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July 9, 2006
Will Comedy Central Let South Park Out Of The Closet?

Ever since South Park aired its "Trapped In The Closet" episode last November, the masters at Comedy Central and its parent company Viacom have kept the Scientology-bashing entry off the air. The episode created even more controversy when Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, quit the show in protest over the entry months after it originally appeared on Comedy Central. Now, however, the Viacom subsidiary may be forced to change its policy after the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences intervened in an unexpected manner:

One of the Emmy nominees for best animated program is the episode of “South Park” that’s said to have angered Tom Cruise and Isaac Hayes.

The episode called “Trapped in the Closet” implies that Cruise is gay and makes fun of Scientology.

Cruise’s fellow Scientologist Isaac Hayes reportedly quit because he was upset with the episode. And when it came time to rerun it, Cruise allegedly called Comedy Central and demanded that it be pulled. It was, even though Cruise’s people denied he asked for it.

I missed this story when it broke last Thursday, mostly because no one covered it in the media. Given the inroads Scientology has made in Hollywood, the fact that "Trapped" got nominated at all seems rather shocking. It faces off against episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy as well as a couple of Cartoon Network shows. I doubt that it will win, given Hollywood politics in general and the antics in the show itself -- but then again, it managed to win a nomination despite all of that.

Comedy Central now has a major decision on its hands. It doesn't want to put "Trapped" back in the rotation -- but how can it justify keeping it off the air when it received an Emmy nomination? ATAS voters will want to watch the episode in order to make their selection, and Emmy watchers will want another look at it as well. Comedy Central can expect to get renewed attention and added viewers with this recognition -- and a lot of questions if they continue to embargo the nominated episode from further viewing.

Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming schedule. I predict that "Trapped" might finally make it out of the closet.

ADDENDUM: In my opinion, Comedy Central will restore "Trapped" in the rotation. For a commercial network, they've shown remarkable courage in their programming overall. I've had my criticisms, but considering the political climate in today's entertainment community, the fact that they even air South Park is commendable.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 9, 2006 3:31 PM

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