|The Boondocks: The Complete First Season (2005)
Starring: Regina King, John Witherspoon, Cedric Yarbrough, Gary Anthony Williams, Jill Talley, Gabby Soleil
Granddad: Boy, don’t say the word “nigga” in this house.
Huey: Granddad, you said the word “nigga” 46 times yesterday. I counted.
Granddad: Nigga, hush.
There just ain’t no justice that “South Park” gets all the headlines as the funniest, most outrageous animated series on television when “The Boondocks” only seems to get noticed because the characters use the N-word a lot.
Aaron McGruder’s subversive comic strip, which regularly takes shot at the dumbing-down of black culture by popular media (BET is a regular target), was probably always destined to make the leap from the printed page to the small screen. The series was originally pitched to Fox, but McGruder wasn’t willing to dilute his vision for network television; as a result, “The Boondocks” found a home as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup. It’s not exactly at home there, surrounded by comparatively-insipid shows like “Family Guy” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” but it’s done well enough to result in a 20-episode second season, scheduled to premiere in March 2007.
Like “South Park,” the two primary characters are children: Huey Freeman and his younger brother, Riley (both voiced by actress Regina King), a pair of kids from the streets of Chicago who are moved by their grandfather (voiced by John Witherspoon, known as the father from the “Friday” films) to live in a predominantly white suburb. It’s a pleasant surprise to find that, in its transition to television, McGruder’s creation has only become more bold with its attacks on those in the black community who say and do the stupidest things.
In “Return of the King,” McGruder offers a “what if?” episode which theorizes that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t die but, rather, has been in a coma all this time; when he awakens, he ends up going from being a hero to all those seeking equality of the races to being accused of a terrorist sympathizer. When he attempts to hold a rally to inspire his brethren, it’s so overtaken by attempts to make it into a party rather than a serious discussion that the good Reverend’s frustration reaches boiling point, resulting in his screaming, “WILL YOU IGNORANT NIGGAS PLEASE SHUT THE HELL UP?!” (Ouch.) “The Trial of Robert Kelly” absolutely shreds R. Kelly for his sexual shenanigans with an underage girl, specifically the fact that he, uh, urinated on her. Check out this exchange when Riley encounters the prosecuting attorney and goes off on him for going after Kelly, and DuBois (the attorney) ends up defending himself:
DuBois: Riley, it was a little girl.
Riley: Oh, I seen that girl. She ain't little. I'm little.
Riley: Gary Coleman's little.
Riley: Mini-me's little.
Riley: And to the best of my knowledge, we ALL managed to avoid gettin’ peed on so far.
DuBois: But what about the victim?
Riley: Oh, yes, the victim. At what point does personal responsibility become a factor in this equation?
DuBois: I don't think that…
Riley: I see piss coming, I move.
Riley: She saw piss coming, she stayed.
Du Bois: Yeah, she did, but…
Riley: And why should I have to miss out on the next R. Kelly album just for that?!
There’s also an episode where two criminals attempt to kidnap Oprah Winfrey, only to accidentally nab Maya Angelou by mistake…and one of the crooks – named Gin Rummy – is voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson. Rummy appears in another episode as well (”Date with the Health Inspector”), where you can just imagine Jackson grinning in the booth after recording the voiceover for the following exchange:
Rummy: The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence
Rummy: Simply because you don’t have evidence that something does exist it does not mean you don’t have evidence it doesn’t exit.
Riley: (pauses) What?
Rummy: What country you from?
Rummy: What ain’t no country I ever heard of. Do they speak English in What?
Rummy: ENGLISH, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!?
Rummy: So you understand the words I’m saying to you!
Rummy: Well, what I’m saying is, there are known knowns and known unknowns, but there’s also unknown unknowns…things we don’t know that we don’t know!
Riley: (pauses) What?
Rummy: Say “what” again! Say “what” again! I dare you! I double-dare you, motherfucker! Say “what” one more time!
There are tons of such pop culture references in the show – in fact, there’s even one in the show’s animation style, which borrows from McGruder’s love of anime – with dialogue that references rap lyrics and lots of scenes on loan from movies; there are a ton of Bruce Lee homages, several nods to “Friday” and the “Star Wars” films, and a “Do the Right Thing” scene that’s duplicated right down to having Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” as the soundtrack. And despite the harsh humor of the show, one can’t help but notice that many of the simpler, quieter scenes are set to musical cues that are reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi’s music for the “Charlie Brown” specials. (McGruder is an admitted fan of Charles Schulz’s work.)
In addition to the 15 episodes, “The Boondocks” is totally uncensored…like you didn’t get that idea from the above dialogue…and includes commentary from the crew, as well as a pair of commentaries done by the character of Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams), plus deleted scenes, animatics, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.Since the version of “The Boondocks” that appears in your daily paper is on hiatus ‘til October, this is the best possible way to get your fix of Huey, Riley, and Granddad. Few comic strips have made it to television as successfully.