Judge Mike Rubino insists on being called "A Pimp Named Judge Mike Rubino."
Tom Dubois: What was your name again?
The Boondocks made the jump from the comic pages to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup two years ago. Now in its second year, the show continues to be a hysterical commentary on race and society in America.
Facts of the Case
Huey and Riley Freeman (both voiced by Regina King, 24) are still stuck in the suburbs with their Granddad Robert, a place wholly different from the urban Chicago lifestyle that they're used to. Huey acts as the voice of reason, a well-tempered kung-fu enthusiast who calmly voices his informed views on politics and culture. Riley, the younger of the two brothers, however, is constantly caught up in thug life, more than happy to live out the lifestyles portrayed by gangster rap and Hollywood. Caught in the middle of the two of them is Granddad, a wizened old potstirrer who meets women on MySpace and is constantly at odds with the rest of the neighborhood. It's a show that's brashly promoting the message of personal responsibility in a society brimming with stereotypes.
In this second season, the Freeman's continue to straddle the cultural divides of suburbia, battling racism, invading rap stars, and BET (known to them as "Black Evil Television").
Here are the 15 episodes from The Boondocks: The Complete Second Season:
When I first watched The Boondocks, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I was laughing hysterically, but out of the sheer shock of the language and themes present within the show. I wasn't thinking critically, however, and I admit that much of the first season seemed to be over my head or at least aimed at a totally different audience. Now, having spent more time with the second season, I see that the show is something very special: it is not only the most coherent series to come out of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, but it is also possibly one of the most profound.
The original comic strip always felt like another version of Doonesbury, dealing with current events and politics in a brief three-paneled nature. The animated series, however, is a different beast. The Boondocks is a social critique of urban black culture, which is perpetuated by the film and music industry, and also part kung-fu anime. It's hard to watch at first, especially if you know nothing about rap—not to mention the show's rampant use of the N-word—but for the right audience, the show is genuinely funny and sincere.
The Boondocks doesn't merely rest on the shoulders of Huey, like the comic strip, but usually finds a way to include all of the supporting characters each episode. Show creator and head writer Aaron McGruder has created an entire cast of colorful and deep characters, like district attorney Tom (Cedric Yarbrough, Reno 911), and self-hating African American Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams, Boston Legal), who are funny and interesting enough to carry entire episodes on their own, like "Tom, Sarah and Usher" or "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show." This season also features a large number of guest stars from the rap community and beyond: Lil' Wayne, Busta Rhymes, and the impeccable Fred Willard (Best in Show), to name a few.
Season Two starts off rather slow, playing it safe with "…Or Die Trying," which features the Freeman family trying to sneak into a showing of Soul Plane 2 at the cineplex. From there, the season reaches back to previous storylines and characters from the first season, like the return of Stinkmeaner in a really clever parody of The Exorcist. In fact, throughout this season there are plenty of homages to well-known films and television shows—"The Story of Catcher Freeman" utilizes the same storytelling mechanic of Kurosawa's Rashomon, for instance, and the episode "Invasion of the Katrinians," which features the Freeman family taking in their cousins after Hurricane Katrina, offers up a similar situation to last year's Curb Your Enthusiasm—although Larry David's situation was a little funnier.
Season Two shines the most when it features episodes with a focused message and purpose. Oddly, I found the funniest episodes to be the two that never made it to the air ("Hunger Strike" and "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show"); both lash out at the black lifestyle that BET promotes. The same goes for "The S-Word," where Riley gets called the N-word by a teacher (played by Willard). These episodes address the very core message of the show: is the popular culture stereotype of African Americans justified and healthy? The show's overuse of the N-word, for example, not only brings the question into harsh light, but also addresses class and age differences within the African American community.
Overall, this 15-episode season is a worthy, if not funnier, follow-up to the show's debut. While some of the episodes in the middle begin to sort of blur together in a haze of parodied rappers and elaborate fight sequences, the series ends strong with some very memorable storylines and characters.
This season's animation has certainly improved, adapting the Japanese anime style even more so than before. The characters are filled with subtle movements and quirks, and the fight sequences look like they would fit right in with Cowboy Bebop. Adult Swim's original shows aren't necessarily known for their stellar animation, but The Boondocks definitely breaks the mold.
Perhaps even better than the animation, however, is the music. The Boondocks does a great job of balancing sampled and parodied gangster rap with classic jazz and blues rhythms. The show has a Peanuts quality to it when it comes to music, which again presents another interesting juxtaposition between traditional African American music (jazz) and new urban black music (rap). An impressive Dolby Digital 2.0 track helps this along, with great mixing and use of stereo surround. Every facet of The Boondocks is brimming with excellent production values.
Accompanying this second season is a boatload of special features, making this package a definite buy from a supplement standpoint. There are a handful of commentary tracks and introductions (especially important for those banned episodes), which offer some insight into the show's themes, as well as why certain episodes were cut from the schedule. Most of the features reside on the third disc, including behind-the-scenes featurettes, in-depth cast interviews, and a strange montage of characters saying "What niggas?" Overall the supplements have a high production value and really expound on the creative forces working within the show.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For as funny as the show is, it can definitely grate on your nerves; the jokes and dialogue become repetitive, and the copious amount of fighting often seems unnecessary. I understand that the show's roots partially lie within the realm of classic kung-fu films, and the animated sequences are always well done, but really they can seem shoehorned in there for the sake of reminding the audience that Huey does in fact fight.
Sadly, Huey doesn't have much to do this season. He is the most complex character on the show, often speaking as the voice of reason to the overzealous Riley, but usually blends into the background with his low-key demeanor. Instead, much of the facetime is given to Riley, a fairly flat, one-note character.
This is a show that is tailored for a specific audience, one that can tolerate excessive racial language and ethnic humor. If that's your bag, you'll love the show and hopefully learn something from it; but if you have even the slightest aversion to the N-word…you'd better stay away.
The Boondocks: The Complete Second Season is a slightly uneven, but ultimately hysterical installment of one of Adult Swim's best shows. It's an edgy satire on both black and white culture, ethnic stereotypes, and the world of rap, and it is certainly worth checking out. Really, you can't ask for a more well-rounded DVD release, complete with unaired episodes, uncensored dialogue, and animation, and a bevy of excellent special features.
Just call this show "A Pimp Named NOT GUILTY."
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