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'Ringer' of Truth

EW Exclusive: Did ''The Ringer'' rip off ''South Park'' -- or vice versa? Matt Stone and Trey Parker respond to claims by the writer of Johnny Knoxville's upcoming comedy that they took his idea for an episode

WHICH CAME FIRST? South Park aired its Special Olympics episode in 2004, but the writer of The Ringer says he pitched the idea five years…
WHICH CAME FIRST? South Park aired its Special Olympics episode in 2004, but the writer of The Ringer says he pitched the idea five years earlier

Is something rotten in South Park? Well, aside from the lunchroom slop Chef serves up? One Hollywood screenwriter thinks so.

Ricky Blitt, the scribe behind the subversively silly new Johnny Knoxville comedy The Ringer, says he was shocked when he recently came across a post bashing him on the Rotten Tomatoes website. The post, from an irate South Park fan, urged the animated show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, to sue the makers of The Ringer (including producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly) for ripping off an episode of the Comedy Central show in which Eric Cartman pretends to be mentally challenged in order to qualify for the Special Olympics — a premise that mirrors the concept of the Fox Searchlight film, due to hit theaters Dec. 23.

But Blitt, who claims he had the idea first, says it was Stone and Parker who ripped him off. And that he's the one who should be suing. Let the feud begin.

''My friends told me to get over it,'' Blitt says, ''but all of these people are going to think that I'm the one who took it from [South Park] because theirs came out first and ours took seven years to make. I thought I could handle it. But long story short, I couldn't.''

Blitt, who has also written for Family Guy, says that he first hatched the idea of a loser who feigns a mental disability to scam the prize money from the Special Olympics more than a decade ago. And indeed, The Ringer has been in development with the Farrelly brothers at Fox since at least 2000.

But adding a whole other level of intrigue to the he-said/they-said dispute is that Blitt alleges his Special Olympics story was actually pitched to someone at Stone and Parker's company (although not to Stone and Parker themselves) via independent producer Robert Kosberg in 1999 — five years before their Cartman episode aired. Kosberg, who is no longer involved with The Ringer, backs Blitt's claim.

The South Park guys aren't buying it. ''I don't even know how to respond to this,'' says Stone, laughing. ''I'm totally sympathetic to the fact that you make a film and you go online and people say you ripped it off.'' But, he adds, referring to Blitt, ''I've literally never heard of him.''

So what about being pitched The Ringer in 1999? ''I don't remember that at all,'' says Stone. ''I don't think it ever happened. That's just not the way we work. Trey and I pitch movies mostly, we don't take pitches.''

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