The Boondocks, the best newspaper comic strip since Doonesbury, becomes a TV show this week (11 p.m. Sundays, Cartoon Network) and damn, is it funny. The Boondocks becomes a TV show this week (11 p.m., Sundays, Cartoon Network).
With 22 minutes of TV time rather than three panels in a daily newspaper and apparently absolute freedom to say what he wants, creator Aaron McGruder savages the state of race relations, the hip-hop culture, the way black people treat each other, the way white people patronize blacks, white people who act black and so much more.
As he's been doing in the comic strip since 1999, McGruder delivers his barbs through the Freeman family: Granddad and his grandsons, Huey, 10, and Riley, 8. Granddad moved the boys from Chicago's rough streets to the all-white suburb of Woodcrest, which, as far as the boys are concerned, is the boondocks.
Granddad wants to live out his life in peace and quiet, preferably after finding a white woman with a flat booty he can tell his troubles to. But the boys have been raised to raise hell. Huey is a would-be black militant who watches the neighbors through the scope of a toy gun and will tell anyone who'll listen that Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil and the government is lying about Sept. 11. Riley, who says his last name is Escobar, after the drug lord, has been co-opted (or corrupted, depending on your point of view) by the hip-hop culture.
The boys hate white people - or what they think white people are. Granddad tries to teach them how to get along, sometimes with hilariously bizarre advice like, "You give the meanest white man a piece of cheese and he turns into Mr. Rogers."
Huey's response: "You can't tame the white supremacist power structure with cheese."
In the opening episode, Granddad and the boys meet Ed Wuncler, the white man whose bank holds the mortgage on their home. He invites them to a garden party at his house, where they meet his nitwit wanna-be-black grandson who's just back from Iraq (What was it like? "It was war, basically.") and lots of rich white people who think Huey is adorable, no matter what he says. There's also Wuncler's black helper, Uncle Ruckus, who resents that the Freeman family has been invited to the party. He serenades them with a song, "Don't Trust Them New Niggas Over There."
You'll probably hear a lot about The Boondocks because of its frequent use of the N-word. But as offensive as that word can be, McGruder, who is black, uses it to hilarious effect. Granddad tells the boys not to use the word, though in the very next sentence he tells Huey, "Nigga, hush." Uncle Ruckus' song is a riot. And just listen to the many uses in the second episode when Granddad falls for a gold-digging prostitute.
The only knock against The Boondocks may be its Speed Racer-esque anime, which results in minimal movement. But the rest of the show is Grade A, particularly the voice work of John Witherspoon as Granddad and Regina King as the boys. She gives them both a Michael Jackson-like tone, which makes their diatribes that much funnier.