Idol Chatter

The creators of “South Park” promised a war against Scientology, and they made good on their pledge last night, with the opening episode of the always-irreverent series’ 10th season.

The brouhaha started when, as you probably know, Isaac Hayes, the voice of “Chef,” quit “South Park” when they mocked his religion, Scientology, in an episode about Tom Cruise. Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone questioned Hayes’ motives, since the show has skewered Christianity, Judaism, and practically every other form of worship that exists. Parker and Stone then released a press statement with their declaration of war: “So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!” (You can read more about the whole saga in this blog post.)

Last night’s season premiere, called “The Return of Chef!”, was the next battle in that war, and Parker and Stone can declare themselves the winners this time. Parker and Stone concocted a scenario in which Chef gets kidnapped and brainwashed by a child-molesting cult called the “Super Fun Club.” Kyle, Stan, and Cartman areworried about their friend, so they take him to a psychiatrist. Even if you don’t know much about Scientology, you probably remember the uproar that surrounded Tom Cruise’s appearance on “The Today Show,” when he criticized Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants and railed against the evils of modern psychiatry.

In the end, Chef died. Well, he didn’t just die–he was impaled, shot, struck by lightning, and eaten by a bear. The show’s writers added more insult to injury with Kyle’s eulogy, in which he urged the mourners (and the audience) to remember the guy Chef was before “the fruity little club… scrambled his brain.”

But rather than focusing all their anger on Hayes, the person who actually quit the show, Parker and Stone lashed out at Scientology as a whole. This may have something to do with the rumors that Tom Cruise himself was responsible for getting reruns of the episode that mocked him yanked from Comedy Central’s lineup. Best part? The drama’s not over. This morning, as employees around the country gathered at their water coolers, Fox News’ Roger Friedman announced that Hayes had had a stroke in January and that the decision to quit must have been made by someone else. Is this a clever PR stunt? Or an ill-timed medical announcement? No one’s sure yet, so stay tuned.

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