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There's a rule of thumb that the longer an animated show lasts, the likelier the quality and humour will decline.
"The Simpsons" is a pale shadow of its glory days and "Family Guy" has lost a lot of its spark.
There is an exception: South Park.
While the right wingers aren't outraged by it anymore, it remains the most topical animated comedy on the air.
"6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park" shows us why. Covering the making of the season 15 premiere "HUMANCENTiPAD", it shows the intense process of one episode, from original writers meetings to 11th hour delivery of the finished tape to Comedy Central.
This documentary shows us WHY South Park is still relevant and funny after almost 20 years: Matt Stone and Trey Parker are involved in every step of creating the show, melding it into what we see on TV every week.
Coming off the successful Book of Mormon stage show, Parker and Stone are understandably struggling for motivation. A few writers room sessions (including SNL's Bill Hader) has the boys kicking around ideas, doing the character's voices and laughing like five- year- olds at poo jokes. The episode idea is full of the topical humour South Park are famous for: it's a parody of the often-unread Apple iTunes Terms and Conditions (Trey got the idea after having to update iTunes for the gazillionth time) and "The Human Centipede" horror film. Meanwhile, Executive Producer Anne Garefino has to clear the idea with the censors.
After the idea is hatched, the hard-working animators bring the show to life, while Matt and Trey record dialogue. While most animated shows farm the grunt work out to Korea, the South Park animators have to juggle multiple tasks to get the episode done.
As they days tick by, the laughs disappear and the stress kicks in: while Trey does last-minute work on the script, bemoaning that a lengthy script means massive cuts (and admitting to hating the 'lonely' writing process), they attend the Tony Awards for "Book of Mormon" and do interviews for said show. The crew are on board too, sleeping in the office and pulling long days to finish the episode. The relief at finishing is obvious.
We do get some reminiscing from Parker and Stone: how they rose from poor animators to cultural icons through "The Spirit of Christmas", how their temperaments and skills complement each other and the infamous night they wore dresses to the Oscars while on acid. This is why South Park is still vibrant: Stone and Parker are more than just colleagues, they're friends. It's why they put themselves through the unimaginable stress of a six-day turnaround. It works, as Parker says the deadline stops them from becoming too pedantic.
Another important point: Parker and Stone don't give two shits about reputations. When Bill Hader explains SNL's political tightrope when parodying celebrities ('we might want them to host one day'), Parker and Stone have no restrictions, allowing them the brutally parody any celebrity they want without fear of reprisal.
If you're a fan of South Park, or animated shows in general, "6 Days to Air" is well worth watching.
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