Thursday, October 22, 2009
TBG TV: Thoughts on The Boondocks
TBG Reader Jag writes:
I'm curious what your thoughts are on The Boondocks (if you've ever seen it). I'm Canadian so a lot of the reaction from African-Americans doesn't always permeate past the border but the show is definitely one that could court controversy yet I never hear of any. In fact, if anything, the cartoon has accumulated cult-status. What are your thoughts?
I watched every episode of the show during its first-run on Adult Swim. Answering your second question first, the primary reason the show avoided mainstream controversy – for the most part – is because its creator (Aaron McGruder) is fairly well-regarded within the African-American community. And, it doesn't hurt that McGruder is, in fact, African-American.
"The Boondocks" also benefited from good timing. Barely five years after it went off the air, people have already forgotten how incredible Comedy Central's "Chappelle's Show" was. "The Boondocks" was cleverly marketed as a similar African-American satire – ultimately falling woefully short of the standard – at a time when the entertainment industry was falling over themselves in attempts to recreate Dave Chappelle.
Outside of a minor dust-up with Rev. Al Sharpton over "The Boondocks" episode that resurrected Dr. Martin Luther King, the show kind of came and went without much buzz – positive or negative.
As a whole, I thought the show was an enormous missed opportunity.
The premiere episode was brilliant. Just an unholy assault on sacred cows both black and white. But, it was followed by the infamous R. Kelly episode – a piñata I'd beaten to death in the first year (2003) of my old weekly internet column. And, I was already one of the last to arrive at that party.
The "missed opportunity" can be summed up in three shows from the first season. The Gangstalicious episode was an overt parody of 50 Cent, but the writers went way, WAY out of their way to distance themselves from offending Fiddy or his audience. Unfortunately, the ending's homophobic overtones would become more prevalent in the second season. The MLK and Oprah episodes could've also been written with significantly more substance, but the former turned into a weird preachy sermon and the latter focused on every character except Oprah.
During the second season, the introspective Huey character was pushed into the background and written more as a glorified narrator. Meanwhile, his brother Riley – tolerable in small doses as a supporting character, mostly unwatchable as the show's focus – was written into the primary story more often.
The show's supposedly planning for a third season to air sometime in 2010 and I'll probably watch. Hopefully, in its two years off the air, McGruder can fix what's wrong and do more than pay lip service to pushing the envelope.