Matt Stone and Trey Parker should be proud parents. Across two decades and 267 episodes, we've watched the fruit of their brain-loins, South Park, grow from an infant reliant on off-color humor into an equal-opportunity-offending young adult capable of punching up and down at its targets.
The series premiere ("Cartman Gets an Anal Probe") boasts legendary status, but this jam-packed 1997 holiday classic plays better on multiple levels: it introduces an iconic character, mocks religious ignorance, and sneaks in a really, really twisted live-action commercial. Also, remember the infamous song about Kyle's mom? That's here, too. Honorable mention:"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"
A serial chicken-f*cker with a literary bent disrupts the town, causing South Park's main law enforcer to enroll at the local "Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good." Though Officer Barbrady nearly steals this mystery-themed caper, nothing trumps Dep. Eric Cartman and his newfound authori-tah. Honorable mention: "Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Anus"
Here, Stone and Parker parody nonsensical fads, offensive penis stereotypes, and the simple fact that parents ruin the cool shit their kids love. Rewatch this and start praying the delinquent duo returns this year with a Pokémon Go follow-up. Honorable mention:"Sexual Harassment Panda"
As the creators explain here, the tale of Fingerbang marked a major turning point in the series: it's one of the first entries to center on one main story, instead of three or so discrete ones that try to collide. The result successfully incorporates boy bands, Randy's dark past, and the most striking songs since Season 1. Honorable mention: "Cartman Joins NAMBLA"
If any of the selects in this rundown can be called a mindf*ck, it's this one. Stone and Parker explore a deep pocket of Cartman's psyche that's not necessarily unbelievable, but definitely shocking -- you will never look at him the same way again. Honorable mention: "It Hits the Fan"
This is the laugh-out-loud stepping stone that propelled Stone and Parker from Orgazmo to The Book of Mormon. A brilliant indictment of organized religion, it gleefully exploits the horrors of blind faith and fundamentalism. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Honorable mention: "Casa Bonita"
From a technical standpoint, South Park's anime send-up comes with top-notch art, music, and editing. It's also just friggin' hysterical to see a hulking Cartman talking with normal Cartman's voice, essentially channeling his inner Mike Tyson. The moment that encapsulates all those highlights: the tragic downfall of Professor Chaos. Honorable mention:"Up the Down Steroid"
This makes the Mormon one feel like a compliment. "Trapped in the Closet," which relentlessly targets Scientology and Tom Cruise's sexuality, became so contentious that Chef (Isaac Hayes) left and Comedy Central opted not to re-run it in 2006. In terms of satirical power, this might be the quintessential South Park episode. Honorable mention:"Ginger Kids"
This World of Warcraft crossover takes the funniest aspects of "Chinpokomon" (obsessive accuracy) and "Good Times with Weapons" (familiar voices, unfamiliar bodies), combines them, and sticks the landing in a way that would've made Shawn Johnson jealous. In a word: trollsterpiece. Honorable mention: "ManBearPig"
Cartman tries to reach inner-city keeds as a Bill Belichick-inspired cheater while Garrison again grapples with his gender and sexual identity. The power of "Eek, a Penis," and all its envelope-pushing, is probably best exemplified by the mouse that has a human-size dong growing on its back. Are they really gonna go there? you might think, as it scurries (and wags) across the screen. Honorable mention: "Britney's New Look"
Sorry, Kanye -- the Jonas Bros. just squeaked past you here. (The way Stone and Parker lambast the music industry's selling of sex to underage girls is at once vital and entertaining, an impressive combo.) Maybe you'll get another shot this year? Honorable mention:"Fishsticks"
"Royal Pudding" was a godsend for those who couldn't stand the Royal Wedding hype. It rips apart wacky traditions in a delightfully absurd and detailed way -- the square wheels on the Canadian cars get me every time. Honorable mention:"Crack Baby Athletic Association"
The boys come face to face with near-fatal boredom in this I Shouldn't Be Alive riff. If silence is golden, "I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining" has some surefire nuggets that make you really feel the gang's pain. Other highlights include expletive-filled zip-line sequences, an awe-inspiring amount of diarrhea, and six minutes of live-action magic. Honorable mention:"Cartman Finds Love"
Tackling that special day of shopping hell, the 2013 console wars, and the gratuitous number of wieners on HBO, this side-splitting Game of Thrones trilogy saved an otherwise meh 17th run. Thanks be to Butters. Honorable mention:"Informative Murder Porn"
"Ebola" managed to jump on a lot of things, namely what its title suggests. But one of the best subplots from this entire season, Randy's secret identity, enjoyed its debut here. Ya ya ya. Honorable mention:"Freemium Isn't Free"
Last year's premiere promised a focus on Caitlyn Jenner, causing viewers to wonder if South Park would reach its cringe-worthiest low. But in an unexpected move that was simply genius, Stone and Parker took Jenner on by not really taking her on at all, instead peppering this episode with forced compliments and setting up a season-long arc that placed PC culture directly in its sights. Honorable mention:"You're Not Yelping"
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Sean Fitz-Gerald is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment, and he needs Stranger Things to get the SP treatment this year. Find him on Twitter @srkfitzgerald.