South Park is a cartoon about four foul-mouthed eight-year-old boys and a range of characters in their Colorado town. From its debut in 1997, the show has provided some of television's raunchiest and most
controversial moments. But they've also garnered critical acclaim, awards and the adoration of millions of fans. Here are a few things you might not know about this long-running show.
- In 1992, University of Colorado students Trey parker and Matt Stone collaborated on an animated short called "The Spirit of Christmas": Jesus vs. Frosty (Booyah!). The cartoon featured Frosty the
showman coming to life, sprouting tentacles and killing two children. Then Jesus flew out of a nativity scene and knocked off Frosty's magic hat with his halo.
- The four minute cartoon was animated entirely with construction paper and glue and was filmed on an old 8mm camera. Three years after Jesus vs. Frosty was filmed, a Fox executive names Brian Graden
Paid Parker and Stone $2000 to make a similar video that he could send to friends as a Christmas card. "The Spirit of Christmas": Jesus vs. Santa reportedly only cost $750 to make; Parker and Stone
pocketed the difference. The video also became one of the first viral videos to hit the Internet. Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and George Clooney were rumored to possess video copies that they showed to
- Struggling basic cable channel Comedy Central executives caught the video and gave Parker and Stone their shot at a show. Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) was invited to audition for the
pilot. She walked out in disgust.
- South Park premiered on August 12, 1997 with an episode titled "Cartman gets an anal probe". It was the first weekly show to carry a TV-MA rating.
- Comedy Central was in 9.1 million homes in 1997. By 1998 the popularity of south Park helped put Comedy Central in 50 million households. By 2003 Comedy Central was in 82 million homes. South
Park quickly became the highest rated show on basic cable.
- In the first season, each episode cost just $250.000 to produce. Typical sitcoms of the time cost at least $600.000 per episode. The low cost of the show combined with its popularity meant big money to
Comedy Central. In the spring of 1997, their highest paying ad spot went for $7.500. Within months of South Park's debut, comedy Central could demand upwards of $30.00 for time per ads.
- Thirteen years after its debut, South Park is still Comedy Central's highest rated show, averaging 3.5 million viewers an episode. For comparison, "The late Show" with David Letterman was also averaging
3.5 million viewers in the spring of 2010.
- South Park is known for its topicality due to its quick turnaround time. Episodes are written, animated, edited and aired within a one-week period. An episode referencing the Terri Schiavo case aired only
hours before she died. The episode "About last night" used actual excerpts of president-elect Obama's victory speech less than a day after he made it.
- Besides lampooning scientology, catholics, and featuring a major character made of feces, south park's biggest controversy came when they illustrated the Prophet Muhammad in their 200th two-part
- In part one of the episode, Muhammad is present but never shown. A group called "Revolution Muslim" protested by declaring Parker and Stone would probably meet the same fate as the Danish cartoonist
who was killed for putting Muhammad in a cartoon. Comedy Central then censored part two of the episode, blocking out Muhammad's face and bleeping out his name.
- Stone and Parker disapproved of the censorship.Especially since they animated the prophet Muhammad in 2001 episode titled "Super best friends" without controversy.
- South Park has won a ton of nominations, awards and acclaim including: four Emmys; a Peabody Award; a nomination for Glaad Award.
- In 2007, Time magazine included South park in its list of 100 greatest shows of all time.
Design by Ellie Koning
Sources: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1006/10/30/8391792/index.html; http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,988028-2,00.html;