South Park is an American animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. Intended for mature audiences, the show has become famous for its crude language, surreal, satirical, and dark humor that lampoons a wide range of topics. The ongoing narrative revolves around four boys Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick and their bizarre adventures in and around the titular Colorado town. In the 2004 documentary The 100 Greatest Cartoons, South Park was placed at #3, just behind The Simpsons and Tom and Jerry. South Park is currently contracted to continue through 2013, taking the show to seventeen seasons.
Parker and Stone, who met in college, developed the show from two animated shorts they created in 1992 and 1995. The latter became one of the first Internet viral videos, which ultimately led to its production as a series. South Park debuted in August 1997 with great success, consistently earning the highest ratings of any basic cable program. Subsequent ratings have varied, but the show remains Comedy Central's highest rated and longest running program. Originally produced by cutout animation, each episode is now created with computer software that emulates the show's distinct style. Episodes are typically written and produced during the week preceding its broadcast, with the vast majority of shows being written, directed, and acted by Parker and Stone. After the first couple of seasons, Parker became the only credited director, and the only writer for the majority of the past four seasons. As of 2011, a total of 217 episodes have aired during the show's fifteen seasons. Parker and Stone are under contract to produce 14 new episodes in 2011. The fifteenth season premiered on April 27, 2011.
The show follows the exploits of four boys, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick, except in season 6 when Kenny was temporarily written off the show and replaced with Butters then Tweek. 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 and 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 the town of Fairplay, Colorado.
Stan is portrayed as the everyman of the group, as the show's official website describes him as "a normal, average, American, mixed-up kid". Kyle is the lone Jew among the group, and his portrayal in this role is often dealt with satirically. Stan is modeled after Parker, while Kyle is modeled after Stone. Stan and Kyle are best friends, and their relationship, which is intended to reflect the real life friendship between Parker and Stone, is a common topic throughout the series. Cartman loud, obnoxious, manipulative, racist and obese is often portrayed as an antagonist whose anti-Semitic attitude has resulted in an ever-progressing rivalry with Kyle. 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 episode before returning in the next with little or no definitive explanation given. He was written out of the show's sixth season in 2002, re-appearing in the season finale. Since then, the practice of killing Kenny has been seldom used by the show's creators. In season 14, it is revealed that Kenny cannot die, for he will just be reborn again. 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, where they have remained ever since.
Plots are often set in motion by events, ranging from the fairly typical to the supernatural and extraordinary, which frequently happen upon the town. 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. 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.
Following the early success of the series, the feature length musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had a widespread theatrical release in June 1999. South Park has also received numerous media awards, including four Primetime Emmy Awards. The show has also garnered a Peabody Award for Comedy Central.