South Park (Comedy Central, 1997-present)
Recently I’ve been taking a look back at cartoons that I remember from my childhood, but here’s another one that you definitely wouldn’t have seen on CBBC or CITV, as it was made for older viewers. As this is a rather long-running show that there has been plenty written about over the years, it’ll be a piece about how I got into the show, along with some of its scheduling.
In the early-90s, The Simpsons caused a big sensation, and opened the way for more offbeat animated sitcoms. When South Park launched it caused arguably the biggest buzz in the genre since then (Family Guy would begin about a year or two later), as it had a distinctive animation style along with a rather outrageous take on American life. The show was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who also wrote and directed the episodes, and provided the majority of the voices.
The main characters are four children who lived in the Colorado town of South Park, where some rather unusual things would happen. They are Eric Cartman (remember, he isn’t fat, he’s big-boned), along with Kyle, Stan, and most memorably Kenny, who wore a hood that was so tight that you couldn’t understand what he was saying, and he would meet a horrible fate in almost every episode (leading to the famous catchphrase “oh my god, they killed Kenny!”).
There were a few other main characters, along the way we also meet some shocked parents, a few befuddled teachers, and more children including Butters, Timmy, and Wendy. The children often liked to watch their favourite TV show Terrance And Phillip, and get caught up in all kinds of strange adventures, including lots of parodies and satire, nobody is off-limits from being targeted, that’s for sure.
After a short while the show became a cultural phenomenon, and for a year or two it was the hottest thing in animation, receiving a lot of magazine covers. There was even a chart-topping single, where the Chef character (voiced by soul singer Issac Hayes) informed us about how great his “Chocolate Salty Balls” were, which gives you an idea of the level of humour, of course it was very amusing. Following on from this, there was also chart success for Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo, how terrific.
This then led to the film Bigger, Longer, And Uncut, which was also a big success. There was also a lot of merchandise, including some PlayStation games, and although they had fairly average reviews, I did enjoy playing them. There have also been lots of books including episode guides, along with toys, and just about everything else you can think of.
Because of the hype, this was a show that I was interested in seeing, and I remember a lot of people being rather surprised when I said that I was a fan, as a I was considered to be something of a nerd (I’m not sure why), but I went as far as buying the first series on VHS, which was released with only two episodes on every tape (including introductions by Trey and Matt), which in the DVD and on demand era doesn’t seem to be that generous.
Eventually, the early series were released on DVD, and they include some extras. As far as scheduling goes, plenty of episodes were shown on Sky One and Channel 4, who in 1999 also dedicated an evening to the show featuring various episodes featuring classic episodes and documentaries. After a while though, it was moved to an ever later timeslot before vanishing altogether. South Park is still going though, and there have now been over 300 episodes in 23 series that continue to take a crudely satirical view of the world.