Because of its language and subject matter, the series will be shown at 11 p.m. as part of the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" programs for mature audiences. The pilot episode, entitled "The Garden Party," will likely generate some outrage from viewers for some characters' use of the N-word and Huey's insistence to a predominantly white crowd at a party in a dream that the Sept. 11 attacks were a part of a government plot and that Reagan was the devil. (Huey bases part of his theory on Reagan on the fact that his first, middle and last names each has six letters.) Grandad's rather physical discipline of Riley and irreverent takes on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks in subsequent episodes may also invite some viewers' ire.
McGruder, who has co-written the episodes on the show, admits he is purposely provocative -- he wants people to talk about the strip and show and watch and find them funny. But he also wants people to talk about issues they wouldn't otherwise confront and go beyond racial issues (such as the use of the N-word).
"This isn't the n---a show," McGruder said. "N---a, n---a, n---a, n---a, n---a. I just wish we would expand the dialogue and evolve past the same conversation that we've had over the past 30 years about race in our country. … I just hope to expand the dialogue and hope the show will challenge people to think about things they wouldn't normally think about, or think about it in a very different way."
"The Boondocks" follows a long tradition of comedians and shows that have used humor to confront issues of race. From Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor and Chris Rock to "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Chappelle's Show," race has fueled some of the most provocative programs on television.
But does its entertainment value overshadow the discussion it may intend to provoke? Does the use of the N-word lose its power -- and therefore become more acceptable -- if the audience always laughs, or doesn't respond at all? Some of McGruder's critics have wondered whether his primary intent is to entertain instead of provoke real dialogue, and whether he is just capitalizing on hot-button issues.
"When you're dealing with the entertainment business, a business that deals with marketing and ratings and profit, you have to be suspicious," Naison said. "You get ratings by touching on stereotypes, the titillating subjects people talk about -- their anxieties, fears, longings and desires. That's why hip-hop sells. But at the same time, I don't believe in censorship."
McGruder is just happy "The Boondocks" has become a TV series.
He initially pitched a pilot of the show to Fox -- and it was rejected. It has come a long way since he began writing the strip in 1997 while he was a student at the University of Maryland. McGruder now has a growing empire that includes -- in adition to the strip and TV show -- four books and an agreement with Sony Pictures Animation to produce an animated film version of "The Boondocks."
For all the controversy his show and strip may continue to spark, McGruder is aware he may also draw praise from both longtime fans and critics. However, he tries not to dwell too much on any accolades.
"I try to insulate myself from any feedback to the strip as [best] I can, because it just makes it easier to do my job," McGruder said. "It would just interfere with the creative process."
So it seems that McGruder is also an equal-opportunity critic -- on himself. Even he cannot escape Huey's wrath.