Vern Loses Himself In Cartoon Network’s THE BOONDOCKS!!


I am – Hercules!!

“The Boondocks” is a Cartoon Network half-hour about black people. A new and untested Coaxial News spy who calls himself “Vern” (and appears to bill himself as an “outlaw” of some sort!) here offers an endorsement.

The 9th “Boondocks” episode, titled “Return of the King,” repeats Saturday night at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. The 10th episode, “The Itis,” premieres Sunday night at 11 p.m. and repeats at 3 a.m. Sunday


Dear Hercules T. Strong,

My name is Vern and I am a fellow writer here at The Ain’t It Cool News. I usually write over on the “movie” side though, because that’s my thing. You would have seen some of my Writings however at the time you were busy watching VERONICA OF MARS or some show like that. But they were pretty good reviews, you would’ve liked them in my opinion.

The truth is bud, and please don’t take offense to this, but I don’t watch a whole hell of alot of the TV these days. There’s just not alot there that floats my boat. In fact sometimes I read your articles and I don’t even understand your crazy TV slang. Teleplay? Colorcast? Hourlongs? Skein? Simulblogged? HBO? I’m even more out of my element when you make those little in-references. Take a look at these three items:

  1. Boy of my flag and boy of your flag! ! Today Eko Eko! ! The beginning ever since November it is new, it was gone! ! Nay of Jockomo Feena! !
  2. Hosting plans information -Sensattional revolution in meedicine! -E-nlarge your p-enis up to 10 cm or up to 4 inches! -It’s herbal solution what hasn’t side effect, but has 100% guaranteed results! -Don’t loose your chance and but know wihtout doubts, you will be impressed with results!
  3. My Flag Boy And Your Flag Boy!! Eko Eko Today!! The First New LOST Since November!! Jockomo Feena Nay!!

One is a friendly email I recently received, one is a recent Coaxial headline, and one is a coaxial headline translated into Japanese and then back into English. You can probaly tell which is which because you speak both English and Herc. Me, they all look exactly the same. The idea here is not to take potshots at your jargon, but to establish that I am not a with-it TV type of dude. But it just so happens there is exactly one TV show I really do like that I don’t think you’ve ever written about or done a talkback for. So I have no choice but to send you a long essay about the first season so far (9 episodes I think).

I’ve already preambled on for too long, but I still gotta explain that not only do I not watch much TV, I sure as shit don’t watch cartoons. For example I took some heat in the talkbacks for criticizing the “South park” guys (for TEAM AMERICA) and also I can’t stand the one where the guy has balls on his chin. But THE BOONDOCKS, which plays on the Children’s Cartoons Network every Sunday at 11 pm, is an interesting show that I suggest checking out. Also it is the topic of that long essay I was warning you about. Okay here I go bud.

THE BOONDOCKS is one of the few African-American cartoon shows not created by Bill Cosby. It’s the story of Robert “Granddad” Freeman and his two grandchildren, Huey and Riley, who he moves to the white suburban neighborhood of Woodcrest. All three lead characters are voiced by alumni of the movie FRIDAY: the hilarious John Witherspoon plays Granddad (basically an older version of his character in FRIDAY, minus the obsession with shitting) and Regina King plays both Huey and Riley. Little brother Riley is an ignorant hellion, obsessed with guns and gangsta rap, he constantly uses “the n word” (never saw that on FAT ALBERT I don’t think) and tries to start riots by throwing chairs (because he doesn’t watch Brown Hornet, he watches The Source Awards). Trying to compliment his grandpa by telling him he should change his middle name to “Bitches,” he has to explain, “I don’t mean bitch in a disrespectful way, I mean it as a general term for women.”

Huey is the thoughtful member of the family, alot of times he narrates the show and serves as the conscience, trying to point out the world’s madness to the other characters. He’s also a proud black militant who, on the Christmas episode, wrote and directed a controversial school play called “The Adventures of Black Jesus.” We also recently learned, in a spookily timely episode, that there may be a government agent (John C. McGinley from ON DEADLY GROUND) assigned to spy on him full time.

I guess you could understand who the characters are just by watching the introduction to the show, where Huey is shown as Che Guevara, Riley is shown as Tony Montana and Granddad is spinning around swinging a belt like it’s a whip.

The two things that seem to most influence THE BOONDOCKS are Charlie Brown and Japanese cartoons. This is one show that doesn’t seem completely modeled after THE SIMPSONS. So far there’s not much of a formula to the stories. I like how they try different things like in one of my favorite episodes, “The Fight,” there is a long narrated flashback explaining the whole life of a grouchy blind asshole leading up to the point in his life where he whoops Granddad’s ass in a fight over a parking space.

It’s not a perfect show. Not every joke works. Especially in the first episode about the garden party. It was pretty broad in its depiction of rich white people, although the idea of little Huey trying to disrupt a garden party by talking about the security cameras at the Pentagon on 9-11 was hilarious. Again, not something you’re gonna see on LITTLE BILL I bet. But the more episodes I see the more I think this is a funny show with good character-based humor, a unique feel and, every once in a while, some challenging ideas. It’s the kind of show that gets funnier the more you get to know the characters and that will probaly grow into true greatness if it gets a second season.

Now maybe I’m missing some shows in my TV ignorance (as you can see I am only familiar with shows created by Bill Cosby), but I don’t know of any other social satire on TV that comes from a black perspective. Let alone a cartoon. The people behind this show are obviously complicated: they love hip hop but are uncomfortable with some of its images; they use “the n word” but care deeply about the accomplishments of the generation that fought against it; they hate stereotypes but are amused by pimps and gangsters. They like a pop culture joke as much as the next guy (young Riley is shocked to learn that “Ice Cube, the guy from the family movies, used to be a gangsta rapper”) but that doesn’t seem like a big focus of the show at all.

I don’t want to make it sound like a novelty, but the simple fact that this is a cartoon show about the black experience makes it fresh. They can’t do jokes about Homer Simpson or Snoopy’s days in the civil rights movement. Popeye doesn’t have a relationship with Rosa Parks. But on THE BOONDOCKS there’s a classic flashback where we find out the firehoses Granddad always brags about facing down never actually hit him. (Everybody thought he was an asshole because he not only showed up to the march late, but showed up wearing a rain coat.)

The cartoon is based on a comic strip I’ve seen in the funnies. I always wanted to like the comic strip because the guy is so into uphill battles. It takes a certain type of individual to take on the Bush administration or modern race politics in a medium usually used for fat asshole cats and babies laying around on the floor complaining about stupid bullshit. I could be wrong but I don’t think Ziggy even knows who the fuck Condoleeza Rice is let alone has an opinion on her. The trouble is, alot of the time I agree with the sentiment but the joke (if there is one) isn’t funny. The cartoon is a different story. They have 20 minutes to develop a story and characters, instead of those 3 little squares. So when there’s politics, they usually fit in smoothly, taking a backseat to the comedy.

There’s a cliche character in movies and TV: the White Guy Who Thinks He’s Black. You know, there was that Jamie Kennedy movie, there was WHITE BOYS, etc. The first episode of THE BOONDOCKS introduced a character like that, but in a way I’ve never seen before: they gave him Charlie Murphy’s voice. Who would think to do that? Draw a white guy and give him one of the blackest voices imaginable. Then they piled onto the joke in a later episode where this character has a buddy, another white guy… but voiced by Samuel L. Jackson in full-on fire and brimstone “AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HAY-ELL” mode.

While you’re still enjoying that joke, Jackson’s character starts to work in some dialogue from PULP FICTION. Well, that’s not necessary, I thought. But then he starts to mix with that quotes from Donald Rumsfeld. So you got Jules Winfield talking about “There are known knowns and there are unknown knowns!” in that voice he used to scare the shit out of Brad and steal his tasty burger. Maybe I’m just slow but they were already well into the allegory before I realized this Rumsfeld character was a hint that the episode was not really about stopping for a shootout at a convenience store on the way to apprehend The X-box Killer (long story). It was a very complicated and strangely appropriate metaphor for the Iraq war.

That’s the only one that bothers with foreign policy, though. Usually the subjects are more personal. Probaly the best episode, and definitely the most daring, was last week’s Martin Luther King Day episode “Return of the King.” This episode is about what would happen if Dr. King, after being shot in Memphis, actually went into a coma and woke up again in 2000. It takes alot of balls to try a premise like that but these are exactly the guys to do it. They portray Dr. King as a great man, but also a confused old man in a world where he doesn’t belong. The voice actor does a great job of sounding like Dr. King but older, a little confused, a little sad. There’s a great balance of political humor (he tries to vote in the 2000 election but is rejected due to “voting irregularities”) and just goofy shit (he has a hard time downloading Mahalia Jackson MP3s from the iTunes store). Granddad gets to say the line, “How dare you embarrass me in front of Martin Luther King!”

When Dr. King goes on Politically Incorrect and talks about turning the other cheek, the media brands him a traitor. This part of the episode isn’t perfect (that guy’s supposed to be Bill Maher?) but I thought it was a brilliant point. I never thought of it exactly like that but I’m positive they’re right. If Dr. King was just a living guy and not the legendary martyr that even Trent Lott has to pretend to love, he would get the same treatment in the media as everybody else. And I don’t think it would just be from the Bill O’Reilly types. I think decades of media bullshit would’ve convinced alot of the country that Dr. King is some looney or some jerk just trying to get attention. Think of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan. I’m not saying those guys are the equals of Dr. King but I have no doubt that a living Dr. King would get the exact same condescending (at best) treatment from the media and the general white public.

But that’s only a small part of “Return of the King.” Most of the episode is actually an attack on aspects of contemporary black entertainment. The scene that really got me is the one where poor Dr. King sits in horror watching ass-shaking hoes on BET. I love Spike Lee but personally I think this episode is a more precise and much more entertaining version of what Spike was trying to do in BAMBOOZLED. To me that was such a powerful image to watch Martin Luther King just sitting there disillusioned about what has become of the world he worked so hard to improve. I mean honestly, what would L’il Jon or somebody think if they knew MLK was watching? (Later we find out Dr. King watched SOUL PLANE.)

Sure enough, the day after the episode aired I saw Aaron McGruder, the creator of the show, having to defend it on Nightline. Some carefully unamused white lady trying to sternly question him about why he had Dr. King say “the n word” and does he REALLY think Dr. King would be criticized for being a pacifist if he was alive today? “Yeah!” McGruder said without hesitation, going on to explain why King wouldn’t fit into the modern world of soundbites and fake outrage and stupid moronic bullshit like an episode of Nightline where a white lady who has never heard of the Boondocks has to pretend to be outraged by the young black man who created it. Maybe she would’ve cracked a smile if she had seen the scene where Dr. King awkwardly co-presents an MTV video of the year award with Puff Daddy. That scene made me laugh but it made me sad too because I really truly believe that’s what would happen. I mean come on, you fucking KNOW it would.

I can understand why you wouldn’t want to do talkbacks for this show, Herc. Between the Iraq commentary in that one episode, the race politics and the use of hip hop, you’d pretty much be sending out a mating call to every nutbag with a talkback account. I predict that Jews and Peter Jackson would also be slandered in the crossfire. But in some other forum or in a magical future where people can be polite and have real discussions with each other, this would be a show to talk about. It brings up alot of things worth discussing. And better than that, it’s funny.

So okay, yeah, what do I know about TV, but I think THE BOONDOCKS is good TV. If you haven’t seen it or if you only watched the first episode, I recommend giving it a shot. “Return of the King” reruns on Saturday night and then there’s a new episode on Sunday.

Or you could also read a book that would also be good.

thanks Herc

your new tv watching friend,


p.s. if you’re gonna put those big ass amazon ads at the end I recommend the 24 pack of Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt. Cherry Charge, please. Or maybe some kind of Barely Legal box set if there is one. thanks bud.

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/22237

View the archived Ain't-It-Cool-News Talkback
This entry was posted on Saturday, January 21st, 2006 at 1:38 am and is filed under AICN, Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Vern Loses Himself In Cartoon Network’s THE BOONDOCKS!!”

  1. I started watching this after reading your write-up and I loved the first season but the second season was a disappointment. They seem to be focusing more on the pop culture humour and ignoring the political stuff. In the second season, they have made Riley the center-piece of the show instead the more interesting Heuy character. There are too many episodes making fun of hip hop music. They made their point with the Gangstalicious stuff. Its time to move on.

    If the trend continues in season 3, Im giving up on them.

  2. I dunno, man. I guess that I agree that the second season isn’t as good as the first, but it’s still sharper than just about anything else out there. While there may not be as many overtly political ones as the first season (and nothing in the history of the world has ever been as sublime as the straight-faced parody of the Iraq war in the X-Box killer episode) most of the second-season episodes still have very sharp political and cultural observations, and I think the animation and direction improved a little with the second season, too. The “Catcher Freeman” episode, in particular, is genius. And I consider “Home Alone” to be perhaps one of the greatest commentaries on post-colonial chaos that I’m personally aware of.

    There’s some pure silliness, admittedly, but I’m a long way from giving up on them; after all, even when they’re goofing off with something like “Attack of the Killer Kung-Fu Wolf Bitch” you can’t deny that it’s damn funny… and there’s always that little bit of compassion and relevance (in that case, a very light discussion about abuse and identity) that sets the Boondocks apart.

  3. Season 1 showed that these guys are capable of much, much more than just making us laugh. They need to put some elbow grease into their work and stop going after easy targets.

    Yes the show is still one of the best things on television but that is not saying much with all the crap they have on tv.

    Riley may be funnier but Huey is by far the more interesting character. Thats all Im saying.

  4. gotcha. yeah, I’d agree with that. But I also don’t want them going too overt, either. The genius of stuff like “The block is hot” or “Xbox Killer” or “The Itis” or “Home alone” or “Catcher Freeman” is that they’re absolutely deadpan about the issues they’re addressing. No big speech at the end to tell us what we’re supposed to learn. They focus on being funny, complete stories and let the viewer connect the dots, which is what really does it for me. I do hope they cleave a little more to topical issues (like the comic strip did) in the future, but I also worry about the show turning into a soap box, weighed down by a sense of importance. I’m still very hopeful for season 3, especially since so much has happened since season 2 (economic disaster, Obama, Michael Jackson, Iran, Transformers 2, etc.) Actually one thing I’d love to see Boondocks try is a little wider scope on the idea of race (with a few small exception, their racial view seems to be entirely black and white). I think the Gangstalicious episode in season 2 is actually a unique and sensitive take on homosexuality, and I’d love to see what Aaron MacGruder et al have to say about other minority groups in America today.

  5. It’s interesting that this one would be spammed to today because I just yesterday found out there’s a third season of The Boondocks starting May 2nd I believe. The only bad news is that the trailer calls it “the final season.”

  6. More Boondocks in May? Why do they keep this a secret? If I was making a show as great as Boondocks I’d be shouting it from the rooftops months before it was returning. Now we gotta find out from Nina Wadia?

  7. Okay, so now the first 2 episodes were finally shown in Germany a few days ago (to my own surprise not on one of these channels that usually show Adult Swim shows, but instead on Animax, a channel that specializes in showing Anime [and Dilbert]) and so far I liked it. Yes, right now it didn’t offer anything more insightful than Chappelle, Rock & Co. told over the years, but I laughed a lot. And I just have to give them props for hiring Adam West , and giving them a role that is NOT himself or a parody of him or his career. (He was R. Kelly’s lawyer.)

  8. Thanks for spamming, guys, because it drew my attention to this lovely essay.

    How incredible, devastating, and epic was the season 1 finale?!

    But yeah, I gotta say that they really lost it after the first season. The big difference I saw was not the change in subject matter (“less politics, more Riley”; after all Riley’s graffiti episode was a lovely touch in Season 1). I think that it really became callous towards its characters. They were merely a means to get you to a punchline; they display their characteristic traits and we’re supposed to go “Ha! That rascal Riley, at it again!” or “OMG, Uncle Ruckus being a self-hating racist again!” I can’t imagine that moment where Riley spray paints the portrait of his parents appearing in any of the subsequent seasons.

    However I do think some of the Season 2/3 criticism stemmed from the fact that they became much more focused on issues white people have no idea about, like the lady who runs BET and stuff like that. But that might be an unjustified claim; curious if anybody agrees.

  9. I only ever saw the first season of the Boondocks, by the time the second season rolled around in 2007 I had almost forgotten about the show and accidently missed the first couple of episodes and I just never got caught up

    that first season was pretty good from what I remember though

  10. Fuck, RIP John Witherspoon. I only really knew him from THE BOONDOCKS and FRIDAY, but he’s so untouchably perfect in those that I can’t even imagine them without him.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>