April 22, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “The Boondocks”


THE BOONDOCKS:  Monday 10:30PM on Adult Swim

Aaron McGruder’s name is barely to be found in the credits for Season 4 of Adult Swim’s animated THE BOONDOCKS, absent as both a producer and writer (he retains a credit for his contribution to the show’s theme song), and since he was, unusually, not only the creator of the acclaimed comic strip on which the TV show is based, but also the creator/showrunner of the series itself, that’s a big deal.  McGruder, Adult Swim and studio Sony Television are keeping the circumstances largely to themselves, apart from a hazy mention of scheduling issues, but it all must have been quite a mess (on some episodes on which McGruder was apparently a writer, there will be no writing credit at all).  Still, The Boondocks is a valuable property for both network and studio, so the extended 4th season of 20 episodes (which, it’s been announced, will be its last) presses on.

The result, at least in the Season 4 premiere, is still recognizably The Boondocks, from the distinctive Korean anime-inspired animation to the frequent N-words and bleeped profanity, and the overall air of political incorrectness, in this episode particularly with respect to some women’s attraction to men who act violently, even to other women.  The major characters are still there:  Huey and Riley Freeman (both voiced by Regina King), respectively radically political and hip-hop-minded young brothers originally from inner-city Chicago; their traditionalist grandfather Robert (John Witherspoon), with whom they now live uneasily in the suburbs; their neighbors, the interracial DuBois couple, wimpy lawyer Tom (Cedric Yarbrough) and frustrated wife Sarah (Jill Talley); and reactionary, self-hating Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams).  What’s missing, though, is the inspiration that set the series apart, both in its sometimes jaw-dropping humor and its often clever, imaginative plotting.  It’s a syndrome we’ve seen before, most recently in the Dan Harmon-less season of Community, when a series tries to go forward without its central voice.

The episode chosen by Adult Swim as the season premiere (its numbering indicates that it wasn’t originally intended as such), with a script credited to Consulting Producer Angela Nissel, was an odd choice, because the Freemans were very much supporting characters in its story.  Instead, it focused on Tom and Sarah DuBois, and the trouble that ensued when Tom took on singer Pretty Boy Flizzy as a client when the star was arrested for robbing a liquor store.  Flizzy was an obvious stand-in for Chris Brown (Sarah was turned on by the fact that he’d beaten up his R&B-singer girlfriend at the Grammys), but not with anything like the sharp wit McGruder had shown in going after black icons like Tyler Perry in the past.  Instead, the jokes were obvious, as Flizzy showed up for a legal meeting with an entourage that included a tiger, rained money on Tom when it was time to pay him, and repeatedly said how “[bleeped] up” he was.  In the end, Tom learned his politically incorrect lesson and won back Sarah’s sexual attraction by hitting Flizzy, who turned out to be a fraud (he’d faked the liquor store robbery to keep up his street cred, and invited Tom to hit him).  None of it was substantial enough to mean much as satire, and very little was particularly funny.

The Boondocks without McGruder seems likely to be an adequate show, but not a special one, although the high ratings that reruns have been getting in recent weeks suggest that fans are so eagerly awaiting new episodes (Season 3 aired in May-August 2010) that they may take what they can get.  The good news is that McGruder is already working on his next TV project (for Adult Swim) entitled Black Jesus, so he’s far from finished.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."