Comedy net restores Scientology spoof

Comedy Central has scheduled a July 19 airdate for “Trapped in the Closet,” the “South Park” episode that lampoons Scientology and Tom Cruise.

The segment, nominated for an Emmy, was removed from the repeat schedule in May.

The gesture is a big step toward repairing a rift that developed between the cabler and “South Park” co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Duo were told the episode was yanked because Cruise was displeased. Thesp was in the midst of launching “Mission: Impossible III” for Paramount, and Viacom owns both the network and film studio.

“It’s true we are not as big as Tom Cruise, but we’ve done two movies for Viacom and 10 years of ‘South Park’ episodes, and this has been our home,” Stone said. “If they hadn’t put this episode back on the air, we’d have had serious issues, and we wouldn’t be doing anything else with them.”

Stone and his partner, who won an Emmy last year for an episode about Terry Schiavo, made “Trapped in the Closet” their sole Emmy submission this year, mainly because they were upset that it was silenced.

They learned before the Emmy nom that the show would be taken off the shelf.

The “Trapped in the Closet” move was just one of three instances of censorship by the network that riled them during last season.

“We’ve been through a trifecta of annoyances,” Stone said. “The ‘Bloody Mary’ episode angered Catholics. And we had a big fight when we wanted to show Muhammad.”The Cruise camp has repeatedly denied any involvement in pulling the episode that prompted Scientologist Isaac Hayes to quit the show. Stone isn’t convinced.

“I only know what we were told, that people involved with ‘MI3′ wanted the episode off the air and that is why Comedy Central had to do it,” Stone said. “I don’t know why else it would have been pulled.”

Stone said he and Parker felt the network erred in scratching their bid to show Muhammad in “Cartoon Wars,” their response to the riots and violence that followed a Danish newspaper’s publication of editorial cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet. The episodes aired, but with Muhammad’s image blanked out.

“The mantra has always been everything is fair game,” Stone said.Stone said the network didn’t want to risk creating a violent reaction.

“I love Doug Herzog, but I think he’s dead wrong and made a totally cowardly decision,” Stone said. “Harper’s recently published the Danish cartoons, and nobody got blown up. The magazine asked us for our uncensored image of Muhammad, and Comedy Central refused.”

The network declined comment.

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