Cartoon Network has changed the way many people look at animation with its grown-up-targeted spinoff Adult Swim. But The Boondocks, its newest series to dive into the pool, has plunged even further — crossing the line from silly to socially conscious.
Based on Aaron McGruder's comic strip, Boondocks follows the exploits of two young children, Huey and Riley (both voiced by Regina King, Ray), and their eccentric grandfather, as they settle into their new home in the suburbs of Chicago.
Huey and Riley fashion themselves as revolutionaries, while Granddad (John Witherspoon, The Wayans Brothers) is trying to coexist with his new neighbors, which he labels as “sophisticated” white people. This dynamic is the basis of the series' premiere episode. The show opens with Huey's dream of stepping to a microphone at a garden party and pronouncing, “Jesus was black; Ronald Reagan was the devil; and the government is lying about 9/11.” A riot ensues.
Later, when Granddad befriends a rich white banker, Ed Wuncler (Ed Asner), and is invited to an actual garden party, Huey is frustrated when his proclamations bring nothing more than applause and praise for being an articulate young man.
Boondocks introduces another dynamic with the character Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), a black man who hates black people. Ruckus is reluctant to let Granddad and the kids into the Wuncler estate and later delivers a taunting serenade to them during the garden party.
The show follows closely the comic strip's biting social commentary, but its half-hour format and late-night time slot allow it to be much edgier.
The show seems like it would be a better mate to Comedy Central's South Park than for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The boys' language is very much in the Cartman vein, and there is prodigious uncensored use of the N-word — but as one of the garden party's guests says, it's alright “when they use it.”
The Boondocks is not for the easily offended. And in the vein of shows like All in the Family, it wields satire as a weapon to slice into social issues like race relations, biracial identity and interracial marriage. Granddad seems to have been present at many of the landmark moments of the civil rights movement; Riley is a disciple of hip-hop culture; and Huey has the politics of Malcolm X coursing through his blood.
The Boondocks debuts Sunday, Nov. 6 at 11 p.m. (ET, PT) on Cartoon Network.