South Park Season 5

Your next box set: South Park

The fifth season of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's anarchic animated comedy is something of a peak, hitting a not-so-sweet spot between gleeful offence and barbed satire

The fifth series of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's lewd animation about eight-year-old boys in smalltown Colorado is the one to watch. It's uncomplicatedly brilliant: less scatological than the first few series, less aggressively satirical than what followed. In the US, ratings doubled during the fifth series.

It begins with a show spoofing the stink kicked up by the use – once – of the word "shit" in an episode of the US surgical soap Chicago Hope. The episode, called It Hits the Fan, uses the word 162 times, triggering an apocalypse. Then there's Cripple Fight, in which wheelchair-user Timmy has a gruelling punch-up with newcomer Jimmy (on crutches). But the standout show is The Entity, which has glove puppet-wearing teacher Mr Garrison, sick of airports, inventing a personal gyroscope that can go at 200mph: it's so popular, it rapidly puts the airlines out of business. The downside is that operating its levers involves simulating several sexual acts at once. This is graphically – and gobsmackinglyendorsed by a cartoon John Travolta.

There's so much to admire here: the wit, the topicality (each show is knocked out in a week), the casual combat with sacred cows, the complete lack of thrall to celebrity. And, for all its belligerence, there's something sweet at heart about South Park, something that harks back to the friendship between its creators.

When you've finished the fifth series, return to the tail end of the fourth, for Helen Keller: The Musical, in which Cartman (the show's obese, foul-mouthed anti-hero) employs a Broadway star to snazz up their end-of-term show. He suggests Cartman shut his eyes for an insight into the mind of deaf-blind activist Keller. As he does so, we see inside Cartman's own mind: rapid-edit real-life footage of desiccated skulls, mice devouring corpses, Nazi parades, cakes, mushroom clouds and major surgery. What, asks the actor, did you see? Cartman sighs. "Just the same old crap I always see when I close my eyes."

barbed: kolczasty

belligerence: agresywność, wojowniczość

crutches: kule (do chodzenia)

desiccated: wysuszony

devour: pożerać

downside: wada, minus

endorse: popierać, potwierdzać

foul-mouthed: wulgarnie wyrażający się

gleeful: radosny


gruelling: wyczerpujący

gyroscope: żyroskop

hark back to: przypominać

lever: dźwignia

punch-up: bijatyka

scatological: skatologiczny

snazz up: ulepszyć, unowocześnić

spoof: parodiować

thrall: niewola, uleganie

trigger: wywoływać

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