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.
The pilot episode was produced using cutout animation, leading to all subsequent episodes being produced with computer animation that 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 writer and 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.
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.
Stan is portrayed as the everyman of the group, as the show's website describes him as an "average, American 4th grader". 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. They are best friends, and their friendship, symbolically intended to reflect Parker and Stone's friendship, 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. 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-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.
Plots are often set in motion by events, ranging from the fairly typical to the supernatural and extraordinary, which frequently happen in 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.