TV Legends Revealed: Was 'South Park' Originally Going to be Like 'The X-Files'?

TV URBAN LEGEND: "South Park" was originally going to be an "X-Files"-style show.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone drew the attention of Comedy Central with a pair of "Spirit of Christmas" animated shorts starring the characters that later became famous on "South Park" (Stan, Kenny and Cartman). However, after they signed a deal to create an ongoing television series, Parker and Stone were faced with a difficult task: How do you turn a short video into a TV show?

They essentially had to develop a series from scratch. As a result, their earliest "South Park" episodes were marked by uncertainty, as their approach to the series changed as the idea developed. It was much like the problems Matt Groening and the producers of "The Simpsons" had in adapting their short animated segments on "The Tracey Ullman Show" into a full series. In the case of "The Simpsons," this caused Groening and crew to come up with all sorts of weird ideas that never came to fruition, most famously (as featured in this old TV Legends Revealed), having Homer Simpson turn out to secretly be Krusty the Clown.

In the case of Parker and Stone and "South Park," the most notable change was that originally the series was going to be a lot like "The X-Files"!

The first episode of "South Park,” "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe," detailed just that, alien "visitors" coming to South Park, Colorado, and inserting an anal probe into third-grader (as well as other residents). The aliens abduct Ike, the younger brother of Cartman's classmate Kyle, forcing Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny to rescue him. Eventually, the boys use the anal probe the visitors left in Cartman’s ass to lure them back to Earth so Ike can be saved. The hook of the series was that small towns in Colorado seem to report the most sightings of UFOs, Bigfoot and the like. In fact, as Parker has noted in a number of interviews, the real Park County, which actually has a South Park, is specifically known for UFO sightings. Here he is talking to Judd Handler:

Judd: How about all of South Park’s UFO sightings?Trey: That’s actually true. South Park County has a high rate of sightings. It’s pretty eerie up there in the mountains at night alone. There’s a high plateau right in the middle of the mountains, and there’s this perfectly circular area. Kind of like a little UFO landing pad.

So Parker and Stone wanted to explore that notion by saying the reason they have the most reports of crazy happenings is because all of that stuff is actually happening to the people of South Park. They ARE being visited by UFOs, they ARE being visited by Big Foot, etc.

While the aliens depart at the end of the first episode, originally they weren’t supposed to leave entirely, and would influence the plot of the series going forward. That was in keeping with Parker and Stone's fascination with the idea of aliens walking among us, which is an element of their pre-“South Park” film, "Cannibal! The Musical” (alien visitors are hidden throughout that movie). However, when coupled with their view that this was a town where things like Bigfoot or the Chupacabra really did exist, Parker and Stone felt the series was going to be too similar to "The X-Files," the Fox drama about two FBI agents who investigate paranormal activity and deal with a vast alien conspiracy. So they decided against including the alien-conspiracy angle. A remnant of that, however, remained in having alien visitors appear in the background of episodes for pretty much the rest of the show's run (as detailed in this old TV Legends Revealed).

"The X-Files" star David Duchovny actually ended up appearing in a number of episodes of “South Park.”

The legend is...


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music.

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