There is nothing like it; funny and fresh, comically current, notoriously naughty, hilariously hip, and deviously disturbing, South Park is the animated series viewers love, and sometimes love to hate.
Eric, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny with all their freakishly funny, often vulgar, and profane adventures in and around their tiny Colorado town, are back on the air for their 20th season, challenging societal taboos and offering all the silly, sardonic humor fans crave.
For creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it all started as a couple of goofy paper-cutout animated shorts that went viral in the mid-90s, when the internet was just beginning to stream video. In the blink of an eye, it somehow turned into the highest rated show on Comedy Central.
When the network debuted SP, they had no idea it would take them so far up the viewership ladder. Viewers immediately connected with the boys and their antics, elevating the show to the very top, where it has remained for 20 seasons.
Making animated ratings history!
The show’s first episode snagged a demo rating of 1.3 with 0.98 million viewers. That’s considered high for any cable program, let alone a foul little animation show on a comedy specialty channel, and in 1997 no less.
Three months later, when the eighth episode aired, ratings and viewership had already tripled! Comedy Central executives and its sponsors likely danced a little celebratory jig in their private offices. This launched a huge franchise, and merchandise plastered with the faces of the four Colorado boys flew off the shelves. Not since The Simpson’s launch had an ‘adult’ cartoon seen so much success.
Fast-forward to now!
Last season averaged around 1.5 million viewers, and fans got to witness Parker and Stone make history again. For the first time ever, they intertwined all 10 episodes into one universal story about a major pressing issue in America. They hit the hot topic of politically correct gentrification, pushing all the right buttons to make something seriously disturbing easier to cope with through humor.
This is the magic of comedians; they can make any emotionally difficult subject hilarious, allowing their audience to laugh through the pain. In a New York Times review, James Poniewozik wrote that #SouthPark had “gone and revitalized itself,” in part “by asserting that it takes an outrageous comedy to capture and era of outrage.”
Since 2000, each new episode is created and animated only one week before it airs, allowing Parker and Stone to include fresh and timely material that responds to critical social situations in the news. “We don’t try to make social commentary,” Parker said humbly in a recent interview. “We get into a room six days before we go on the air, and that’s why it ends up being somewhat relevant.”
He makes it sound like it’s only the luck of timing, but more often than not, #SouthPark characters will say what so many Americans are thinking, pointing to the proverbial elephant in the room, when nobody else on TV will take it there.
Off to a great start!
The 20th season premiere was the highest-rated episode in 10 years, with a 1.32 demo rating, up 0.28 from last season’s premiere, and 2.167 million viewers tuning in. It came in at number two on the Top 150 Original Cable list.
The show fell 0.35 points the following week, which is normal for the series when past seasons are examined. Viewership tends to pick up as the season progresses, and with it being a US presidential election year, Parker and Stone will no doubt have plenty of farcical material to supply a global audience eager to laugh through the political charades. Fun fact: this is #SP’s third season to feature a US presidential election, and the fourth sitting US President to be animated on the show.
SWEET! More SP!
Over its 20 years, ratings have waxed and waned, but the series remains one of Comedy Central’s highest-rated, and the network officially announced that they have signed Parker and Stone through 2019 to create more #SP, taking the series into its 23rd season!
South Park airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET on Comedy Central.
What kind of US presidential election antics do you see the boys getting involved with this season? Have you been a South Park fan for 20 years? Which character is your all-time favorite?
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