As one of TV's most long-lasting success stories, South Park didn't seem like the show that would suddenly make drastic alterations to narrative structures and formats. But that's exactly what happened in the highly acclaimed Season 19, which built on the previous season's serialized elements, setting all ten episodes up with interconnected stories that fell under the recurring theme of "political correctness" (and the lack thereof, obviously). Why the change? Because TV and audiences have finally evolved. Here's how co-creator Matt Stone put it.
To follow storylines through? We couldn't do that when we started. We were from a different era of TV, when you had to do the sitcom-style reset every week. That's why a lot of shows -- you see it in The Simpsons and us, too -- they have dumbest last one minute of a show, because we have to go back to normal for next week. We don't have to do that anymore.
Now, it's possible that South Park might have been able to jump over to the more streamlined storytelling style further back, perhaps when Breaking Bad was at the height of its conversation-guiding prowess. Frankly, though, it's rather amazing that it happened at all. Matt Stone and Trey Parker have never been known to back down from any challenges, and the breakneck speed at which the episodes are produced is what keeps the show more culturally relevant than almost anything else out there. But still, just because someone CAN climb a mountain doesn't mean they'll do it.
Some might look at a structural change-up with hesitation and dread, but Stone and Parker aren't your average creators. Here, Parker tells EW some rather encouraging things about how Season 19 went for him.
It's such an open-world. It's still such a sandbox. What we did last season was just so different. It felt so fresh and new. It's one of the best times I ever had doing the show...It is nice to realize you don't have to tie up everything.
Wouldn't you love to be able to say that your job, which has basically followed the same path for nearly two decades, reached one of its highest points that late into it? It probably helps that the seasons are shorter than they used to be, but I don't think anyone would complain if Stone and Parker agreed to take the serialized approach for longer seasons in the future. If I sound greedy here, it's only because Cartman is forcing me to type this.
Season 20 of South Park will debut on Comedy Central on September 14, 2016, with at least three more seasons to follow. And don't forget - as if it's possible - that Season 20's ending will coincide with the highly anticipated South Park: Fractured But Whole, the video game sequel to 2014's Stick of Truth that is currently available for pre-order.