Last night saw the return of hit animated series South Park, but not the start of a new season. The show debuted its first ever one hour special with South Park: The Pandemic Special, and the audience turned up in droves. A report from Deadline reveals that the series nabbed 2.3 million Live+Same Day total viewers and a 2.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic on Comedy Central, marking the first time that the series has gained viewership this high since one of its Black Friday/Game of Thrones episodes in 2013. It also marks a major shift for the show from its season 23 premiere in September of 2019, leaping up 168%. The trade notes the special "ranks as the highest-rated scripted telecast on ad-supported cable in 2020."
The show's success wasn't limited strictly to airing on Comedy Central though as ViacomCBS simulcast the special on MTV and MTV2, bringing the total viewership across the three networks and two encores on Comedy Central to 4.05 million total viewers, a number the series hasn't managed to hit on its home network in over a decade.
“We’re thrilled with South Park’s return and it’s clear the audience was as well,“ said Chris McCarthy, President, Entertainment & Youth Brands, ViacomCBS. “The success is a testament to Matt and Trey’s creative genius and we used our full portfolio to let everyone know it’s back – propelling it to the No. 1 scripted telecast of 2020 and delivering its highest ratings in seven years.”
As expected, South Park didn't pull any punches and set its sights on countless subjects throughout the episode. From the supposed origin and cure of COVID-19 to lampooning President Donald Trump's response, plus police brutality and even Build-A-Bear, nothing was off limits, and the internet seemed to mostly enjoy themselves. The episode seemed to end with a tease of perhaps more specials, but no official word on that has been announced by any of the involved parties.
The Pandemic Special wasn't the only COVID-19 related headlines concerning the animated series as it was revealed on Sunday that the NFL's Denver Broncos had filled its stadium with cardboard cut-outs of characters from the series (which takes place in a fictional town outside of Denver, and whose creators are public fans of the team). The four main characters — Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny — were all made into cardboard cut-outs, along with other notable characters from the show like Butters, Mr. Garrison, Randy Marsh, ManBearPig, Chef, Satan,and even Terrance and Phillip.