I’m excited to be back with another TV Tuesday!
Unfortunately, school is back in swing and my time for TV binging (and writing) has been limited. That being said, I’m going to try a bit of a crash-course approach for many of the shows I discuss from here on out. That way, I can convey the genius of the show while avoiding spoilers.
This week, I have decided to go with The Boondocks. First released in 2005, the Adult Swim animated sitcom was one of the most controversial shows of the late 2000s/early 2010s, but also one of the most genius.
The Boondocks wonderfully utilizes satire, taking a unique, comedic approach to political/cultural commentary that you can’t help but laugh at. The jokes and plotlines are smart and well-written; the characters are irreplaceable.
The most recent season, the fourth, was released in 2014. The fourth season was originally meant to be the final season, but it was announced on June 12, 2019 that a reboot produced by Sony Pictures will be releasing in 2020. The show’s creator, Aaron McGruder, will be involved again after parting ways with Adult Swim following the show’s third season.
The Boondocks is based off of McGruder’s comic of the same name, which he authored from 1996 to 2006. The Boondocks is centered around Riley and Huey Freeman, both voiced by Regina King. They are from the Southside of Chicago, but the show begins with their forced relocation to live with their Grandpa, Robert Freeman, in the affluent, predominantly white suburb of Woodcrest.
Riley and Huey are two years apart and polar opposites from each other. Riley is enamored with gangsta rap and the lifestyle associated with it, eventually becoming close with fictional rappers Thugnificent and Gangstalicious. Riley looks up to them and other rappers religiously, taking their word as bond. Riley is impressionable and often impulsive, finding enjoyment from going against society. If he had one thing in common with Huey, it would be that.
Huey is classified as a “domestic terrorist” for past activism, but claims to have retired. He is wise beyond his years, intrigued by politics and social justice. Huey is cynical towards the gangsta rap that Riley loves as well as the overall culture of consumerism and hypermasculinity, positing an array of far-left views that lead to his ridicule from the rest of the characters. Huey is the Freeman family’s leading voice of reason, even more so than their Grandad.
Robert Freeman, usually referred to as “Grandad”, is a self-proclaimed Civil Rights legend and war veteran with many tall tales under his belt. Voiced by the iconic John Witherspoon, Grandad even refers to John’s character Willie Jones from “Friday” at one point. Grandad is stern and old-fashioned, yet eccentric and sometimes loving of the boys. He can be annoying, but he is often the focal point of the show’s comedy.
Despite being hands-down the most controversial character on the show, Uncle Ruckus is also the most perplexing. Uncle Ruckus is a disgruntled black man who believes he is a white victim of “re-vitiligo”, frequently spewing racial comments and proclaiming his love for the “white man”. While I don't condone his comments or behavior, the bold idea for the character of Uncle Ruckus is ingenious and perfectly contributes to the show’s structure. I’d even go as far to say that The Boondocks would probably be boring without Uncle Ruckus. Maybe not boring, but definitely not as provocative.
For the last of the main characters, we have the DuBois family- the Freeman family’s irritating neighbors across the street. In all fairness, they do mean well most of the time. Tom DuBois is a successful attorney and a grade-A suburban dad, basically the adult image of Carlton from Fresh Prince. He is easily jealous and intimidated, often unable to properly handle things with his wife Sarah. Sarah DuBois is Tom's equally liberal wife, a wildly-passionate Obama supporter and political activist. Not to call out the elephant in the room, but she's the picture of sexual frustration. Sarah is easily swooned by other men, including Barack Obama, Usher, and "Pretty Boy Flizzy". However, Tom and Sarah have a daughter they both adore- Jazmine. Jazmine is naive and paranoid, frequently following Huey and Riley around for guidance as they grow up in the weird ass town of Woodcrest.
Aside from the characters and backstory, one of the most genius components of The Boondocks is its parody of pop culture. The show directly parodies many viral videos, including the "I wanted to do hoodrat stuff with my friend" kid and the white teacher who tried to defend his use of the n-word. Riley was thrown into both situations, being the friend brought along for the "hoodrat stuff" and the offended student. The way that the writers took these cultural phenomenons and turned them into whole episodes is pretty impressive; I'll let you watch for yourself.
The show also features many interesting voice cameos, with the celebrities often voicing a character with similar likeness to themself. The Boondocks pulled in an impressive list of cultural icons to contribute their voices- Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Katt Williams, Cee Lo Green, Ghostface Killah, Snoop Dogg, and Samuel L. Jackson. The show even features Sway and DJ Vlad as themselves, interviewing the show's stacked lineup of fictional (likely satirical) rappers.
I could go on-and-on about the genius of The Boondocks, but I'll end things on a cohesive note. The Boondocks is a cultural masterpiece; shows that are as daring, ingenious, and relevant as The Boondocks are what make television as great as it is.