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When South Park first aired on Comedy Central in 1997, very few suspected that the show would run for 23 years.
The pilot episode was created using construction paper cutouts. Since then they’ve used computers for the animation, but they retained the original art style. This allows them to complete episodes much quicker than other animated shows. This allows the shows writing staff to operate on a one week schedule. Even so, the network often gets an episode just hours before it is set to air.
It cannot be denied, Trey Parker and Matt Stone created one of the most controversial shows on television. Following the escapades of Kyle, Stan Kenny and Cartman in the small town of South Park Colorado, we’ve seen many outlandish and absurd things.
From a giant mechanized Barbara Streisand to the murder of Winnie the Pooh to appease the Chinese government, there is no person or subject they are not willing ridicule. The show has faced plenty of backlash and has often come into conflict with Comedy Central.
Despite this Parker and Stone have remained unapologetic. They often double down on the controversy they create. This can best be seen with their 200th and 201st episodes. The episodes were censored and eventually banned by the network, in response to threats of violence by extremists over their depiction of the prophet Mohammed.
In typical South Park fashion, they responded on the South Park website with this statement:
“In the 14 years we’ve been doing ‘South Park’ we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.”Trey Parker and Matt Stone
Like it’s controversy, it’s success also cannot be denied.
The show has won 5 Emmys and for some reason a Peabody award. In 2019 it remains the number 1 comedy show for young adults, a title it has held for seven consecutive years. In addition, in 2019 viewers watched over 30 billion minutes of the show – not including streaming.
Parker and Stone have parlayed the show’s success into several successful side projects. The most notable a Broadway show called the Book of Mormon, has won numerous awards including Tony awards for best musical, best book of a musical, and best original score.
The duo also wrote and directed Team America: World Police, which received positive reviews and nearly grossed double the production cost.
With success like this, it’s no wonder Comedy Central continuously renews this controversial show.