Understanding South Park-gate, and the Meaning of “Synergy”


By now you’ve probably heard how Tom Cruise used his Hollywood heft to pressure Comedy Central into cancelling the re-broadcast of South Park’s controversial Scientology episode (which, ironically, ends with Cruise ranting and raving about how he’ll sue everyone for making fun of his beliefs). 

You’ve also heard about Scientologist Isaac Hayes leaving the program after taking offense to the show’s poking fun of religion (namely, as creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone insightfully pointed out, when it’s his own).  But what does all this corporate showbiz gobbleygook really mean, and how can the whim of one man lord over a major media conglomerate?  Allow me to explain:

Viacom owns Paramout Pictures, most of the known universe and a
number of cable networks, including Comedy Central and MTV Networks
(who also happens to sign my checks).  Tom Cruise is starring in MI:3,
which is Paramount’s great white hope for a big summer blockbuster.
Industry wisdom suggests that said film will gross more profit
proportionally to how much star Cruise chooses to promote the picture
(read: go on TV and jump on couches).  If Cruise were to be made
unhappy (say, by the Viacom-endorsed satirical indictment of his
"religion") and subsequently choose NOT to pimp for the press, the film
could face significant losses, which would affect quarterly profits
here at the Viacom Mothership.  ALSO, as all of this drama is being played out publicly
in the press, it is clearly in Viacom’s best interest to pull the
episode, keep Cruise happy, and sell a bajillion copies of the
"exlusive never-before-seen too-hot-for-TV Extra Special Bonus Edition South Park DVD featuring the controversial episode you’ve been hearing about!"

To recap: Cruise gets his way.  South Park gets back in the news.  Viacom gets richer.  And I keep getting paychecks. 

THAT, children, is what those of us here in the Viacom family affectionately refer to as "synergy".

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