How many 80-year-olds can say they've helped inspire a potty-mouthed preteen? Maybe just one, TV legend Norman Lear, whose beloved All in the Family bigot Archie Bunker was the prototype for South Park's Eric Cartman. So, it should come as no surprise that Lear's been collaborating with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the Comedy Central cult hit's thirtysomething co-creators, on the show's seventh season and 100th episode (which airs April 9, at 10 pm/ET). What's the real secret to their friendship, which dates back to 1998, when Lear's then 10-year-old son Benjamin introduced him to the show? A lot of laughs, and just a little liquor, apparently.
TVGO: Is there any way Norman does show his age, Matt and Trey?
Stone: This'll sound cheesy, but only in his wisdom. We hang out all the time and just pick his brain about life about how we get to look as good, be as healthy and live as long and prosperous.
Parker: We've grilled him on how much he drank his life so that we could figure out how in trouble we are. (Laughs) He has one drink a day [a fruit vodka at night], so that's what we're gonna switch to. We have one drink a day now... It's just a bottle of wine.
Lear: I watch some of everything to know what's going on. I've got 8-year-old twin daughters who have to see American Idol, but that's who the show is intended for, 8-year-old daughters. (Laughs) I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.Parker: We're so turned off by TV that we just don't watch anymore. I have a TiVo, and my season passes are Investigative Reports and American Justice with Bill Curtis, City Confidential and Mugshots. A&E and Court TV are really the only two channels ever on in my home.Stone: I'm addicted to the History Channel, and to Discovery Civilization Channel. The more boring, the better. Other than that, I just watch Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. To me, TV drama is the lowest form of human creativity.Lear: Well, it's some of the highest, too. The West Wing is wonderful.Stone: The West Wing, NYPD Blue, all that dramatic TV... I don't give a f--- really.Parker: Basically, anything that's on network television between 7 and 11 o'clock is the lowest form of human creativity. That's a corporation saying we want to make sure we don't offend anyone, and that we stay clear of anything that might be construed as an issue, or a topic, or as thought. TVGO: Tell us how you really feel, Trey.Parker: People think that these HBO shows, for instance, are doing so well because they can say "f---" and "godd--- it" that Americans are that low that the only thing that matters is hearing those words and seeing some more violence. But it's that they also have the freedom and we have the freedom to take on a hardcore point and put it out there for people to smell and taste. That's what All in the Family was about. It was supposed to be this little mini-play in which you laughed but you also went, "Yeah, I don't know how I feel about that." That's just been completely sucked out of all network television. TVGO: Can you think of one network sitcom or drama that you don't think sucks completely?
Stone: No, they all suck.Parker: When we were gonna do That's My Bush! we visited sitcom sets. We'd be like, "Hey we're gonna do a sitcom next," and they'd all be like, "Why?" Because they knew they were just robots spouting these crap words written by crap writers. It's crap.Lear: I think Everybody Loves Raymond and Frasier are well written comedies that don't elect to do heavier material. They're obviously intelligent people who could do it. I think that's fair and fine. They have trouble with it. TVGO: Let's talk about Comedy Central. Years ago, Matt and Trey volunteered to run the network, then reconsidered after someone explained what they'd actually have to do as suits. What should be on Comedy Central today?
Lear: It's all there. I would say more of the same.Parker: The Matt and Trey Show.Stone: ...and then Matt and Trey Get Laid.Parker: We told them that they should put Magic the Gathering tournaments on Comedy Central.Stone: They're a f---ing riot.Parker: But they think it's standup and reruns of Saturday Night Live. TVGO: Last question, and it's for Norman. Now that Matt and Trey have signed on for another three years of South Park, what do you suggest they do next?
Lear: I'd like to see them get married. I think they'll make fair husbands, and great fathers. (Laughs) The boy in them will never die, and that's a great thing in a guy.