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5 Shows like Boondocks: Animating the Black Experience

James Thomas itcherSatire is the sort of comedy used to tell the story of African Americans by the likes of Red Foxx and Dave Chapple, people who knew that being black and successful in America was like being the fattest hog at Christmas dinner. TV shows like ‘Boondocks’ gives the perspective of a culture aware that it’s better to be black, funny, and bitter, like an espresso with a punch line. If you’re like me and not afraid of jokes with some bite, check out ‘Black Dynamite,’ ‘Black Jesus,’ and ‘The Cleveland Show’. ~ James Thomas

Black Consciousness

Attitude is as American as apple pie and when Arron McGruder wrote and drew the comics that the show ‘Boondocks’ are based on, he made sure to compound as much funk and attitude into little Huey and Riley as possible.

To wear an afro, you have to have a certain amount of swagger and if you’re wearing cornrows, being ‘hood’ has never hurt. Thanks to some smart writing, watching these two grade school children wax philosophical on the state of black America while growing up in a mostly white suburb, comes across as more genuine than it would without the sarcasm and self-awareness.

The show tackles some of the most cringe-worthy encounters young black children in America can have – the “you’re so well spoken” compliment and questions such as “can I touch your hair?” – in a way that is authentic and hilarious.


Shows Similar to ‘Boondocks’…

‘Black Dynamite’ (Adult Swim, 2012-2015)

Blaxploitation cinema was a wonder in the 1970s. This genre was an over-correction of black under-representation in the film industry that made the afro a sex symbol and grown men in platform shoes legitimately terrifying. I think ‘Black Dynamite’ might be the last chance for this generation to enjoy this genre and feel the power of the afro-pick, as the titular hero teaches “the man” to fear the power of the funk.

As most series similar to ‘Boondocks’, this show is a smart satire on black identity that pulls no parody punches or spares the audience any roundhouse kicks of social justice.

Consequently, you get to meet black luminaries like an evil version of young Michael Jackson, as well as the sinister presence of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, as they seek to infiltrate, exploit, and destroy the black community via mind control and cover songs.

Similarity Match: 95%
‘Black Dynamite’ is the type of show that makes you laugh at all the wrong things just like ‘Boondocks,’ but it’s a bit more clownish in terms of character and delivery, especially with all the aliens using Harlem as a parking lot.

‘Black Jesus’ (Adult Swim, 2014)

One of the most controversial and satirical shows has to be ‘Black Jesus’. This show started out as a web series from the mind behind ‘Boondocks’ and when it was scheduled to air on Adult Swim, it was protested by several different groups and tons of churches.

I’m sure some of those protestors were upset because of the irreverence of the show’s approach to religion, but I take a special glee in the folks that were mad that Jesus looked less like a surfer from California than a handsome smirking black man.

The show does a really good job of satirizing life in the inner-city of Los Angeles where there is a liquor store on every corner, a church for every liquor store, and the pastor always seems to be driving a new Bentley even though the church hasn’t been renovated since the Rubik’s cube was a new thing.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘Black Jesus’ is the type of satire that goes right for the soft underbelly of everyone’s cultural sensitivities and rips it open just like ‘Boondocks’, but this show is live action and a bit more limited in scope.

‘The Cleveland Show’ (Fox, 2009-2013)

This show was less about being strictly satirical and more about being a solid parody of a TV institution, the America sitcom.

Still, similar to TV shows like ‘Boondocks,’ this show does a really good job of touching on important societal questions and treating the stereotypes attributed to African Americans in a silly way. This show was created by Seth MacFarlane, a guy who’s spent a lot of time concocting ways to make people uncomfortable about the horrible things they find funny.

I was happy to see that the show followed the ‘token black character’ from the ‘Family Guy’ and added a whole other layer of irony. Even the name Cleveland Brown is an example of sly satire that helps to make the show more about perception than about what the black family down the street is having for dinner.

Similarity Match: 90%
A show from the mind of another popular television satirist ‘The Cleveland Show’ does a good job of kicking over cultural touchstones, however unlike ‘Boondocks’ the comedy comes off as rather shallow in my opinion.


If You Like ‘Boondocks’, You Will Like…

The next two shows each have the elements of the show ‘Boondocks’ respectively; one dealing with the rapier sarcasm of the show, cutting through cultural norms like a ninja on Ritalin, and the other covering the perfectly animated martial arts sequences you often see taking place between Riley and Huey.

‘Daria’ (MTV, 1997-2002)

‘Daria’ was one of the first series I can remember that tried to treat the MTV generation to real satire. Spouted by a character that represented a cultural minority, it tried not to beat you over the head with the fact that it was making a statement, much like TV series like ‘Boondocks’. ‘Daria’ explored the trap of cultural expectations built to catch intelligent girls in high school.

I think the character Daria turned sarcasm into a weapon and butchered the sacred cows of cheerleaders and guidance counselors alike. I think this was the first time that a generation of people recognized sarcasm had a purpose, and that “rapier wit” was more than just a turn of phrase.

At a time when high school felt like a prison and the future like oppression, it’s not hard to see a character like Daria being a latter-day Rosa Parks to some.

‘Daria’ is a deep dive into satire just like ‘Boondocks’, but while Riley and Huey explore the plight of the black man, Daria Morgendorffer looks at the bleak prison of pink foisted on young girls.

‘Afro Samurai’ (Fuji Television, 2007)

A lot of things go into the creation of certified tough guy. For the young boy named Afro, it took an experience I will refer to as the “daddy decapitation” to get him to the height of hard-edged butchery. After witnessing his father, possessor of the number one headband, being brutally murdered by the number two warrior in the world, an 8-year-old child vowed revenge.

From that day on, this child, with an afro so majestic it would make Foxy Brown and Angel Davis weep with glee, proceeded to give out dirt naps and decapitations like a kindergarten teacher handing out cookies after lunch.

This show was set in a dystopian future where the world of ancient Japan blended with hip-hop – it definitely has many signs and similarities between the action in ‘Boondocks’ and the brutal ballet of blood in ‘Afro Samurai’.

While ‘Afro Samurai’ doesn’t deal with the same sort deep socio-political satire as ‘Boondocks’, the two shows definitely have a mutual appreciation for the art martial prowess and the need to use fist when words fail.


African Americana

Shows like the ‘Boondocks’ deal with questions of identity, race, racism and privilege using satire.

By facing the tragedy of being the descendants of slaves, the two boys Huey and Riley reduce the sting of well-meaning white folks asking weird questions.

Do you think comedy can take the sting out of cultural insensitivity?

Let me know in the comments down below.

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