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South Park's Trey Parker Talks About How Serialization Changed The Show's Production Process

The chaos that goes into creating "South Park" every week has been put on display for audiences before. Viewers got to see just how much scrambling and last-minute fidgeting there was in the process of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in the behind-the-scenes documentary, "6 Days to Air," released in 2011. 

Not long after that documentary aired on Comedy Central, Parker and Stone took their process and gave it a good snow globe shake when they introduced serialized storytelling into the animated comedy. "South Park" follows a group of young and crass friends in Colorado who have done everything from meeting Al Gore to getting involved in a black market Kentucky Fried Chicken ring. It has long been a series people could easily tune in and out of, each episode typically standing as its own story.

In "South Park" Season 18 though, Parker and Stone began carrying some stories over from episode to episode. "South Park" Season 19 doubled down on the concept, introducing multiple long-running storylines including the town of South Park itself changing as it becomes more "cultured" thanks to a Whole Foods kicking off a gentrification storm that nearly tears everything apart. In 2016, Parker revealed that introducing serialized storytelling was indeed another complicated layer to the process of putting the show together.

Serialized storytelling flipped South Park on its head

Parker told Vanity Fair in 2016 that serialized stories made it so he and Stone needed to keep track of where things stood for the characters of "South Park" every week, something that would seem to be a given for all shows, but this is a cartoon where they became famous for literally killing off the same character – Kenny McCormick – every week.

"We'd always come on a Thursday and sit down and go, 'O.K., what should we do a show about this week?" And we wouldn't say, 'O.K., where were we last week?'" Parker said. It was a welcome challenge though as Parker explained he and Stone got bored of picking up and dropping storylines in just an episode. Serialized storytelling allowed characters like PC Principal, the head of South Park Elementary who is in constant competition with himself to see how woke he can get, to actually grow.

In a 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter though, Parker actually admitted serialized storytelling had mixed results for "South Park" and at a certain point, they felt a need to start just having fun again. "We would like to get back to where each week we can do something totally different. We tried to experiment with serialization. That had mixed results," he said.