Written and directed by series co-founder Trey Parker, "201" was rated TV-MA L in the United States. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on April 21, 2010. The episode continued multiple storylines from the previous episode "200", the 200th entry of the series. Parker and fellow co-creator Matt Stone decided to celebrate their 200th episode by revisiting several subplots that had been featured throughout the show's 14 seasons. Multiple celebrities have been lampooned throughout the series' history, inspiring Parker and Stone to have all the past celebrities join in a class action lawsuit against the town of South Park. The ginger kids—children with fair skin, freckles and red hair—have been featured in several past episodes, where they were ridiculed by Cartman, who views them with prejudice. Cartman uses a hand-puppet con-artist named Mitch Conner who originally appeared in the seventh season episode "Fat Butt and Pancake Head", in which Cartman pretends his hand is Jennifer Lopez and uses many Hispanic stereotypes in his portrayal of her. Cartman regards Connor as a separate entity and has conversations with him, while Stan and Kyle do not accept this idea at all.
"201" also included several characters and subplots that were not featured in "200", such as the return of Dr. Alphonse Mephisto and Kevin, characters that had not been featured on South Park for about 10 years. Other previously recurring characters made appearances in "201", including Mr. Hankey, Big Gay Al, Mr. Slave and Pip Pirrup. Scott Tenorman, and the references to Cartman's murder of Scott's parents, were from the fifth season episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die". At the end of "201", the dead body of Tom Cruise lies alongside the corpse of a killer whale, a reference to the ninth season episode "Free Willzyx", in which the South Park boys help an orca escape a marine amusement park and flee to the moon, believing it to be a paradise.
One of the most prominent storylines from "200", which continued into "201", was the characters' efforts to bring Muhammad into public view. This is based on two past controversies in 2005 (Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy) and 2007 (Lars Vilks Muhammad drawings controversy), when European newspapers published cartoons of Muhammad, resulting in riots, global protests, and death threats toward the artists. As a result of those incidents, many publications and television studios have refused to broadcast images of Muhammad in any form, which was the inspiration behind Tom Cruise's efforts to harvest Muhammad's apparent immunity to satire and ridicule. Parker and Stone have previously voiced dissatisfaction that images of Muhammad had been censored on the show despite the fact that his image was shown during the 2001 episode "Super Best Friends", without any censorship, before the cartoon controversies began. "201" continues the theme from "200" that argues against fear and censorship, and calls for support of free speech, both of Muhammad's image and any subject considered taboo.