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The Genius that is South Park

South ParkI’ve never got into The Simpsons primarily because my parents wouldn’t allow me to watch it.  They said it was crude, that Homer was a lazy bum, and that Bart’s mouth should be washed out with soap.  But, as I got older and could make my own decisions, a friend got me into South Park (Comedy Central).  Little did I know how clever and funny it would turn out to be from its wee years starting in 1997.  The show was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone and has become infamous for its crass, sarcastic, potty-mouthed humor.  The main characters are four children who somehow never seem to age at all—Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick (I think it took them three seasons to get from grade 3 to 4!).  They live in the little town of South Park, Colorado where they are always in trouble or on some sort of weird quest.  Parker and Stone also released a movie South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.

The very first episode was made using cutout animation but since then, everything is computer animated.  If you watch the early seasons of South Park, it looks like some college-basement-project-production-gone-wrong type of show.  Over the years, the production of one 30-minute episode has gone from 3 weeks, to one week, to now about three days.  Unlike the majority of sitcoms, scripts are not written at the beginning of the season.  This provides for a pertinent, ripped-from-the-headlines show every week.  This in itself makes the show so unique.  True fans will remember the episode that aired less than 24 hours after President Obama made his victory winning speech.  When asked why they subject themselves to the pressures of using only one week to meet a deadline, Parker and Stone state that, “The stress creates more spontaneity amongst themselves in the creative process, which in turn makes for a funnier show.”

South Park put Comedy Central on the television map.  The show’s first episode “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” was seen by 980,000 viewers, which back then was already considered high for a, especially for a cable program.  Ratings kept increasing exponentially, with one episode in Season 2 drawing a series-high 6.2 million viewers.  According to Wikipedia, the “success of South Park prompted more cable companies to carry Comedy Central and led it to become one of the fastest-growing cable channels.  The number of households that had Comedy Central jumped from 9.1 million in 1997 to 50 million in June 1998.”  To this day, South Park is still THE HIGHEST rated show on Comedy Central, ever—ahead of the Daily Show or the Colbert Report.  And if you think about it, it was South Park that led the way for those two shows to become popular.  They aired right after the show and were geared to the satirical, sarcastic viewers.

Although they have had their controversial moments and usually take heat from some animal or parental rights group, Parker and Stone usually have a good message behind most episodes.  They mean well and, let’s face it, the bottom line is that it’s entertaining as hell.  No other show would have the audacity to say the word “sh_t” 162 times, the “N” word 43 times, and denounce Scientology as a sham in past episodes.  But yet, somehow these four animated kids get away with that every week.  Kudos to the Parker and Stone for constantly pushing the line to see how much they can get away with.  The new season of South Park begins on October 7th.

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