Review South Park (1997)

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South Park is an American adult animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone and developed by Brian Graden for the Comedy Central television network. The show revolves around four boys—Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick—and their bizarre adventures in and around the titular Colorado town. Much like The Simpsons, South Park uses a very large ensemble cast of recurring characters and 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 created in 1992 and 1995. The latter became one of the first Internet viral videos, ultimately leading to South Park's production. It debuted in August 1997 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 in new episodes through 2019.[2][3][4]

The pilot episode was produced using cutout animation, leading to all subsequent episodes being produced with computer animationthat emulated the cutout technique. Parker and Stone perform most of the voice acting for the show's male characters. Since 2000, each episode has typically been written and produced in the week preceding its broadcast, with Parker serving as the primary writerand director. There have been a total of 287 episodes over the course of the show's 21 seasons. The show's twenty-first season premiered on September 13, 2017.

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.



 
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Premise
Setting and characters
See also: List of South Park characters

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[6][7]

Stan is portrayed as the everyman of the group,[8] as the show's website describes him as an "average, American 4th grader".[9] Kyle is the lone Jew among the group, and his portrayal in this role is often dealt with satirically.[8] Stan is modeled after Parker, while Kyle is modeled after Stone. They are best friends, and their friendship, symbolically intended to reflect Parker and Stone's friendship,[10] is a common topic throughout the series. Eric Cartman (usually nicknamed by his surname only) is loud, obnoxious, and amoral, often portrayed as an antagonist. His anti-Semitic attitude has resulted in a progressive rivalry with Kyle, although the deeper reason is the strong clash between Kyle's strong morality and Cartman's complete lack of such.[8][11] Kenny, who comes from a poor family, wears his parka hood so tightly that it covers most of his face and muffles his speech. During the show's first five seasons, Kenny would die in nearly every episodebefore returning in the next with little-to-no definitive explanation given. He was written out of the show's sixth season in 2002, re-appearing in the season finale. Since then, Kenny's death has been seldom used by the show's creators. During the show's first 58 episodes, the boys were in the third grade. In the season four episode "4th Grade" (2000), they entered the fourth grade, but have remained there ever since.[12][13]

Plots are often set in motion by events, ranging from the fairly typical to the supernatural and extraordinary, which frequently happen in the town.[14] The boys often act as the voice of reason when these events cause panic or incongruous behavior among the adult populace, who are customarily depicted as irrational, gullible, and prone to vociferation.[6][15] The boys are also frequently confused by the contradictory and hypocritical behavior of their parents and other adults, and often perceive them as having distorted views on morality and society.[7][16]
 

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Origins and creation

South Park creators Trey Parker(left) and Matt Stone continue to do most of the writing, directing and voice acting on the show.
Main article: The Spirit of Christmas (short film)
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.[42] They created an animated short entitled The Spirit of Christmas.[26] 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. Brian Graden, Fox network executive and mutual friend, 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.[43] 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.[26][44]

As Jesus vs. Santa became more popular, Parker and Stone began talks of developing the short into a television series. Fox refused to pick up the series, not wanting to air a show that included the character Mr. Hankey, a talking piece of feces.[45] The two then entered negotiations with both MTV and Comedy Central. Parker preferred the show be produced by Comedy Central, fearing that MTV would turn it into a kids show.[46] When Comedy Central executive Doug Herzog watched the short, he commissioned for it to be developed into a series.[26][47]

Parker and Stone assembled a small staff and spent three months creating the pilot episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe".[48] South Park was in danger of being canceled before it even aired when the show fared poorly with test audiences, particularly with women. However, the shorts were still gaining more popularity over the Internet, and Comedy Central agreed to order a run of six episodes.[35][46] South Park debuted with "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" on August 13, 1997.
 

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Guest stars
Main article: List of South Park guest stars
Celebrities who are depicted on the show are usually impersonated, though some celebrities do their own voices for the show. Celebrities who have voiced themselves include Michael Buffer,[93][94] Brent Musburger,[95] Jay Leno,[96] Robert Smith,[97] and the bands Radiohead and Korn.[98][99] Comedy team Cheech & Chong voiced characters representing their likenesses for the season four (2000) episode "Cherokee Hair Tampons", which was the duo's first collaborative effort in 20 years.[100] Malcolm McDowell appears in live-action sequences as the narrator of the season four episode "Pip".[101]

Jennifer Aniston,[102] Richard Belzer,[103] Natasha Henstridge,[97] Norman Lear,[104] and Peter Serafinowicz[105] have guest starred as other speaking characters. During South Park's earliest seasons, several high-profile celebrities inquired about guest-starring on the show. As a joke, Parker and Stone responded by offering low-profile, non-speaking roles, most of which were accepted; George Clooney provided the barks for Stan's dog Sparky in the season one (1997) episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride",[106] Leno provided the meows for Cartman's cat in the season one finale "Cartman's Mom Is a Dirty Slut",[106] and Henry Winkler voiced the various growls and grunts of a kid-eating monster in the season two (1998) episode "City on the Edge of Forever".[107] Jerry Seinfeld offered to lend his voice for the Thanksgiving episode "Starvin' Marvin", but declined to appear when he was only offered a role as "Turkey #2".[108]
 

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Re-rendered episodes
From its debut in 1997 to the season twelve finale in 2008 the series had been natively produced in 4:3 480i standard definition. In 2009 the series switched to being natively produced in 16:9 1080i high definition with the beginning of the thirteenth season.[143] All seasons originally produced in standard definition with 4:3 aspect ratio have been remastered by South Park Studios in 1080i 16:9 high definition by being re-rendered frame-by-frame, over several years; the picture quality became true HD rather than being up-converted.[143] The re-rendered versions were also released on Blu-ray. Several of the re-rendered episodes from the earlier seasons have their original uncensored audio tracks; they had previously been released in censored form.[143][144][145][146]

The fifth-season episode, "Super Best Friends", which was pulled from syndication and online streams following the controversy surrounding episode "201" was not released alongside the rest of the season when it was released in HD on iTunes in 2011. The episode was later re-rendered and made available for the Blu-ray release of the season that was released on December 5, 2017.[147] The episode is presented in its original presentation, without Muhammad's image being obscured as in later episodes of the series.
 

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Criticism

The show's frequent depiction of taboo subject matter, general toilet humor, accessibility to younger viewers, disregard for conservativesensibilities, negative depiction of liberal causes, and portrayal of religion for comic effect have generated controversy and debate over the course of its run.[173]

As the series became popular, students in two schools were barred from wearing South Park-related T-shirts,[17][21][31] and the headmaster of a UK public school asked parents not to let their children watch the programme after eight- and nine-year-old children voted the South Park character Cartman as their favorite personality in a 1999 poll.[174] Parker and Stone assert that the show is not meant to be viewed by young children, and the show is certified with TV ratings that indicate its intention for mature audiences.[21]

Parents Television Council founder L. Brent Bozell III and Action for Children's Television founder Peggy Charren have both condemned the show, with the latter claiming it is "dangerous to the democracy".[17][150][175][176] Several other activist groups have protested the show's parodies of Christianity and portrayal of Jesus Christ.[17][177][178] Stone claims that parents who disapprove of South Park for its portrayal of how kids behave are upset because they "have an idyllic vision of what kids are like", adding "[kids] don't have any kind of social tact or etiquette, they're just complete little raging bastards".[31][174]
 

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Controversies
Main article: South Park controversies
The show further lampooned the controversy surrounding its use of profanity, as well as the media attention surrounding the network show Chicago Hope's singular use of the word shit, with the season five premiere "It Hits the Fan",[179] in which the word shit is said 162 times without being bleeped for censorship purposes, while also appearing uncensored in written form.[36] In the days following the show's original airing, 5,000 disapproving e-mails were sent to Comedy Central.[46] Despite its 43 uncensored uses of the racial slur nigger, the season 11 episode "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" generated relatively little controversy, as most in the black community and the NAACP praised the episode for its context and its comedic way of conveying other races' perceptions of how black people feel when hearing the word.[180][181]

Specific controversies regarding the show have included an April Fools' Day prank played on its viewers in 1998,[182] its depiction of the Virgin Mary in the season nine (2005) finale "Bloody Mary" which angered several Catholics,[34] its depiction of Steve Irwin with a stingray barb stuck in his chest in the episode "Hell on Earth 2006", which originally aired less than two months after Irwin was killed in the same fashion,[183][184] and Comedy Central's censorship of the depiction of Muhammad in the season 10 episode "Cartoon Wars Part II" in the wake of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.[177]

The season nine (2005) episode "Trapped in the Closet" denounces Scientology as nothing more than "a big fat global scam",[177] while freely divulging church information that Scientology normally only reveals to members who make significant monetary contributions to the church.[185] The episode also ambiguously parodies the rumors involving the sexual orientation of Scientologist Tom Cruise, who allegedly demanded any further reruns of the episode be canceled.[183][186] Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist, later quit South Parkbecause of his objection to the episode.[187]

The season fourteen episodes "200" and "201" were mired in controversy for satirizing issues surrounding the depiction of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. The website for the organization Revolution Muslim, a New York-based radical Muslim organization, posted an entry that included a warning to creators Parker and Stone that they risk violent retribution for their depictions of Muhammad. It said that they "will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show". The posting provided the addresses to Comedy Central in New York and the production company in Los Angeles. The author of the post, Zachary Adam Chesser (who prefers to be called Abu Talhah al-Amrikee),[188] said it was meant to serve as a warning to Parker and Stone, not a threat, and that providing the addresses was meant to give people the opportunity to protest.[189][190]

Despite al-Amrikee's claims that the website entry was a warning, several media outlets and observers interpreted it as a threat.[191][192][193] Support for the episode has come in the form of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, a movement started on Facebook that encourages people to draw Muhammad on May 20.[194] The "200" episode, which also depicted the Buddha snorting cocaine, prompted the government of Sri Lanka to ban the series outright.
 

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Influence
Cultural
Commentary made in episodes has been interpreted as statements Parker and Stone are attempting to make to the viewing public,[196] and these opinions have been subject to much critical analysis in the media and literary world within the framework of popular philosophical, theological, social, and political concepts.[25][196][197] Since South Park debuted, college students have written term papers and doctoral theses analyzing the show,[52] while Brooklyn College offers a course called "South Park and Political Correctness".[198][199]

Soon after one of Kenny's trademark deaths on the show, other characters would typically shout "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!". The exclamation quickly became a popular catchphrase,[10] while the running gag of Kenny's recurring deaths are one of the more recognized hallmarks among viewers of modern television.[200][201] Cartman's exclamations of "Respect my authori-tah!" and "Screw you guys ...I'm going home!" became catchphrases as well, and during the show's earlier seasons, were highly popular in the lexicon of viewers.[202] Cartman's eccentric intonation of "Hey!" was included in the 2002 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases.[203]

In the season two episode "Chef Aid", attorney Johnnie Cochran uses what's called in the show the Chewbacca defense, which is a legal strategy that involves addressing plot holes related to Chewbacca in the film Return of the Jedi rather than discussing the trial at hand during a closing argument in a deliberate attempt to confuse jurors into thinking there is reasonable doubt. The term "Chewbacca defense" has been documented as being used by criminologists, forensic scientists, and political commentators in their various discussions of similar methods used in legal cases and public forums.[204][205]

Another season two episode, "Gnomes", revolves around a group of "underpants gnomes" who, as their name suggests, run a corporation stealing people's underpants. When asked about their business model, various gnomes reply that theirs is a three-step process: Phase 1 is "collect underpants". Phase 3 is "profit". However, the gnomes are unable to explain what is to occur between the first and final steps, and "Phase 2" is accompanied by a large question mark on their corporate flow chart. Using "????" and "PROFIT!" as the last two steps in a process (usually jokingly) has become a widely popular Internet meme because of this. Especially in the context of politics and economics, "underpants gnomes" has been used by some commentators to characterize a conspicuous gap of logic or planning.[206][207]

When Sophie Rutschmann of the University of Strasbourg discovered a mutated gene that causes an adult fruit fly to die within two days after it is infected with certain bacteria, she named the gene kep1 in honor of Kenny.[
 

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Political
Main article: South Park Republican
While some conservatives have condemned the show for its vulgarity, a growing population of people who hold center-right political beliefs, including teenagers and young adults, have embraced the show for its tendency to mock liberal viewpoints and lampoon liberal celebrities and icons.[211] Political commentator Andrew Sullivan dubbed the group South Park Republicans, or South Park conservatives.[39][212][213] Sullivan averred that members of the group are "extremely skeptical of political correctness but also are socially liberal on many issues", though he says the phrase applied to them is meant to be more of a casual indication of beliefs than a strong partisan label.[15][39] Brian C. Anderson describes the group as "generally characterized by holding strong libertarian beliefs and rejecting more conservative social policy", and notes that although the show makes "wicked fun of conservatives", it is "at the forefront of a conservative revolt against liberal media."[211]

Parker and Stone reject the idea that the show has any underlying political position, and deny having a political agenda when creating an episode.[35][213][214] The two claim the show's higher proportion of instances lampooning liberal rather than conservative orthodoxies stems simply from their preference for making fun of liberals.[15][68] While Stone has been quoted saying, "I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals", Stone and Parker have explained that their drive to lampoon a given target comes first from the target's insistence on telling other people how to behave.[179] The duo explain that they regard liberals as having both delusions of entitlement to remain free from satire, and a propensity to enforce political correctness while patronizing the citizens of Middle America.[38][39] Parker and Stone are uncomfortable with the idea of themselves or South Park being assigned any kind of partisan classification.[35][213] Parker said he rejects the "South Park Republican" and "South Park conservative" labels, feeling that either tag implies that one only adheres to strictly conservative or liberal viewpoints.[34][211] Canadian columnist Jaime J. Weinman observes that the most die-hard conservatives who identified themselves as "South Park Republicans" began turning away from the label when the show ridiculed Republicans in the season nine (2005) episode "Best Friends Forever."
 

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Film
Main article: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
In 1999, less than two years after the series first aired, a feature-length film was released. The film, a musical comedy, was directed by Parker, who co-wrote the script with Stone and Pam Brady. The film was generally well received by critics,[215] and earned a combined US$83.1 million at the domestic and foreign box office.[216] The film satirizes the controversy surrounding the show itself and gained a spot in the 2001 edition of Guinness World Records for "Most Swearing in an Animated Film".[217] The song "Blame Canada" from the film's soundtrack earned song co-writers Parker and Marc Shaiman an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Song.





Imaginationland: The Movie was released direct-to-video in 2008 and features the three episodes from the 11th season (Imaginationland I, Imaginationland II, and Imaginationland III) merged into a compilation film.





Parker and Stone said in a 2008 interview that a theatrically released sequel would most likely be what concludes the series.[220] In 2011, when asked on the official South Parkwebsite whether a sequel would be made, they said "the first South Park movie was so potent, we're all still recovering from the blow. Unfortunately, at the current moment, there are no plans for a second South Park movie. But you never know what the future may bring, crazier things have happened..."[221] In 2011, Time called South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut the sixth greatest animated feature of all time.[222] In 2013, Warner Bros. Entertainment relinquished to Paramount Pictures its rights to co-finance a potential future South Parkfilm during their negotiations to co-finance the Christopher Nolan science fiction film Interstellar. Previous efforts to create a second South Park film were complicated due to both studios retaining certain rights to the property
 

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Shorts
As a tribute to the Dead Parrot sketch, a short that features Cartman attempting to return a dead Kenny to a shop run by Kyle aired during a 1999 BBC television special commemorating the 30th anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus.[224] South Park parodied Scientology in a short that aired as part of the 2000 MTV Movie Awards. The short was entitled "The Gauntlet" and also poked fun at John Travolta, a Scientologist.[225][226] The four main characters were featured in the documentary film The Aristocrats, listening to Cartman tell his version of the film's titular joke.[227] Short clips of Cartman introducing the starting lineup for the University of Colorado football team were featured during ABC's coverage of the 2007 matchup between the University of Colorado and the University of Nebraska.[228] In 2008, Parker, as Cartman, gave answers to a Proust Questionnaireconducted by Julie Rovner of NPR.[11] The Snakes & Arrows Tour for Rush in 2007 used an intro from Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny preceding "Tom Sawyer".[229] As Parker, Stone and producer Frank Agnone are Los Angeles Kings fans, special South Park pre-game videos have been featured at Kings home games at Staples Center,[230] and the club even sent the Stanley Cup to visit South Park Studios after winning the 2012 finals.[231] Parker and Stone have also created Denver Broncos and Denver Nuggets-themed shorts, featuring Cartman, for home games at Pepsi Center.
 

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Music
Chef Aid: The South Park Album, a compilation of original songs from the show, characters performing cover songs, and tracks performed by guest artists was released in 1998,[232][233] while Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics, a compilation of songs performed by the characters in the episode of the same name as well as other Christmas-themed songs was released in 1999,[234] as was the soundtrack to the feature film.[235] The song "Chocolate Salty Balls" (performed by Hayes as Chef) was released as a single in the UK in 1998 to support the Chef Aid: The South Park Album and became a number one hit.[236]

Video games
See also: List of South Park video games
Following the early success of the series, three video games based on the series were released by Acclaim Entertainment. A first-person shooter simply titled South Park was released in 1998 for the PC, Nintendo 64, and PlayStation. This was followed in 1999 by South Park: Chef's Luv Shack, a party video game featuring quizzes and mini-games, on the Dreamcast, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and PC. In 2000, South Park Rally, a racing game, was released on the Dreamcast, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and PC. Parker and Stone had little to do with the development of these games, apart from providing voice acting, and have publicly criticized Acclaim and the quality of the South Park games they produced.[67][237]

There was a South Park game for the Game Boy Color in development at Acclaim but it was cancelled by Parker and Stone because they thought the game was not right for the system as the main demographic was kids. Parker and Stone have the prototype cartridge of the game, making it the first South Park video game ever made. Only one screenshot was published in Nintendo Power issue 114 in 1998.[238]

Another South Park game was in development for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube in 2004 but was cancelled for unknown reasons. A prototype of the game was found in an Xbox development kit in 2015.[239][240]

In 2010, the decision was made to form a small group called South Park Digital Studios, which would, among other things, work on creating new South Park games,[241] that would involve the studio and the show's creators more heavily. The first such title is South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play!, a tower defense game developed by Doublesix, which was released in 2009 for the Xbox Live Arcade service on the Xbox 360 console. Another Xbox Live Arcade game, South Park: Tenorman's Revenge, is a platformer which was released in the spring of 2012.[242] South Park: The Stick of Truth is a role-playing video game that was written by Parker and Stone,[243] and was originally scheduled to be released on March 5, 2013 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, and Microsoft Windows.[244] The game was eventually released a year later on March 4, 2014 and received positive reviews.[245] A sequel to The Stick of Truth has been announced and was titled South Park: The Fractured but Whole. [246] On 9 November 2017 South Park: Phone Destroyer was released for the Android and iOS, it is a free to play role-playing card game developed by RedLynx
 

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The season nine (2005) episode "Trapped in the Closet" denounces Scientology as nothing more than "a big fat global scam",[177] while freely divulging church information that Scientology normally only reveals to members who make significant monetary contributions to the church.[185] The episode also ambiguously parodies the rumors involving the sexual orientation of Scientologist Tom Cruise, who allegedly demanded any further reruns of the episode be canceled.[183][186] Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist, later quit South Parkbecause of his objection to the episode.






 

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The season fourteen episodes "200" and "201" were mired in controversy for satirizing issues surrounding the depiction of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. The website for the organization Revolution Muslim, a New York-based radical Muslim organization, posted an entry that included a warning to creators Parker and Stone that they risk violent retribution for their depictions of Muhammad. It said that they "will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show".
The posting provided the addresses to Comedy Central in New York and the production company in Los Angeles. The author of the post, Zachary Adam Chesser (who prefers to be called Abu Talhah al-Amrikee),[188] said it was meant to serve as a warning to Parker and Stone, not a threat, and that providing the addresses was meant to give people the opportunity to protest.



 
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