For the first 22 seasons, the series revolved mainly around four young schoolboys; Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick and their exploits in the fictional town of South Park, but also featured a number of other characters. As of season 23, Randy Marsh has replaced the four boys as the series' main character, and the series now revolves around his exploits at the Tegridy Farms. The show has also caused a number of controversies regarding its content, as well as the parodies of people and events it portrays.
The series' roots go as far back as 1992, when Trey Parker and Matt Stone were still at college. They created a short video called Jesus vs. Frosty. In 1995, Brian Graden, an executive of FOX, saw the film and commissioned Parker and Stone to make another. The next short video called "The Spirit of Christmas" resembled the animation style of the later series and the characters resembled their later selves. The video became increasingly popular and the creators went into talks with FOX for a possible television series revolving around four children as main protagonists. After FOX decided to pass on the series, the duo went to Comedy Central, who commissioned only 6 episodes for the first season, and it debuted on August 13, 1997. After the show proved itself to be a huge success, Comedy Central ordered 7 additional episodes, which Parker and Stone had to quickly produce.
The first season relied on shock-value, with rather weird and unusual plot lines such as the breeding of elephants and pigs and a giant mechanized version of Barbra Streisand. As the series progressed, the episodes tended to revolve mostly around the characters up until Season Seven. In this season there was a noticeable increase in satirical episodes, which remain the most popular to this day. However, in about Season Fifteen, there are mostly character-based episodes again. The series began to parody celebrities, such as Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton and Al Gore. It also parodied real life events such as homosexual marriages, global warming and use of the N-word. The creators also tend to parody (or pay homage to) television shows and films. The parodies also allow the creators to voice their opinions through episodes. The quick production on the show allows the program to respond quickly to current events, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein. The parodies of course, start controversies; in particular the episode "Trapped in the Closet" which mocked Scientology.
In September 2007, Parker and Stone signed a contract for three more seasons (after the current contract which runs up to the end of 2008 expires) which took the show up to 2011 with fifteen seasons and a total of 223 episodes at least.
In a news report on The New York Times website, a worker at Viacom stated that the show will continue to 2013.
The creators announced in the South Park website that South Park will continue up to its 20th season in 2016.
The creators later announced that the series will be running until the twenty-third season.
On September 12, 2019, it was announced that Trey Parker and Matt Stone will extend the series by three seasons and 30 episodes.
The main characters on the show consist of four 10-year-old (previously 8 and 9) young boys; Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny.
Stan is the straight man of the group, he is often caring and thoughtful, and arguably the most normal or 'average' of the group. He is generally well-meaning, but is very unimpressed and embarrassed by the way the adults of the town (like his father) react to situations. However, the only unique trait Stan possesses is the fact that every time a girl he loves, particularly Wendy talks to him, he vomits uncontrollably. But for some reason, he doesn't do that very often because he is used to her talking to him all the time but every time they try to kiss Stan always vomits on Wendy.
Kyle is the smartest and has generally high moral standards, and is one of the only Jews in town; which causes him to be constantly mocked by Cartman, much to his frustration. He is compassionate and is at times easily angered, especially by Cartman. He and Stan are best friends and trade places as the main series protagonist.
Cartman is the short-tempered, self-centered, manipulative child who is spoiled at home. He is evil, deceitful, scheming, impatient, and intolerant of most races and types of people in which he is not a member of (Good examples would be Jewish people and hippies). He insults almost everybody in some way or another and at times can lack any sort of decency and emotion. Even though the he hates Kyle, he always interact with him and constantly talks or thinks about him. He always calls others an "asshole" and tells them to "suck his balls" more than anybody in South Park. For some reason, no matter how many times the others say that they hate him or that he is not their friend, nothing ever gets through his thick skull. He's considered as the most revolved character on television.
Kenny is the mainly silent character from the series, most recently because he always wear an orange parka that covers his mouth which makes his speeches muffled and difficult to understand. Kenny is most famous for the fact that he dies in almost every episode in the first five seasons and for some reason always comes back for the next episode like nothing ever happened. In Season Fourteen's Coon Trilogy, it is explained that Kenny is an immortal and when he appears to die, he always wakes up in his bed and no one else seems to know what has happened. Kenny is the most knowledgeable of the four boys when it comes to sexuality and sex. He enjoys pornography, girls and toilet humor. When he died in the episode "Kenny Dies", he was absent from 'South Park' (physically) for the next season, but returns in the final episode of Season Six, explaining that he was 'just over there'.
The families of main characters (and some of the other children) are also often featured as well. Each main character's family is somewhat unique to one another, from Kyle's stereotypically Jewish parents, to Cartman's hermaphroditic mother, but these examples are among many. It is also worth noting that Stan's father Randy is featured more prominently in recent episodes, and one could arguably even consider him a main character.
Many of the various townsfolk are considered prominent characters. Townsfolk such as Mayor McDaniels, Officer Barbrady and Priest Maxi have been in the show since the start. There's also a number of minor townsfolk that appear as background characters or one-off characters.
The majority of the cast is made up by the classmates of the main characters. These include characters such as Wendy Testaburger, the love interest of Stan Marsh; Tweek Tweak, a paranoid, hyperactive young coffee addict, Bebe Stevens, Wendy's best friend and the popular wheelchair-bound Timmy and crutch-bound Jimmy Valmer. Some classmates such as Craig, Clyde and Token were originally background characters but have gained quite an amount of attention in later seasons.
The staff at South Park Elementary have also gained a lot of attention such as the controversial Herbert Garrison (Janet, from "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina" to "Eek, A Penis!"). Some staff have been only in the show for one episode but many have remained prominent since Season One.
The show also has a number of characters who remain recurring, but do not appear often. These tend to be biblical characters, such as Jesus, Satan and God. Even Saddam Hussein is a character, but some are completely original, such as Towelie, the talking towel, and the Canadian comic duo, Terrance and Phillip.
Minor characters appear throughout nearly every episode. These are usually one-offs, but some appear again or are mentioned at a later point.
- Main article: List of Episodes
The show has caused a number of controversies, not just in America. Australia complained after the show depicted Steve Irwin after he had recently died at Satan's Halloween Party with a stingray hanging out of his chest in the episode "Hell on Earth 2006". The show responded to this by mocking the death in the episode "Stanley's Cup".
The most well known controversy is the one from the Season Nine episode, "Trapped in the Closet". This episode mocked Scientology claiming it to be a huge scam (because it charges its followers money to join). It also impersonated Tom Cruise who demanded the episode be banned. Voice actor Isaac Hayes, who voiced Chef, left the show because he was a Scientologist. He later released a statement saying how angered he was at this, how he was underpaid and not treated with respect. Trey Parker and Matt Stone responded to this by killing Chef off in the episode "The Return of Chef". Tom Cruise and John Travolta appeared in "Trapped in the Closet" as Scientologists as they are in real life. They were portrayed as somewhat dimwitted or cowards. According to Comedy Central, South Park wasn't trying to mock these two celebrities' beliefs.
Most characters on the show belong to the Roman Catholic faith. The only character who isn't Christian is Kyle Broflovski, who is an ethnic Jew and member of the Jewish faith. Catholicism and Protestantism have been made fun of commonly in South Park. Inside Eric Cartman's house there is a crucifix on the wall that looks too depressing, rather than how it looks in reality. Cartman is portrayed as a racist, homophobic, sexist who in one episode dresses himself as Adolf Hitler and marches down the streets trying to "kill the Jews." This has made people feel that Catholics were Nazis themselves, however, none of the other Catholic characters (Stan Marsh, Kenny McCormick, Butters Stotch) have ever been depicted as such.
Jesus appears sometimes as a main character. In one episode, he nearly loses a fight to Satan and in another he is killed by Kyle Broflovski. This is a very controversial event, however, some Christians say that the show is "just trying to be funny," as others say it is harsh.
The final episode in Season Nine were controversial. After the "Trapped in the Closet" episode, the Season Nine finale "Bloody Mary" the Virgin Mary bleeds from her ass. They also said she sucked lots of dick in the song "The Most Offensive Song Ever".
"200" and "201"编辑
In the episode "200", they built up the fact that the next episode would feature Muhammad, the prophet of the Muslim faith. A New York-Revolution Muslim site warned Trey and Matt that many Muslims might want to kill them. The second part, "201", was heavily censored by Comedy Central, including the final speech by Kyle Broflovski about free speech, ironically.
South Park was originally made out of construction paper, inspired by the animations of Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python's Flying Circus. This style was applied to the animated shorts as well as "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" (though rewriting of this episode caused some scenes to be made using the technology of the rest of the series). Later episodes have been made on computers. The characters are made in CorelDRAW and animated using Maya. Some episodes feature pre-packaged explosions, live action video and lighting effects. The show is heavily criticized for its animation, but the quick way of making episodes allows a quick production time, with some episodes being made in as little as three days.
Some episodes feature completely different animation. The episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft" was made in machinima to represent the boys playing World of Warcraft. The episode "Good Times with Weapons" also uses anime.
Many actual pieces of music are featured in the show, yet a lot of songs are original and written by Trey Parker. Trey and Matt also have their own band, called DVDA which has had a few of its songs featured in episodes.
The show's theme music was originally composed by Primus, but throughout the series' run the music has been replaced. The original theme ran up until "Fourth Grade" in which a new and much quicker piece replaced it. This theme lasted until the start of Season Six when it was replaced with a much more country sounding theme. This was the longest running theme, but it was finally replaced in "Make Love, Not Warcraft" with the current theme. This theme features the first few notes of the original and replaces the rest of the music with the track "Whamola" by Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade.
The lyrics have remained almost the same since the start (with the exceptions of Kenny's lines). Kenny's lines are usually rather rude and vulgar, but are muffled by his parka. When he was "killed-off" during Season Six, Timmy replaced him, singing only his name over and over with another of his catchphrases "Livin' a lie!" added in.
The opening sequences tend to differ over the seasons as well. The first one just showed the boys' heads falling out of the sky along with the scenery as it fell into place. The boys were then shown going to school on their bus surrounded by replays of previous events (such as Mecha-Streisand rising up behind town hall). In Fourth Grade, a new opening was used with the new theme music. This one showed the beginning of the first one, but as everything forms into place it explodes. The rest of the opening shows 3D animations of the boys and clips from previous episodes with tag lines such as "More explosions". From Season Six up until Season Eleven a simpler opening is used. This one features the boys being made out of construction paper (as they were originally) singing their lines while clips of episodes from the previous half season are used. This opening remained despite the change of theme tune in "Make Love, Not Warcraft".
Starting from Season Twelve, a brand new opening was introduced. This time, the music was more rock- style and upbeat, which was the new tune starting from "Make Love, Not Warcraft" The boys instead said their lines while appearing on different sides of the screen. This continued until the end of Season Thirteen. The boys then sung their lyrics using old clips. Season Seventeen featured a brand new intro, a 3D version of the original opening sequence.
The show has so far won five Emmy Awards, a Peabody award and a CableACE Award. Other awards include an MTV Movie Award. The show was also nominated for the 2006 Teen Choice Award for "Best Animated Show" but lost to Family Guy.