Aaron McGruder, sometimes called the angriest black man in America, is ready to sound off once again, only now he’s coming with both gun barrels blazing live and in color. The Boondocks, based on the largely popular and often controversial syndicated comic strip, begins its fifteen episode season on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block on November 6th. Gone are the day to day ultra liberal musings and political firebombs that powered the original comic to mainstream success in over 300 newspapers across the country, but fans of the critically acclaimed comic need not fret. This dog still has teeth. McGruder and company have instead opted for a character based comedy that focuses on the lives of Huey, Riley, and Granddad as they continue to live in a state of bewilderment, indignation, and confusion in the fictional suburb of Woodcrest. But the trade off in content is worth every minute you’ll spend watching.
While McGruder insists his work is not done for the sake of controversy, he also freely admits that he is not pulling any punches either. The result is a brash and sometimes incredibly frank satire on life from the perspective of an eccentric and culturally isolated Black family refusing to embrace the bourgeoisie life of suburbia. The family members carry over their personalities from the comic, Huey is still a revolutionary leftist, Riley is still a wannabe thug, and Granddad is still an “old school” Black man. In one exchange during the episode “Guess Hoes Coming to Dinner,” Granddad observes a young mother struggling with her son as the young child is in the middle of vicious temper tantrum. Undaunted Granddad pulls off his belt and asks the distraught mother if she has ever tried “beating his ass.” A brief tutorial on how to use a belt and a few moments later there is some full on child discipline taking place as Granddad stands proud, admiring his handy work. The boys on the other hand, drive The Boondocks with a mix of perceptiveness flavored by urban street culture and complete lack of political correctness. Later in “Guess Hoes Coming to Dinner,” Riley, upset that Granddad has fallen for a prostitute, riffs on women and dating claiming that if a man has to pay for dinner then obviously the woman is a ho. Huey, somewhat exasperated, corrects him and opines that, “not all women are hoes, we’re talking 20 – 25% tops.”
Perhaps the most striking element of The Boondocks that people will notice right away is the matter of fact usage of the taboo “N-word.” And we’re not talking about it appearing once in a while as the punch line to a joke either. It’s there…a lot. However striking that may or may not be for some viewers, the writers do a good job of not force feeding an often times misunderstood urban term down the viewers’ throats for simple shock value.
Visually, the anime inspired series represents the best looking Adult Swim original to date. And that is saying a lot for a programming block whose mantra has always been either “keep it short, or keep it cheap. But preferably both.” Though the series is not relying on animation to produce sight gags or fast paced action sequences, the visuals provide a nice backdrop for an out there dialogue driven comedy.
All combined The Boondocks comes across as an animated sitcom combining a mix of sometimes lowbrow subject matter with a smart and aggressive hip hop edge. Both John Witherspoon (Granddad) and Regina King (Huey and Riley) do an excellent job of breathing life into the characters while maintaining a sharp tongued delivery.
Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks premieres Sunday, November 6, at 11 p.m. on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
See also Toon Zone’s other reviews of the show:
Matt Wilson: “Boondocks” Brings All The Flaws of Primetime TV To Adult Swim
Karl Olson: “The Boondocks”: Brash, Honest And Excellent