Under the supervision of A/V teacher Mr. Meryl, South Park Elementary closed circuit television now features Super School News, with anchors Jimmy Valmer and "Rick" Cartman, cafeteria correspondent Stan Marsh, weatherman Token Black, celebrity gossipmonger Butters Stotch, and sportscaster Kyle Broflovski. However, Mr. Meryl reveals that the news is being trounced in the ratings by Craig Tucker's Close-Up Animals with a Wide-Angle Lens, and unless they can improve their ratings, the plug will be pulled on their show. The boys' mood sours further when Craig puts on a tape of the latest episode of his show in front of an awed crowd at Whistlin' Willy's.
After a brainstorming session, the boys, over Jimmy's objections, decide to Retool their broadcast as Sexy Action School News, with Raisins Girls, fabricated stories and salacious gossip, and random dances with people in panda costumes. Ratings improve, but Craig has also given his show a Retool as Close-Up Animals with a Wide-Angle Lens Wearing Hats, and is once again top of the ratings charts, leading Mr. Meryl to threaten to give the newscasters Fs. Another brainstorming session fails to produce any worthwhile ideas - until Kyle suggests they try getting stoned on cough medicine, like the sixth graders do.
A trip to the pharmacy leads to a trip of a very different sort, as the six boys mix and match their cough medicines until their brains have taken off for other galaxies without them... whereupon they find they actually enjoy Craig's show. The next morning, after sobering up (and discovering they failed to come up with any good ideas while stoned), they realise why Craig's show is so popular: half the school is high on cough medicine. They decide to produce a hard-hitting exposé on the school's cough medicine addiction, part of which involves turning the pharmacist in for supplying drugs to minors.
Sexy Action School News is now leading the ratings, and Mr. Meryl suspends Craig and instructs him to have his testicles surgically removed, while giving an order for twenty-seven new shows to the six newscasters. However, their well of ideas is still completely dry, and this time, they simply give up and leave.
This episode contains examples of:
- Age-Inappropriate Dress: The Raisins Girls already qualified as this but they get new outfits in this episode which are even more inappropriate.
- Bait-and-Switch: When the boys tell the pharmacist they want to get high off of cough medicine to come up with ideas, he tells them that's not what they want. What he was talking about wasn't that Drugs Are Bad, but that the brand of cough medicine they had doesn't contain the ingredient that causes highs and shows them all the ones that do.
- Blatant Lies: Sexy Action School News just makes up stories, including that Clyde only has one testicle.
- But Not Too Black: In-Universe, Cartman advises Token to adopt a more "white" voice for his news coverage.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Craig's show winds up getting such low ratings the teachers suspends him from school and writes a recommendation to get his testicles removed.
- Eureka Moment: When the boys recover from their cough medicine Mushroom Samba after watching Craig's show all night long, Stan is quick to realize that everyone else was watching it while they were high on cough medicine as well.Stan: I think I understand now. I think I know why Craig's show gets such great ratings... Half the school is high on cough medicine!
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Craig's show, "Close-Up Shots of Animals With A Wide-Angle Lens", is exactly that, set to a dinky rendition of "Yakety Sax".
- Jerkass Has a Point: While the boys go to unethical lengths for ratings, it's fairly understandable why they would be so concerned as their teacher takes their show's ratings incredibly seriously, even basing their grade off their ratings.
- Lowest Common Denominator: The boys revamp the news show to appeal to this in an effort to boost ratings. It does work, but they still get beat by Craig's new show. This convinces them that Jimmy was right and they need to step up their game rather than rely on flashiness.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The pharmacist for selling the boys cough medicine knowing they want to get high off it.
- Mushroom Samba: Caused by taking cough medicine.
- Never My Fault: Cartman is mad at Kenny for joining Craig's show refusing to take blame when Kenny points out that not only did he not let Kenny join the news show, but he also mocked him for it.
- No, You:Mr. Meryl: I'm sorry, kids. You should be proud of what you've done. It's just that it's kind of gay.
Cartman: You're gay!
- Only Sane Man/Token Good Teammate: Jimmy is the only one who actually cares about the news rather than just getting the best ratings (a trait that is carried over into his later appearances, like "Sponsored Content").
- Pandering to the Base: In-universe example with the boys' revamped news show. They mention adding panda bears and hot girls for the sake of appealing to kindergartners and 6th graders, even if they aren't relevant to their stories.
- Police are Useless: Averted for once as the pharmacist is actually arrested by Officer Barbrady for selling kids cough medicine.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Word of God says that the reason the boys have such a hard time coming up with ideas is because, having just finished post-production for Team America: World Police, the staff was too burnt-out to come up with anything."So, this episode marks a very special time in South Park history, because, this was the first time that we were officially...out of ideas."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the end, the boys bail on their newscast after realizing they have no ideas.
- Self-Deprecation/Call-Back: "I think we can do a little better than Crab People."
- Take That!: The unethical behavior of the boys is one towards news reporters who use similar tactics to attract viewers and are more worried about ratings than informing their audience about the truth.
- Watch It Stoned: The boys end up loving Craig's show while they're tripping on cough medicine, which helps them figure out why it's been pulling such high ratings: the kids watching it were also high, because the pharmacist had been selling them prescription cough syrup, too.