South Park's ratings are soaring.

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Thu, 19 Feb 98 15:27:27 PST

Thursday February 19 8:49 AM EST
'South Park' Packs A Ratings Punch
By John Dempsey

NEW YORK (Variety) - The foul-mouthed third-graders of "South Park" have
made TV history, clocking in as the highest-rated cable show for the
second week in a row.

That's the first time an original, scripted adult series has ever
accomplished that feat. It scored a 6.1 Nielsen rating in cable
households for its 10 p.m. timeslot on Wednesday Feb. 11, a cable high
for the week ended Feb. 15, after harvesting a 6.4 for its Wednesday
showing the previous week (Feb. 2-8). (Comedy Central repeats the South
Park episode later on Wednesday and twice on Saturday.)

"TV viewers are fed up with political correctness," says Doug Herzog,
president and CEO of Comedy Central. "The broadcast networks have lulled
their audience into a sitcom coma. 'South Park' provides something
different and fresh."

Tim Brooks, senior VP of research for the USA Networks, says the huge
audiences for "South Park" are a clear indication that, for the first
time, individual series on cable are going to start getting more viewers
than some of the lower-rated series on the primetime schedules of the
broadcast networks.

USA's firstrun action hour "La Femme Nikita," for example, averaged a
2.0 rating for its first burst of original episodes last May, a number
that grew to a 2.3 in its second burst in the fall and to a 2.6 rating
average for the third burst last month, Brooks says.

Compared to "La Femme Nikita," though, "South Park" is off the charts.
Behind "South Park" last week, the 10 top-rated series encompassed four
wrestling exhibitions (three on TNT and one on TBS) and five different
half-hours of "Rugrats" scattered throughout the Nickelodeon schedule.

Herzog said Comedy Central, which owns "South Park," has commissioned
the two twentysomething creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, to produce
33 half-hours. The twelfth episode ran Feb. 18 and the 13th will play on
Feb. 25, with the final 20 to be delivered over the next year, according
to Herzog.

"We'll definitely order more shows beyond the first 33," he said,
although possibly with new writers if Stone and Parker get lured away to
more lucrative pastures.