‘South Park’, since its release in 1997, has garnered humongous critical acclaim for its intrinsic satire and parodying narratives. Created by A Trey Parker and Matt Stone creation, the show is replete with profanity and dark humour that satirizes a wide array of topics. It is often cited as one of the best adult animated shows and has received five Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. ‘South Park’, however, has received negative response, with many calling it out for its dark and offensive humour. However, the truth is that the show uses its controversies as a tool for splurging out brilliant material.
For this article, I have taken into account shows that are built upon a premise similar to this iconic show. I have limited the list to animated shows as live action shows should have a different list. So, without further ado, here is the list of best shows similar to ‘South Park’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these series like ‘South Park’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
13. Beavis and Butt-Head (1993-2011)
Created by Mike Judge, ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ is a sitcom which follows the titular Beavis and Butt-Head, two teenagers who are known for their lazy lifestyle and are massive heavy metal fans. Every episode centres on the two laid back boys doing the most idiotic and stupid things. The show is built upon satire which helps Judge critique and pokes fun at the American culture and the American youth, i.e. the Generation X. It was met with negative reception from ardent critics who criticised it for its libidinous humour and scathing commentary of the society. Though the show’s long run has seen its narrative dip down in quality, it is still extremely funny and entertaining.
12. American Dad! (2005 – )
Created by the brilliant Seth MacFarlane, ‘American Dad!’ follows the life of Stan Smith, a CIA agent whose conservative family life creates challenges for him to deal with the security of America and manage his family- which further leads the most humour and absurd situation for him. The sitcom is directed towards a more character-driven show and features characters with distinctive and quirky personalities, that help in creating the unique humour. MacFarlane adapts the culture of America and the governmental idiosyncrasies to form the most absurd premise which he successfully executes. Premiering in 2005, the show has received our Primetime Emmy Awards and two Annie Awards.
11. Daria (1997–2001)
Co-created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn, ‘Daria’ follows the titular Daria Morgendorffer, a smart and cynical girl who goes through teenage life as a proud outsider in a world of mainly idiotic adolescents and condescending adults. A spin-off of ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’, the show explores the themes of identity and familial relationships through satire and dark comedy. The show, which premiered in 1997, was one of MTV’s highest rated shows. The series is now regarded as one of the most iconic shows of all time.
10. F Is for Family (2015 – )
Co-created by Bill Burr and Michael Price, ‘F Is for Family’ is set in the early 1970s, and follows the Murphy family – an Irish-American family which is hilariously dysfunctional, with the kids doing whatever they want from smoking pot to breaking laws, the father being glued to the television and the mother struggling with her career. Structured as a black comedy and a satire, ‘F Is for Family’ is another show critiquing the American culture with the aid of vulgar humour and uncouth narratives. The show received mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences. It also deals with several serious issues and sometimes steers into a thoughtful tonality, making it just more than a comedy and sitcom.
9. Gravity Falls (2012 – 2016)
Created by Alex Hirsch, ‘Gravity Falls’ follows Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are twin siblings spending the summer at their uncle’s tourist locale in the enchanting town of Gravity Falls. A mystery adventure comedy, the show employs nostalgia as well as juvenile humour to intrigue both children and parents. Premiering in 2012 on Disney Channel, the show is divided into two seasons, with both receiving a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. The Boondocks (2005-2014)
Based on the comic strip ‘The Boondocks’ created by American writer Aaron McGruder, the show centres around the Freeman brothers – Huey and Riley (voiced by Oscar-winning actress Regina King)– who move away from the city to migrate to the suburbs with their often petulant grandfather. A black comedy by its narrative, ‘The Boondocks’ is a socio-political commentary on varying cultures, lifestyles, social classes and cultural and racial stereotypes, which further culminate in a satirical tone that forms the soul of the narrative. Premiering on November 6, 2006, on Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block, Adult Swim, the sitcom has over four seasons. With its brazen humour and unrepentant comedy, the show gained negative reviews, but is certainly quite witty and entertaining.
7. The Venture Bros. (2003 – )
Another feature on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” segment, ‘The Venture Bros.’ centres around the titular “Venture Bros.” and follows the life of the family which consists of the highly inept teenagers Hank and Dean Venture and their emotionally insecure, unethical and under-performing super-scientist father Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture. Created by Jackson Publick and co-written by Doc Hammer and Publick, the show is built around strong and competent writing. Since its release, ‘The Venture Bros.’ has gone on to garner positive reviews, with some even calling it as one of the best animated shows in recent times.
6. The Flintstones (1960 – 1966)
‘The Flintstones’ centres around two modern-day Stone Age families – the Flintstones and the Rubbles – and follows their adventures, or to aptly put it, their “misadventures”. Co-created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the sitcom romanticises the Stone Age which further creates an absurd environment that helps spark off the comedy in the narrative. The show, at its time of release, was considered as a dim-written and unnecessary sitcom. However, since then, ‘The Flintstones’ has gone on to become one of the most watched and most beloved cartoon show of all times, with some publications even revising its creative brilliance. Running for approximately six seasons, the sitcom has received the award for “Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor” at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
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5. King of the Hill (1997 – 2010)
‘King of the Hill’ is set in the fictional city of Arlen in Texas and follows the titular Hills – a middle-class American family which consists of the family patriarch Hank Hill, who is the assistant manager at Strickland Propane and is categorised as an “everyman”. The show chronicles the Hill family through the antics of Hank, who has conservative views and ideological biases that create problems with his wife Peggy, son Bobby, his father Cotton, his niece Luanne, boss Buck Strickland, and his neighbour, Kahn.
By formulating the primary narrative around the family and its idiosyncrasies, the show makes fun of the mundane lifestyle of a simple people, which is quite absurd in reality. Co-created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, ‘King of the Hill’ premiered in 1997 and has run on Fox till its series culmination in 2010. The show has received critical acclaim for its underlying commentary and satire, bagging nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards, Annie Awards and the People’s Choice Awards, to name a few.
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4. Bob’s Burgers (2011 – )
Created by Loren Bouchard, ‘Bob’s Burgers’ follows the titular Belcher family and their daily challenges to run the family patriarch’s dream of a hamburger restaurant. Though the first season did not get much traction, ‘Bob’s Burgers’ has, over the years, received positive reviews for its unique humour. The series bagged a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Animated Program” in 2014 and has been one of the highest rated adult sitcoms in recent times.
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3. Rick and Morty (2013–)
‘Rick and Morty’ is a weird combination of lewd humour and witty and smart narrative – a factor which makes it such an engaging piece of art. Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, the show chronicles the mishaps under the pretence of adventures of the cynical mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his benevolent but anxious grandson Morty Smith. The series depicts them dealing with their domestic familial problems while also venturing into inter-dimensional worlds. It is comical, witty and wonderfully crass. The show, since its release in 2013, has received the “Best Animated Series” at Critics’ Choice Television Awards, the “Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production” at the Annie Awards and the “Outstanding Animated Program” at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
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2. Family Guy (1999 – )
Created by Seth MacFarlane and further developed by David Zuckerman, ‘Family Guy’ follows the Griffins, a dysfunctional family in the fictional city of Quahog, Rhode Island. Like many of its contemporary animated sitcoms, ‘Family Guy’ too creates its humour by lampooning the American culture though the idiosyncrasies of the family. Considered as one of the greatest sitcoms of all times, the show is regarded as one of the foremost critiques and satires of American society, especially the consumerist culture it has given birth to. While some old school critics have compared it quite unfavourably to ‘The Simpsons’, it cannot be denied that ‘Family Guy’ boasts of a great quality of its own. The show, since its release in 1999, has gone on to receive 12 Primetime Emmy Awards and 11 Annie Awards nominations.
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1. The Simpsons (1989 – )
The Longest running American sitcom ever, ‘The Simpsons’ revolutionised the genre of adult animated television shows. Created by Matt Groening, the sitcom follows the life of the titular Simpsons – a working-class family in the city of Springfield. The series explores the themes of culture, identity and stereotypes in context of the American society. ‘The Simpsons’ is also extremely character driven as it explores a variety of issues from the perspective of characters of different age groups.
The immense popularity of the show can be seen in how the modern day sitcoms have adapted its narrative style and how the American vernacular has taken quite a number of words and neologisms from it. Though the show has seen some criticism due to its nearly 30-year mark of running, ‘The Simpsons’ will always remain an iconic show. It has also received a record of 31 Primetime Emmy Awards and 30 Annie Awards.
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