"Quest for Ratings" is the 122nd episode in the Comedy Central series South Park. Its original air date was November 17, 2004. This episode was rated TV-MA in the United States, except on syndicated broadcasts, where the episode is rated TV-14.
Animals Close Up, With A Wide Angled Lens - Ripped from South Park Season 8 Episode: Quest for Ratings.
Stan, Cartman, Kyle, Butters, Jimmy and Token are taping "Super School News", a newscast airing on South Park Elementary's closed-circuit television system. Cartman (under the name Rick Cartman) and Jimmy play the leading roles as head anchors, Butters is the entertainment and celebrity reporter, Stan is a field reporter, Token is the meteorologist, and Kyle does sports. However after their news program airs, their teacher Mr. Meryl tells them that they did horribly in the ratings, trailing far behind Craig's home video show, "Animals Close-Up With a Wide-Angle Lens", which they consider pointless and banal. (The footage is accompanied by the tune Yakety Sax.)
The news team then pledges to make a program that will be a ratings booster and gain the attention of all students. They rename the show "Sexy Action School News" and add flashy elements (in a parody of various infotainment shows), including random "Panda Madness Minutes" in which the newscasters spontaneously dance with pandas. However, nothing seems to work; although they beat Craig's original series, they fall behind his follow-up "Animals Close-Up With a Wide-Angle Lens Wearing Hats".
To get ideas, the boys decide to get high on cough medicine. They begin to feel 'stoned', then have weird hallucinations, seeing each other as monstrous grotesques (including Kyle having the head of a wolf and massive yellow eyes, and Cartman being a shapeless blob of fat). Prize-winning dogs on display, animated Mandelbrot designs, and tunnels of light with weird performance art displays at the end whirl through their brain and they stumble around town in a trance, getting higher and higher, conjuring up stop-motion animation images of bustling cities, blooming flowers, African dancers and imploding buildings. Butters pulls off all his clothes and cheerfully runs around the town naked, while the boys do nothing to stop him. They eventually retire to their ideas room, and watch Craig's show with stoned expressions, and find it awesome.
When they come around, their notepads contain nothing useful. Cartman drew a circle and a squiggly line, and Kyle wrote down the lyrics to the Happy Days theme. Meanwhile Butters is naked to his briefs and lying face-down in Kyle's lap and wondering where his clothes are. Then Stan realizes that the video they were watching all night and concluded was the 'greatest show ever' while under the influence of cough medicine was Craig's show. They realize that Craig's show gets such good ratings because most of the school must be totally high on cough medicine. They then decide to produce a special report that gets cough medicine banned from school. Their investigation includes such footage as one of them crawling around in the vents, them interviewing the Principal Victoria, and ironically CCTV of them buying cough syrup.
Soon after, the ratings drop and Craig's show is cancelled, as the children are no longer high and therefore no longer enjoy the show. To emphasize the importance of good ratings, the AV teacher then suspends Craig from school and requests the removal of his testicles. Satisfied with their results, the "Sexy Action School News" team discovers the curse of a successful show: each subsequent episode has to be just as good. Back in the writer's room, they come up with nothing and eventually decide to just bail.
The school is forced to just go back to running Craig's "Animals Close-Up With a Wide-Angle Lens."
With the 2008 DVD release of Season 8, many of the mini commentaries revealed that much of the lack of ideas was because Team America: World Police, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's concurrent film, had just been through a long, grueling post-production and left the staff low on energy:
- Quest for Ratings Full episode at South Park Studios
- Quest for Ratings Episode guide at South Park Studios