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What Was The World Like When South Park Began?

Thu, December, 22 by Glenn Macaulay

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After 20 incredible seasons, South Park is now old enough to drink legally in Canada! It’s pretty crazy that the show started way back in 1997 when the Internet was cute and innocent, and liquids and gels were perfectly acceptable viscosities according to most major airlines.

To celebrate the long life of the show and to give you something to do while your weird uncle tries to convince your family to invest in his latest harebrained scheme, Much is airing ALL 20 seasons of South Park starting Christmas Eve and running through until Jan. 8, every night from 9 p.m. – 5:30 a.m. Also, starting next Monday and for a limited time, you can watch all of South Park’s season 20 on Much.com.

With the world currently descending into chaos, we thought it might be fun to look back at the year the show premiered and highlight some episodes along the way.

MOVIES

The biggest movie of 1997 was Titanic by several thousand nautical miles. James Cameron’s sapfest set against the backdrop of a big ship sinking won tons of awards and became the biggest grossing movie of all time. In season 16, the episode “Raising the Bar” featured Cameron embarking on a deep sea voyage to seek the bar so that he can raise it.

The week South Park debuted, Conspiracy Theory  starring Mel Gibson was tops at the box office. Gibson would go on to become a memorable South Park character, most prominently in season 8 episode, “The Passion of the Jew”.

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SPORTS

Edmonton Oilers saviour Connor McDavid was born in 1997, and while he’s never been on South Park and probably never will, the show does have a very funny hockey episode from season 14 called “Stanley’s Cup” where Stan becomes coach of a pee-wee team.

Interestingly, the first Super Bowl of the South Park era was won by Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s hometown team, the Denver Broncos.  The team’s been referenced several times over 20 seasons, making their debut in the first season classic, “Cartman’s Mom Is a Dirty Slut,” wherein it is revealed that Liane Cartman has had sex with the entire team.

MUSIC

The day before South Park premiered, the Backstreet Boys released their debut album, the appropriately titled Backstreet Boys, which triggered a new boy band revolution.  The boys of South Park started a band of their own in a season 4 episode called “Something You Can Do with Your Finger” where Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle form “Fingerbang” after Cartman receives what he believes is a message from God.

The biggest hit single of 1997 was “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John, who’s appeared a bunch of times on the show, including season 2 episode “Chef Aid,” where he himself provides the voice of the animated Elton. His song “Wake Up Wendy” made it onto the Chef Aid album, which my brother got for Christmas in 1998, replacing traditional holiday fare with songs like “Chocolate Salty Balls”.

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POLITICS

Bill Clinton was in his second term as U.S. president back in 1997 and became known as both a cool dude who blows a good horn, and a sex machine who enjoys getting his horn blown. Thanks to his wife, Clinton has remained relevant and even makes appearances in season 20.

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NEWS

In 1997 Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Though McVeigh has never been portrayed on South Park, other famous criminals have, including a trio in season 10’s “Hell on Earth 2006.”  In it, Satan wants to throw a huge Halloween party on Earth and enlists the help of John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy to get the all-important Ferrari Enzo cake.

Speaking of cars, the Toyota Prius went on sale in Japan in 1997 but didn’t make it to the U.S. until the year 2000. The car appeared on South Park in “Smug Alert!” from season 10 where Gerald buys one leading to clouds of smug forming across the U.S.

1997 was also home to the famous Pokemon seizures where kids started convulsing after watching a strobe-heavy episode of the cartoon. A similar fad was portrayed on South Park in season 3’s “Chinpokomon” when the kids get way into a Pokemon-like cartoon that turns them into brainwashed soldiers, including Kenny who experiences seizures similar to those that happened to real children. The aforementioned Bill Clinton also makes an appearance in this episode and is unable to stop the Japanese invasion because of their brilliant tactic of telling Americans they have large penises.

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The biggest story of the year was probably the tragic death of Princess Diana who was involved in a fatal car wreck on August 31, 1997. In the South Park universe, Diana is a resident of Hell and makes appearances in “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” from season 3, and again in “Hell on Earth 2006” where she attended Satan’s huge party.

My how time flies. Don’t forget! Much is airing ALL 20 seasons of South Park Christmas Eve until Jan. 8, every night from 9 p.m. – 5:30 a.m, and starting next Monday for a limited time, you can watch all of South Park’s season 20 on Much.com.