South Park is an American animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. Intended for mature audiences, the show has become famous for its crude language and dark, surreal humor that lampoons a wide range of topics. The ongoing narrative revolves around four boys—Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick—and their bizarre adventures in and around the titular Colorado town.
Parker and Stone, who met at college, developed the show from two animated shorts they created in 1992 and 1995. The latter became one of the first Internet viral videos, which ultimately led to its production as a series. South Park debuted in August 1997 with great success, consistently earning the highest ratings of any basic cable program. Subsequent ratings have varied but it remains one of Comedy Central’s highest rated shows. It is Comedy Central’s longest running program; a total of 230 episodes have aired, and the series is slated to run through at least 2016.
Each episode except the very first one, which was produced by cutout animation, is created with software that emulates the cutout technique. Each episode is typically written and produced during the week preceding its broadcast. Parker and Stone continue to perform most of the voice acting, and Parker is the primary writer and director.
The series has received numerous accolades, including four Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and a #3 ranking in the Channel 4 2004 documentary The 100 Greatest Cartoons. The series’ almost instant popularity resulted in a feature-length theatrical film, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut which was released in June 1999, less than two years after the show’s premiere, and became a box office and critical success. Almost all episodes of the series feature a TV-MA rating, however, in syndication and in reruns on Comedy Central before 9:00 PM eastern time/ 8:00 PM central time, the episodes are altered to be TV-14.
The show follows the exploits of four boys, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick, except in season 6 when Kenny was temporarily written off the show and replaced with Butters then Tweek. The boys live in the fictional small town of South Park, located within the real life South Park basin in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. The town is also home to an assortment of frequent characters such as students, families, elementary school staff, and other various residents, who tend to regard South Park as a bland and quiet place to live. Prominent settings on the show include the local elementary school, bus stop, various neighborhoods and the surrounding snowy landscape, actual Colorado landmarks, and the shops and businesses along the town’s main street, all of which are based on the appearance of similar locations in the town of Fairplay, Colorado.
Stan is portrayed as the everyman of the group, as the show’s official website describes him as an “average, American 4th grader”. Kyle is the lone Jew among the group, and his portrayal in this role is often dealt with satirically. Stan is modeled after Parker, while Kyle is modeled after Stone. Stan and Kyle are best friends, and their relationship, which is intended to reflect the real life friendship between Parker and Stone, is a common topic throughout the series. Cartman—loud, obnoxious, manipulative, racist and obese—is often portrayed as an antagonist whose anti-Semitic attitude has resulted in an ever-progressing rivalry with Kyle. Kenny, who comes from a poor family, wears his parka hood so tightly that it covers most of his face and muffles his speech. During the show’s first five seasons, Kenny would die in nearly every episode before returning in the next with little or no definitive explanation given. He was written out of the show’s sixth season in 2002, re-appearing in the season finale. Since then, the practice of killing Kenny has been seldom used by the show’s creators. In season 14, it is revealed that Kenny cannot die, for he will just be reborn again. During the show’s first 58 episodes, the boys were in the third grade. In the season four episode “4th Grade” (2000), they entered the fourth grade, where they have remained ever since.
Plots are often set in motion by events, ranging from the fairly typical to the supernatural and extraordinary, which frequently happen upon the town. The boys often act as the voice of reason when these events cause panic or incongruous behavior among the adult populace, who are customarily depicted as irrational, gullible, and prone to vociferation. The boys are also frequently confused by the contradictory and hypocritical behavior of their parents and other adults, and often perceive them as having distorted views on morality and society.
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