The Boondocks (TV series)
|Created by||Aaron McGruder|
|Based on||The Boondocks
by Aaron McGruder
|Written by||Aaron McGruder (Season 1–3)
Jason Van Veen
|Directed by||Seung Eun Kim
Sung Dae Kang
Sung Hoon Kim
Young Chan Kim
Andrea Romano (Voices)
|Voices of||Regina King
Gary Anthony Williams
Gabby Soleil (Season 1–3)
|Theme music composer||Asheru|
|Composer(s)||Metaphor the Great
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||55 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Aaron McGruder (Season 1–3)
Reginald Hudlin (Season 1–2)
Brian J. Cowan
|Producer(s)||Ayub Dahir Kim
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Rebel Base Productions
Sony Pictures Television
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original network||Adult Swim
Teletoon (episodes 29 & 30)
|Picture format||480i 16:9 SDTV (2005–08)
1080i 16:9 HDTV (2010–14)
|Original release||November 6, 2005– June 23, 2014|
The Boondocks is an American adult animated sitcom on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim. Created by Aaron McGruder, based upon his comic strip of the same name, the series premiered on November 6, 2005. The show begins with a black family, the Freemans, settling into the fictional, peaceful, and mostly white suburb of Woodcrest. The perspective offered by this mixture of cultures, lifestyles, social classes, stereotypes, viewpoints and racial(ized) identities provides for much of the series' satire, comedy, and conflict.
The Boondocks ended on June 23, 2014, with a total of 55 episodes over the course of the show's four seasons. The fourth and final season was produced without any involvement from McGruder. The series also airs in syndication outside the United States and has been released on various DVD sets and other forms of home media, including on demand streaming on Netflix.
Development and production
The Boondocks began as a comic strip on Hitlist.com, one of the first online music websites. The strip later found its way into The Source magazine. Following these runs, McGruder began simultaneously pitching The Boondocks both as a syndicated comic strip and an animated television series. The former goal was met first, and The Boondocks debuted in newspapers in April 1999.
In the meantime, development on a The Boondocks TV series continued. McGruder and film producer/director Reginald Hudlin (President of Entertainment for BET from 2005–08) created a Boondocks pilot for the Fox Network, but found great difficulty in making the series acceptable for network television. Hudlin left the project after the Fox deal fell through, although McGruder and Sony Television are contractually bound to continue to credit him as an executive producer. Mike Lazzo, president of Adult Swim and executive producer for Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, stumbled across the pilot and declared it "too networky". He then ordered a 15-episode season and told McGruder to "just tell stories".
The series has a loose connection with the continuity of the comic strip, though during the final year of the strip McGruder made a point to try to synchronize both. He introduced Uncle Ruckus into the strip, and the comic-strip version of Riley's hair was braided into cornrows to match the character's design in the series. During Season 1, McGruder put the strip on a 6-month hiatus beginning in March 2006. He did not return to the strip the following November, and the strip's syndicate, Universal Press Syndicate, announced that it had been cancelled.
The series was produced in widescreen since the beginning; however, the image was cropped to accommodate the 4:3 aspect ratio at the time of their original broadcasts as well as reruns. Cropping widescreen material is a practice Adult Swim rarely uses. Since the third season, the series has been produced in 16:9 high definition and is presented in its original aspect ratio and resolution.
In 2014, it was announced that Aaron McGruder would not be involved in the show's fourth and final season. Adult Swim stated that "a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined." The first episode of the fourth season aired on April 21, 2014. The first episode of this final season was first broadcast on April 21, 2014, and the series concluded on June 23, 2014.
The series opens with the Freemans settling into the fictional, peaceful, and mostly white suburb of Woodcrest. Evidence for the real-world location of the fictional Woodcrest is mixed. Proponents of the Chicago's South Side theory cite the real-life suburb of Crestwood, Illinois and the similarity of the two names. The first season features several Chicago Landmarks: a skyline shot showing the Willis Tower, Grant Park, buildings of the Michigan Avenue Historic District, and Lake Michigan; as well as elevated rapid transit endemic to the city, resembling the Chicago "L". More conclusive evidence is presented in "The Trial of Robert Kelly", in which Riley asks Grandad, "Can you take us into the City tomorrow to watch the R. Kelly Trial?". Grandad denies his request and tells him to walk, and Riley replies "But it's 40 miles!" In reality, R. Kelly is from Chicago, and this trial was in fact held in there, giving more evidence that The Boondocks is in fact set in Illinois. Another conclusive reference to Chicago is Martin Luther King Drive, a major street running through South Chicago, being referenced for its violent activity in the 9th episode of season 1, "Return of the King". Additionally, in "Let's Nab Oprah", Ed Wuncler III, Gin Rummy and Riley go to Oprah Winfrey's television studio in an attempt to kidnap her. Oprah's television show was recorded at Harpo Studios in Near West Side Chicago.
Proponents of the Columbia, Maryland theory, however, cite other evidence, such as series creator Aaron McGruder's own childhood growing up there, while his father worked for the National Transportation Safety Board. In the comics, Huey's cellphone number has a 443 area code, which belongs to the Baltimore metropolitan area, though people often keep the same number when moving. In "Wingmen," the Freemans fly 'home' to Chicago, where they lived before moving to Woodcrest, to attend a funeral. In "The Fried Chicken Flu," a reporter on a passing television screen reports on the titular disease's effect on the state of Maryland. In addition, in Season 4's first episode "Pretty Boy Flizzy," a man references an upcoming concert at Woodcrest Post Pavilion, which may be a play on Columbia's notable concert venue Merriweather Post Pavilion.
- Huey Freeman (voiced by Regina King) – Huey Freeman is the family's moral compass and voice of reason. He is an intelligent, wise-beyond-his-years avid reader who is knowledgeable about a variety of subjects. He is heavily influenced by the theories of various left-wing social movements and social justice leaders. His brother and grandfather constantly ridicule and underestimate him, thinking he is a fool to have goals and values that aim higher than the expectations of mainstream American culture. It's mentioned that he has been declared a "domestic terrorist". While he promotes various social causes, he is openly contemptuous of Urban Gangster Rap/Hip Hop as portrayed in mainstream media for glamorizing wasteful extravagance, self-defeating lifestyles, and ignorance. Huey, unlike the other characters, rarely smiles; in the episode "Let's Nab Oprah" he smiles after his duel with Riley; he also smiles when Riley begins to win basketball games in "Ballin'". He is a highly skilled kung-fu fighter, and beats Riley with ease in all of their fights. He has only lost to a few opponents.
- Riley Freeman (voiced by Regina King) – Riley Freeman is Huey's mischievous, rebellious younger brother, an enthusiastic follower of Urban Gangster Rap/Hip Hop. Though he is otherwise charming, clever, and artistically gifted, Riley maintains loyalty to those Gangster Rap ideals, even in the face of their self-destructive consequences. In "The Fundraiser" Huey tries to warn him directly about the foregone conclusions of his poor decisions, but Riley offhandedly rebuffs him. The bulk of the series focuses on Riley's misadventures (most of which are fueled by his love of gangsta rap and a desire to emulate other people he admires) or on his various outlandish schemes, which his grandfather often endorses and aids. Despite his wild nature and attempts to appear tough, Riley occasionally shows a softer, innocent side. While his brother practices martial arts, Riley is skilled in street fighting, as shown in "Home Alone" and "Smokin' with Cigarettes".
- Robert Jebediah "Grandad" Freeman (voiced by John Witherspoon) – Robert Freeman (AKA "Grandad") is the grandfather and legal guardian of Huey and Riley. While he loves his two grandsons, he sometimes explodes in tirades of angry frustration over their wisecracking observations, constant schemes, and misadventures, although he has his own moments; for instance, his eagerly misguided dating pursuits unwittingly attract bizarre or dangerous women. According to Season 3's "It's a Black President, Huey Freeman", "Nobody knows exactly how old Robert Freeman is--not even himself." Robert often threatens to discipline his grandsons, mainly Riley with Three Stooges-style corporal punishment and has developed a remarkable degree of speed and dexterity in wielding his belt for this purpose.
Both the comic strip and the cartoon were influenced by McGruder's love of anime and manga. He cites Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo as sources of inspiration for the series' fight scenes. The opening sequence of Season 1 contains similarities to that of Samurai Champloo. Some of the humor is based on the characters' anime-style movements. In 2006, McGruder explained in an interview, "We now have a Japanese anime studio named Madhouse to help us out";, but at some point, the deal with Madhouse fell through. Instead, MOI Animation, an Emmy Award-winning South Korean studio, handled the animation for season two onwards. As a result, the following seasons of the series have more detailed animation, as well as minor updates for most of the character designs.
The episode "Pause" presents a thinly veiled parody of Tyler Perry, presented as using his religion to hide his cross-dressing. The episode reportedly angered Perry, with the network responding to his complaints by saying that they should have warned him before the episode aired.
On March 21, 2014, it was revealed via press release from Adult Swim that The Boondocks TV series would be renewed for a fourth, although final, season. However, it was also revealed that the fourth season would also take place without the involvement of the series creator Aaron McGruder. The reason cited for the split between the creator and the company was a disagreement over the production schedule of the fourth season.
The Boondocks has received critical acclaim. In January 2006, it was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at the 37th NAACP Image Awards alongside The Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends, and Half & Half. The show won a Peabody Award in 2006 for the episode "Return of the King." As of July 8, 2010, The Boondocks had a 72 rating on Metacritic, based on 21 reviews and an 8.4/10 (Based on 9,469 votes) on IMDB. IGN named it the 94th-best animated series, describing it as a sharp satirical look at American society.
Critic Jeffrey M. Anderson of the San Francisco Examiner said, "Each episode is beautifully crafted, with an eye on lush, shadowy visuals and a pulsing, jazz-like rhythm... the show is almost consistently funny, consistently brilliant, and, best of all, compulsively watchable."
Mike Hale of the New York Times has considered The Boondocks among the top television shows of 2010, citing "Pause" as a "painfully funny" satire of Tyler Perry being portrayed as a superstar actor and a leader of a homoerotic cult. In 2013, IGN placed The Boondocks as number 17 on their list of Top 25 animated series for adults.
Criticism and controversy
The Boondocks has been a frequent subject of controversy since its comic-strip debut in 1999, with ABC News noting, "Fans and critics of The Boondocks loved and hated the strip for the same reasons: its cutting-edge humor and unapologetic, sometimes unpopular, views on various issues, including race, politics, the war on terrorism and the September 11 attacks." Numerous outlets predicted the show would encounter controversy prior to its November 2005 debut, due to its casual use of the word "nigga". According to an article in The Washington Post, references to Rosa Parks were removed from one of the series' first completed episodes within a week of her death. In 2006, the Reverend Al Sharpton protested the first season episode "Return of the King," for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s character's use of the word "nigga," saying "Cartoon Network must apologize and also commit to pulling episodes that desecrate black historic figures." Cartoon Network released a statement in response defending McGruder: "We think Aaron McGruder came up with a thought-provoking way of not only showing Dr. King's bravery but also of reminding us of what he stood and fought for, and why even today, it is important for all of us to remember that and to continue to take action," the statement said. The episode was later awarded a Peabody Award for being "an especially daring episode".
During The Boondocks Season 2, two episodes were removed from broadcast without any official word from the network. Originally slated to air on November 16 and December 17, "The Hunger Strike" and "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show" were both heavily critical of BET. An exclusive clip of "The Hunger Strike" was given to HipHopDX.com in late January 2008, before both episodes were included in full on the Season 2 DVD release that summer. An anonymous source close to the show told HipHopDX.com that they heard BET had been pressuring Sony (the studio behind The Boondocks) to ban the episodes and threatened legal action. Cartoon Network publicly stated that "...neither Turner nor Adult Swim were contacted by BET, Ms. Lee or Mr. Hudlin". However, BET's parent company, Viacom, did threaten legal action against Sony if said episodes were broadcast to air in the United States.
Tyler Perry was reportedly infuriated by his depiction in the Season 3 episode "Pause", first aired in June 2010, although he has officially given no response. The episode stars Winston Jerome, a parody of Perry, a "closeted, cross-dressing cult leader whose love of the Christian faith is a mask for his true sexuality," in what the Los Angeles Times described as "one of the sharpest public criticisms of Perry". Soon after the episode aired, Perry got in touch with executives at Turner Broadcasting and "complained loudly" about the episode, threatening to rethink his relationship with the company. In 2010, Time magazine named The Boondocks as sixth out of 10 of the Most Controversial Cartoons of All Time.
Attempted film spin-off
McGruder launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $200,000 in order to produce a live-action film focusing on the character Uncle Ruckus. He stated that crowd-funding would be the sole source of funding for the film's budget. The campaign was from January 30 through March 1, 2013, 7:00 p.m. EST, ending with 2,667 backers and $129,963 of the $200,000 goal.
The Boondocks airs on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in the United States and on NITV in Australia (in Australia Season 2 has also aired on The Comedy Channel). In Canada, Teletoon at Night, then known as "The Detour on Teletoon", aired the first two seasons, including several episodes that didn't air in the US. Sony Entertainment Television (and later Sony Max) broadcasts the show in South Africa. It has also been aired on TV3 and TV6 in Sweden, on Comedy Central in New Zealand. MTV Italy and Comedy Central Italy in Italy, and on channel TV3+ in Denmark.
In Russia, The Boondocks is aired on channel 2×2 under the name of Гетто (Ghetto in English). In Poland, it is broadcast on AXN Spin HD as Boondocks. In France, it airs on MCM (TV channel). It airs on Sony Entertainment Television (Latin America) in Latin America, as well as Animax also in Romania, Germany, Japan, and in Hungary (under the name of A kertvárosi gettó, "The suburban ghetto"). It also airs uncensored and uncut in the Arab World on OSN.
All four seasons have been released on DVD, both individually and as a box set spanning the entire series. Seasons 1 and 2 are presented in the original 16:9 aspect ratio used for production, rather than the 4:3 ratio achieved by cropping the image to fit television screens in use at the time of their original airing. The 16:9 ratio was used for broadcasts of Seasons 3 and 4 and is preserved on the DVD sets.
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- Fowler, Matt (15 July 2013). "The Top 25 Animated Series for Adults From caped crusaders to web-slingers to danger zones, here are the best animated shows to enjoy as a grown up.". IGN. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- Robinson, Bryan (2005-11-03). "The Boondocks: Not the N&#@$%a Show". ABC News. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
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- "Sharpton criticizes Boondocks for showing King saying the n-word". USA Today. 2006-01-25. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
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- http://adage.com/abstract.php?article_id=124786(subscription required)
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- The Boondocks Season 1 at iTunes.
- The Boondocks Season 1 at Amazon Video.
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