South Park has straddled many different formats. It began as a five-minute short, and in their first few seasons, they made a feature-length movie. There have been South Park video games and more throughout the show’s 25 seasons. Now there have been four hour-long specials on Paramount+. Matt Stone said those were harder than even doing two part Comedy Central episodes.
Stone and Trey Parker spoke to the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview. Looking at the past, present and future of South Park, Stone explained the different challenges of each format.
The Comedy Central ‘South Park’ specials reinvented the process
South Park Season 24 only consisted of two hour-long specials. This was the 2020 season, and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic required South Park to shut down their physical offices. Like many other animated shows, they figured out how to continue remotely. But those specials represented the learning curve, even though they ended up being 44 minutes to leave room for commercials on Comedy Central.
“I think it cuts both ways,” Stone told the L.A. Times. “I really like the ‘Pandemic Special’ and the ‘Vaccination Special.’ Like a lot of people, we had to go fully remote, so we had to come up with a new production process, and that was pretty painful. The longer ones are sometimes really satisfying because Trey gets to write stuff that breathes a little more.”
‘South Park’ Season 25 was a relief for Matt Stone
South Park Season 25 was a respectable six episodes, instead of the usual 10. It aired in 2022, after they had made the hour-long South Park: Post COVID and Post COVID: The Return of COVID on Paramount+.
“But then, we just went back to do our first series of six regular 22-minute shows after the pandemic, and I thought they were really great,” Stone said. “It’s almost like going back to our roots. It’s like a pop song that’s gotta be three minutes. These last hour long specials we did were hard. We had a hard time finding our groove.”
Trey Parker agrees episodes are easier
Parker concurred with his co-creator. During a season, Parker and Stone create every South Park episode in six days, from the Thursday after it airs to the Wednesday it goes out on Comedy Central. Returning to 22 minute episodes gave Parker a new appreciation for economic storytelling.
“After we had done some specials and we went back to the regular season, it was definitely like, ‘Holy sh**,’” Parker said. “They felt so fast. And it felt like, ‘Dude, we’ve already got 15 minutes but we’ve got to finish this story.’ It was nice to go back to that, but it was also definitely jarring.”