South Park is on the verge of its twentieth season. This is insane. People born on the night that the first episode aired are nearly allowed to drink legally. However, that's not the biggest issue with making a show for two decades. The problem, is that when it comes time to come up with the ideas for the show, they discover that they've already been done. No, not by The Simpsons, but by South Park.
The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, were in attendance at San Diego Comic-Con to promote, and to celebrate, the twentieth season of their animated show about foul-mouthed grade schoolers. It's been a long-running joke among the pair they would always run into difficulties when trying to come up with ideas for the show because The Simpsons had already done an episode with the same plot. The idea eventually led to an episode in its own right. Unfortunately, as Trey Parker told the SDCC crowd, the problem now is that after they think they've found a great idea, they discover that somebody else already had the idea first, them.
Now what's awesome is 20 years later--this has literally happened the past two years a few times--we'll both sit there and we'll go, 'Oh, and then this could happen and this could happen.' And like a couple of hours go by and it's like dude, somebody did this... it's like no we did that 10 years ago. Shit we did that already.
After 20 years, it's not too surprising. If they thought the idea was funny once, of course, they would think it's funny again. Add in the two decades of work, and it's not too shocking that they might forget that they had already told a particular joke or storyline. Of course, a couple of hours of work on an episode of South Park is some fairly precious time. The team behind the series famously produces each episode in a mere six days. This has the benefit of making episodes extremely timely, however, it also means there isn't a lot of extra time to waste working on ideas that aren't going to bear fruit.
According to Matt Stone, when the two go back to look at the episodes in order to verify that they did already have the idea, they discover that it really was funny the first time around. This is apparently something of a comfort, as it at least confirms that the idea they had actually was good, even if it was the second time they had it.
While new ideas may be getting harder to come up with, Trey Parker and Matt Stone still consistently put out a solid TV show without missing their deadlines. The twentieth season of South Park begins September 14.