South Park is an American animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone and developed by Brian Graden for the Comedy Central television network. The series revolves around four boys—Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick—and their exploits in and around the titular Colorado town. The show became infamous for its profanity and dark, surreal humor that satirizes a wide range of topics towards a mature audience.
Parker and Stone developed the show from The Spirit of Christmas, two consecutive animated shorts. The latter became one of the first Internet viral videos, ultimately leading to South Park's production. The pilot episode was produced using cutout animation, leading to all subsequent episodes being produced with computer animation that emulated the cutout technique. South Park features a very large ensemble cast of recurring characters.
Since its debut on August 13, 1997, 307 episodes of South Park have been broadcast. It debuted 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 and is slated to air new episodes through 2022. Since 2000, each episode has typically been written and produced in the week preceding its broadcast, with Parker serving as the primary writer and director. The show's twenty-third season premiered on September 25, 2019.
South Park has received numerous accolades, including five Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and numerous inclusions in various publications' lists of greatest television shows. The show's popularity resulted in a feature-length theatrical film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut which was released in June 1999, less than two years after the show's premiere, and became a commercial and critical success, even garnering a nomination for an Academy Award. In 2013, TV Guide ranked South Park the tenth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time.
The show follows the exploits of four boys, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick. 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, 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 Fairplay, Colorado.
Parker and Stone met in film class at the University of Colorado in 1992 and discovered a shared love of Monty Python, which they often cite as one of their primary inspirations. They created an animated short entitled The Spirit of Christmas. The film was created by animating construction paper cutouts with stop motion, and features prototypes of the main characters of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but named "Kenny", an unnamed character resembling what is today Kenny, and two near-identical unnamed characters who resemble Stan and Kyle. Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX) executive and mutual friend Brian Graden commissioned Parker and Stone to create a second short film as a video Christmas card. Created in 1995, the second The Spirit of Christmas short resembled the style of the later series more closely. To differentiate between the two homonymous shorts, the first short is often referred to as Jesus vs. Frosty, and the second short as Jesus vs. Santa. Graden sent copies of the video to several of his friends, and from there it was copied and distributed, including on the internet, where it became one of the first viral videos.
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