in pornographic sex for money; during the episode, she is featured on the cover of "Crack Whore Magazine".[3]

Release

Before its release on Comedy Central, "Pink Eye" was shown at the first annual New York Comedy Film Festival at New York Film Academy on October 26, 1997. Out of about 50 films shown in the festival, "Pink Eye" was chosen as the final exhibition to close the festival.[4] Parker and Stone appeared on The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn on October 27, to promote the episode and the first season in general. In its original American television broadcast, "Pinkeye" received a Nielsen Rating of 3.8, meaning the episode was seen by about 1.75 million households. Television journalists said the rating was unusually high for Comedy Central standards; the network averages a 0.6 rating (276,000 households) during prime time,[5] and prior to South Park, the channel's highest rating was a 2.7 (1.24 million households) for the second season premiere of Absolutely Fabulous.[6] In 2000, The Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills, California held a three-month horror festival called "Monster in the Box: Horror on Television", which included "Pinkeye" in its selection of classic or excellent horror-related television comedy episodes. It also included The Munsters episode "Munster Masquerade" and The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror V".[7]

"Pinkeye" was released, along with 11 other episodes, in a three-DVD set in November 1998. It was included in the second volume, which also included the episodes "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig", "Death" and "Damien".[8] "Pinkeye" was also one of six episodes included on a 1998 VHS called "South Park Festival Special", which included "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo", "Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson!", "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics", "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery", and "Starvin' Marvin".[9] The episode, along with the other twelve from the first season, was also included in the DVD release "South Park: The Complete First Season", which was released on November 12, 2002.[10] Parker and Stone recorded commentary tracks for each episode, but they were not included with the DVDs due to "standards" issues with some of the statements; Parker and Stone refused to allow the tracks to be edited and censored, so they were released in a CD completely separate from the DVDs.[11][12]

Cultural references

"Pinkeye" included the first appearance of Principal Victoria, the principal of South Park Elementary. Her appearance is based on Comedy Central executive Debbie Liebling, who served as a South Park producer at the time of the episode's broadcast. Unlike Liebling, however, Principal Victoria spoke with a thick Minnesotan accent; the voice was chosen simply because it was an accent voice actress Mary Kay Bergman could do particularly well.[3]

Cartman dresses like Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party; Cartman occasionally says "Sieg Heil", a common phrase previously used in Nazi Germany.[1] Comedy Central had reservations about the idea and sought ideas for other possible costumes, but Parker and Stone insisted it had to be the Hitler costume. Once the episode aired, however, the two received very few letters from upset viewers over the costume; Parker attributed this to the fact that people were becoming more familiar with the Cartman character, and thus recognized that most of what he said and did was usually wrong. More than Hitler, however, Comedy Central executives were worried about the use of Chewbacca costumes throughout the episode because of George Lucas' well-known tendency to file lawsuits against unauthorized Star Wars references or parodies. The channel contacted his production company, Lucasfilm, about the episode and was asked to send a copy of the episode to them for review. The voice used by the supposedly actual Adolf Hitler in the educational video shown to Cartman is based on Monty Python alum John Cleese's Hitler impression, which both Parker and Stone particularly praised.[3]

Actress and singer Tina Yothers, best known for her role in the television series Family Ties, is featured in the episode as a celebrity judge in the school's costume judging contest. About one year after the episode aired, Stone met Yothers at a venue where she was performing with her band. Stone was uncomfortable because it was the first time he had met a celebrity the show previously mocked, but Yothers said she was a big fan of the show and enjoyed her parody appearance. She used a clip of Kyle saying "Up yours, Tina Yothers" from the episode as an introductory sound clip to introduce her band's shows.[3] Kenny is turned into a zombie after a coroner accidentally knocks Worcestershire sauce, a fermented liquid condiment, into his embalming fluid.[13] Parker and Stone originally planned to have a Dr Pepper fall into the embalming fluid, but it was changed after the soft drink company objected to that use of their product.[3]

The episode features a parody of the Michael Jackson song "Thriller", as well as the music video. When Chef becomes a zombie, he is dressed like Jackson from the "Thriller" video, and he and the other zombies dance in a similar way. Chef also shouts "Oh" the same way Jackson often did during music performances. The song Chef sings is extremely similar to the actual "Thriller" song, but Parker said they deliberately made it "(just) different enough that we can't get sued".[3] Stan is ridiculed for his likeness to Raggedy Andy, based on the rag doll character by children's writer Johnny Gruelle; Stan's girlfriend Wendy was originally supposed to dress as Raggedy Ann with Stan, but she instead chose to dress as Chewbacca.[14] When Cartman later dons a "ghost" costume, it resembles a costume from the Ku Klux Klan, the militant white supremacy organization.[5] Parker and Stone said they feel Klan jokes are particularly funny because the concept of KKK is so stupid. Stone said, "Dressing up like ghosts to scare black people is just stupid. Stupidly funny."[3] The zombie-version of Kenny is said to resemble Edward James Olmos, the American actor who played Lt. Martin Costillo in Miami Vice.[1]

"Pinkeye" spoofs, and is partially inspired, by the classic 1968 zombie film, Night of the Living Dead.[15] Both Parker and Stone said they enjoyed the film very much. Although some viewers and commentators compared Chef's actions and knowledge to those of the black protagonist in that film, Parker and Stone said that was not deliberately done. The episode features the Russian orbital station Mir. Its crash into South Park reflected a number of technical problems the actual space station was having around the time of the episode's original broadcast. A framed photo of Isaac Hayes, the singer-songwriter who provides the voice of Chef, is visible hanging on Chef's living room wall. For Halloween, Chef dresses up as Evel Knievel, the famous American motorcycle daredevil and stunt performer. A statue of the superhero title character from Orgazmo, the 1997 comedy film written by Parker and Stone, is featured in the South Park cemetery during the final scene of the episode.[3]

Reception

"Pinkeye" has been described as one of the classic episodes of South Park.[16] In "Doug Pratt's DVD-Video Guide", Pratt, a DVD reviewer and Rolling Stone contributor, calls "Pinkeye" his favorite episode of the first season of South Park: "We like it primarily because the subject -- a horror satire -- seems ideally suited for the show's irreverent attitude."[12] Eric Mink of the New York Daily News complimented the episode, which he felt illustrated many of the outrageous and shocking elements that had made South Park so popular. He said the episode was particularly notable for its graphic violence: "Most sitcoms would have a problem doing an episode in which one regular character slices another regular character in half with a chainsaw. Not South Park."[1] Mike Higgins of The Independent said this episode helped "cement (Eric Cartman's) position as one of the great, obnoxious characters of the Nineties", particularly through his Adolf Hitler Halloween costume.[17]

Matt Roush of USA Today said of the episode, "Absurdly nihilistic and savagely derisive ... South Park's twisted take on a holiday special will delight anyone who favors SweeTarts over candy corn."[18] Kevin M. Williams of the Chicago Sun-Times described the episode as "a Halloween-themed tour de force of crudeness, a wild romp with blood, brains and gore."[19] Vijay Ramanavarapu of The Plain Dealer said the episode was "very offensive", particularly for its mockery of Kyle for his judaism.[5] The Baltimore Sun also described the episode as offensive and said of it, "Looking for sophisticated humor, finely honed satire and superior animation in your cartoons? Then stay far away from Comedy Central tonight."[20]

RealSouthPark.com, a 1999 website that examined real-life people and places that may have inspired South Park episodes, suggested the settings in "Pinkeye" may have been inspired by a supposedly haunted hotel in Fairplay, Colorado, a Park County town that serves as the basis for the South Park location within the show. In a review of the site, however, The Australian suggested the interpretation was unlikely, since the hotel is rumored to be haunted by ghosts, not zombies.[21]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Mink, Eric (1998-10-29). ""South Park" comes up with a hallo-winner". Daily News (New York): p. 89.  
  2. ^ "Tonight on TV". Newsday (New York): p. B35. 1997-10-29.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Trey Parker, Matt Stone. (2003) (Audio commentary). South Park: The Complete First Season: "Pinkeye". [CD]. Comedy Central.  
  4. ^ Roman, Monica (1997-10-07). """Bean" bags fest spot: Pic to kick off first N.Y. Comedy Film event". Daily Variety: p. 9.  
  5. ^ a b c Ramanavarapu, Vijay. "Laughs on the loose side; Comedy Central show is funny but not for kids". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio): p. 1E.  
  6. ^ Duffy, Mike (1997-12-16). "Rudeness rules! Comedy Central hit "South Park" is smarter than it looks". Detroit Free Press: p. 1D.  
  7. ^ King, Susan (2000-09-20). ""Monster in the Box" takes many forms over 50 years". Los Angeles Times: p. F8.  
  8. ^ Perry, Vern (1998-11-13). "Not just another pretty face". The Orange County Register: p. F33.  
  9. ^ "Our competition could cause anarchy". Grimsby Evening Telegraph: p. 12. 2000-12-19.  
  10. ^ Lawson, Terry (2002-11-12). "4-disc "Rings" could take up a whole weekend". Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan).  
  11. ^ Owen, Rob (2002-11-22). ""South Park" warped and worthy". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): p. 39.  
  12. ^ a b Pratt, Doug (2005). Doug Pratt's DVD: Movies, Television, Music, Art, Adult, and More!. UNET 2 Corporation. p. 1123. ISBN 1932916016.  
  13. ^ Jones, Steve (2008-02-12). ""Thriller" video is far from dead". USA Today: p. 4D.  
  14. ^ Gire, Dann (2005-05-13). "End of an epic Our tribute to "Star Wars," a series that spanned generations Readers weigh in on "Star Wars" favorites". Daily Herald (Chicago): p. 33.  
  15. ^ Moore, Frazier (1997-10-27). ""Milo" Lampoons Supermodels". Associated Press (New York).  
  16. ^ ""Rude about bin Laden"". The Canberra Times (Australia): p. 8. 2001-11-12.  
  17. ^ Higgins, Mike. "Videowatch". The Independent (London): p. 10.  
  18. ^ Roush, Matt (1997-10-29). ""Prime Time" toddler trials times 6 Famed sextuplets at age 4; "South Park" takes on Halloween". USA Today: p. 3D.  
  19. ^ Williams, Kevin M. (1997-10-29). "South Park". Chicago Sun-Times: p. 59.  
  20. ^ "Cartoon an acquired taste". The Baltimore Sun: p. 3E. 1997-10-29.  
  21. ^ Murphy, Kerrie (1999-09-09). "No fair play in this South Park". The Australian: p. M26.  

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