The Boondocks is one of my favorite television series of all time. That might sound odd, since, as you’ll notice from the picture on my about page, I am one of the whitest people you’ll ever see, but I love the show (and I’ve come to appreciate its comic strip parent in a way I couldn’t when I was younger) and I actually legitimately think it’s one of the greatest animated series of all time.
The show–which originally ran for three seasons from 2005-2010 and came back for its fourth and final season this past Monday–not only broke ground, both for Adult Swim and adult animation in general, it also helped me overcome an ignorant dismissal of hip-hop culture (the show’s music use pretty much informed the way my personal taste has shifted since I first discovered it in ’09) and provoked me into being more thoughtful when it comes to issues of race and politics ( as silly as that might seem).
So, as you can imagine, I was excited for the show to come back, although I paused when I learned that show creator Aaron McGruder wouldn’t be coming back due to production conflicts with his upcoming live-action series, Black Jesus. Given that McGruder wrote or co-wrote every single script and the series was undoubtedly his vision, I wondered how such an original show would do with others at the helm.
Well, if the first episode, “Pretty Boy Flizzy,” is any indication, it’s survived the transition pretty damn well and hopefully, we’ll get some great satire out of this that’s just as insightful as anything McGruder produced.
The plot has the Freemans’ neighbor, successful milquetoast lawyer Tom DuBois (Cedric Yarborugh) and his white wife Sarah (Jill Talley) fighting over his complete wimpishness once again, with Sarah yelling that she wants a man who “isn’t afraid to tell me what to do every once in a while.” Bit skeevy, that, but it gets us to our main plot, which involves Pretty Boy Flizzy, voiced by none other than up-and-coming actor and future Human Torch Michael B. Jordan, a Chris Brown-esque…okay, he’s basically Chris Brown, already equally loathed-and-beloved for actions like beating his ex-girlfriend on stage at the Grammys and getting into a fight with Nicki Minaj at a dance club (“In my defense,” he says in a great press conference cutaway, “I thought she was a robot sent from the future to kill me.”), rolling into town and being arrested after robbing a convenience store. Bailed out instantly, he hires Tom to defend him, and along the way, promises to teach him how to man up and win Sarah back.
Phil Dyess-Nugent over at the AV Club talked about how it’s problematic that Adult Swim chose to air this episode first over one that features the Freemans, the show’s main characters, although Granddad (John Witherspoon), and Huey & Riley (both voiced by Regina King) show up and have some good lines here and there–King’s interplay with herself is as great as ever–and the show’s best comic weapon, Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams) gets a great scene. But as a nice new adventure for people who have been following the show from the beginning, came in late like me, or discovered the show since its last season in its constant reruns on Adult Swim (the pairing of it and Black Dynamite before the revived Saturday Toonami block was a part of my weekend for a long while), this works fine enough. And yeah, it might be a bit dated to be making fun of Chris Brown at this point, but Jordan aptly acquits himself and seems to relish the absurd extremes he has to go through as Flizzy. And as the alternately annoying yet endearingly sympathetic Tom, Yarbrough is as great as he’s ever been; Tom’s been gone too long from TV and it’s great to have him back. The show’s animation, done here by The Legend of Korra‘s Studio Mir, is crisp and fluid, though not as great as Season 3’s Madhouse-produced visuals.
So while I can see why some people were disappointed, to this longtime fan, it’s good to have the show back. It may not be as sharp as it once was, but if this is to truly be the last of this great show we’ll see, it could be a whole lot worse. Make no mistake; this won’t be a “gas leak” year like the 4th season of Community (which isn’t as bad as everyone says, dangit). The Boondocks is back, and it’s still itself; maybe for now, that’s enough.