Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Movies Post

Have you been watching The Boondocks third season?  It doesn't seem to be getting much buzz at all.  Partially because...well, let me organize this properly.

At its best, The Boondocks is simply one of the great TV shows of its time (2005 through now).  It is, however, wildly inconsistent.  Essentially, there are three parts to the show: the world according to Huey Freeman; comic relief; and everything else, mostly the adventures of Huey's little brother Riley.  Huey himself is sort of a modern, updated and very much Black (he's not Huey for nothing) version of Linus van Pelt, in his guise as the wise-beyond-his-years kid.  He's sort of the obvious stand-in for the show's creator, Aaron McGruder (the show, as I hope everyone knows, is based on McGruder's comic strip, which was terrific).

Let's see...I'm way out of practice with these.  I think I'm supposed to talk about the show, then talk about the politics, and then finish by giving a recommendation.  To do that, I'll skip two parts two and three of the show.  The humor?  When it's on, it's very, very, funny, but to my tastes it's pretty radically inconsistent.  I don't think that's (just?) because I miss the occasional reference, either.  McGruder has his hobbyhorses, and he can be very funny taking them down, but he also tends towards overkill.  So last night's episode started as a pretty good hit on all that is Tyler Perry, but eventually I thought went too far over the top, and just (again, to me at least) lost the humor.  What's frustrating to me is that even in a weak episode they'll drop in thirty seconds, or two minutes, of comic genius, before returning to an uninspired plot.

Most of which, as far as I'm concerned, focus on Riley.  Although not just him; Uncle Ruckus is a brilliant character in small doses, but please, we get it already.  Hmm...other elements of the show... I should say something about the performances, I guess, but I don't really find any of the voice work especially outstanding...Cedric Yarbrough as the pathetic (and underused) Tom Dubois is probably the best of the group.  I do like the look of the show, but it's again nothing to watch it for.  A fair number of fun guest voices have appeared. Oh, the theme & credits are awesome.

See, the problem I said, the first part of the show is Huey; the show is basically the madness of the world seen through Huey, the one sane person.  And yet, as the show has gone on, Huey is often reduced to little more -- and often less - than Lurch's old moan.   Now, this is strictly what I'm seeing, and I could be entirely wrong, impression is that as time goes on, McGruder is more and more frustrated with the insanity he sees around him, and has less and less to say about it: isn't it just obvious how insane everyone is?  Now, that's a statement about the world; in fact, I think it's a political statement, although I'm sure some would argue that it's more cultural than political.  Essentially, McGruder sees us all acting like idiots when it comes to race (and, for that, matter, pretty much everything else): blacks, whites, everyone, and is just exasperated that people don't realize what fools they are.  

And he may be correct about that. but it doesn't make for great TV, because the Huey-to-Riley ratio keeps getting more and more skewed in favor of Riley. 

But: first of all, it's often very funny, and there's not a lot of funny around, so it's worth watching just for that.  As I said, in the weaker episodes the funny make make a brief cameo, but in the stronger episodes, such as the Tyler Perry one last night, there's quite a bit.  Moreover, much of what McGruder has to say needs saying, not least on cable TV.  His targets are usually (always?) richly deserving of his scorn, and the show, when its working right, has that rare balance that doesn't give the viewer a comfortable place to rest -- not even with Huey, who after all is just a kid, and he's been too quick to judge, too (at least that's what I remember from season one, several years ago, when he was a more consistently active character).  Now, as far as politics goes, a message of "hey, you're being stupid.  Cut it out" isn't exactly the most well-developed philosophy...except that it seems quite appropriate to much of the material that McGruder turns his attention to.  

So: at its best, in maybe half a dozen episodes so far, it's absolutely essential television.  Most of the rest of season one was still pretty good; seasons two and three, really, have been far more spotty.  I'll go ahead and give it  a very high recommendation, with serious reservations.  Watch it, but keep your expectations low.


  1. I watched the Boondocks years ago but forgot it even existed. I guess I'll have to check it out again.

  2. "So: at its best, in maybe half a dozen episodes so far, it's absolutely essential television."

    Can you be specific about which are those half-dozen essential episodes? Or at least some of them? I'd be interested in checking those out.

  3. Meh, I watched the first episode of season 3 and haven't bothered to tune in because I think S03E01 hits the nail precisely on the head that Jonathan is touching on, there is almost zero Huey in the episode (and while that may be the point as Jonathan says), it makes for very, very frustrating watch, especially as an ardent fan of the first two seasons.

    I think part of the problem, beyond what Jonathan has described is that McGruder is simply running out of things to talk about and the episodes have become trite.

  4. Jeff,'s been a while since I watched the first (and best) season...anyone have a good episode guide to recommend? Otherwise, I'd recommend all of season one, and then either quit there or continue until you lose interest.


    FWIW, Huey has been in the last couple of episodes quite a bit more, and the Tyler Perry stuff was mostly excellent.

  5. Jonathan, hmm, ok, I'll check out the Tyler Perry episode and see what's what.


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