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How Criminal Minds' Writers Used A South Park Episode For Inspiration

It's hard to imagine what it must be like to be a writer on a show like "Criminal Minds" – with over three hundred episodes created during its fifteen-season run, these writers have had the seemingly impossible task of coming up with new content to keep the show fresh. When it comes to creative inspiration for a crime drama such as this, it makes sense that the best source of ideas often originates from actual criminal events. These writers still had to drift elsewhere for new possibilities, though, and some of these ideas come from other TV series.

One notorious example of a show pulling ideas from another comes from the Comedy Central animated series "South Park." Back in the show's early days, "Simpsons" fans accused the writers of "South Park" of stealing plot lines directly from Fox's powerhouse comedy series. Brilliantly, not only did the "South Park" producers refuse to argue against this accusation, they created Season 6, Episode 7 ("The Simpsons Already Did It"), which attempts to justify this poaching practice as a form of flattery rather than thievery.

This was an example of one animated comedy pulling from another animated comedy. This special episode of "South Park" smartly explains how, for similar shows to be on as long as they have, plot lines inevitably crossover. However, when you get a dramatic show like "Criminal Minds," which deals with some of TV's most horrific subjects, the very thought of writers pulling a plot line from a "South Park" episode becomes a little more head-scratching.

The pulling of a plot line from South Park was a secret challenge

It's as impressive as it is fascinating how many different storylines the writers of "Criminal Minds" have come up with since 2005. There are plenty of sources of inspiration to pull from, including real-life crime stories. However, the show's star, Kristen Vangsness, explains in an interview with Murtz Jaffer that there was one specific episode of "Criminal Minds" that was directly inspired by an installment of "South Park." And according to Vangsness, this act of borrowing was seen as a writer's personal challenge.

When asked about the multiple sources that writers use to pull plot line inspiration from, Vangsness revealed a secret that one of the "Criminal Minds" staffers revealed to her. "One of the episodes, one time, the writer told me ... he took a 'South Park' episode, as like an experiment, and pulled it, and made a 'Criminal Minds' episode out of what was happening in the 'South Park' episode," she revealed. The way Vangsness puts it, good ideas don't always come from the places you expect. "So, I think, you know, inspiration comes from all kinds of things."

It's not that easy to figure out which South Park episode the writer pulled from, but it could possibly be Season 7, Episode 6 ("Lil Crime Stoppers") or Season 8, Episode 13 ("Cartman's Incredible Gift"), both of which parody crime-drama shows. Either way, it surely is fascinating to think how a show like "Criminal Minds" can snag good ideas from different genres as far removed as an animated comedy like "South Park. With the announcement that "Criminal Minds" Season 16 will continue with new episodes on Paramount+, the writers surely have reason to again search far and wide for brand-new ideas.