Everyone just wants to be on TV. Everyone wants to be on someone else’s show, and once they’re on a show they’re angling for a spinoff. Pretty much everything is fodder for that time in front of the camera. It’s a supremely cynical, dog-eat-dog way of looking at the world that’s been extensively mocked over the last few years, which hurts tonight’s Boondocks substantially.
“Granddad Dates A Kardashian” again uses the Freemans’ financial woes to instigate a parody of something that was making news when this season was first getting started—in this case, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and the associated empire. (It’s funny to think that, like Breaking Bad, this show could theoretically have ended/been canceled between the beginning of production and tonight.) Robert dates the suspiciously and lazily named Kardashia Kardashia as the focus of a reality show pilot in order to make a sizeable amount of money. Kardashia is “allegedly” a Kardashian (which helps explain why the “pilot” didn’t get picked up), and clearly isn’t remotely in the same territory as, say, Kim, who turned a leaked sex tape of herself into multi-million dollar success.
Beyond the initial conceit and one or two references to Robert wanting Kardashia’s money, the story is blissfully tangential to the season-long plot, but it leaves “Granddad Dates A Kardashian” in a not so great place. Not only do we get yet another episode this season that focuses on Robert’s relationship with a woman, but most of the jokes are just too easy. Recent weddings to Kanye West (whom this episode refers to as “a rapper wearing a leather kilt”) aside, the Kardashians (and their associated reality series) are pretty stale, tired targets for The Boondocks, even considering the drawn-out production schedule. Put it this way: Of all of the subjects for an episode of this show, this just might be the one most likely to confuse viewers in five or 10 years.
Without harping too much on stuff I’ve been concerned about all season (but also to do that), this episode exemplifies a lot of the problems so far. Huey is, again, the voice of “reason” in contrast to a Robert and Riley who are blinded by the promise of easy money. And, as has been the case all season, all of the harshest, funniest jokes are left around the margins of the episode (like Kardashia’s s charity Believe In Yourself, You Can Be Anorexic). Sadly, some of the winking nods at the show itself hit a little too hard: “People don’t want to watch an old broke dude on TV.”
Weirdly enough, what might actually separate “Granddad Dates A Kardashian” from the rest of The Boondocks—the reality show format, in which the episode is presented as a fake pilot for a new series—doesn’t actually do that much work. The script doesn’t use the reality format as heavily as it might, give or take a couple of standard talking head gags like the reveal that Robert has no viable sperm. There are a few decent jokes in the editing with the constantly changing descriptions of the characters (like an extended version of Stephen Colbert’s “The Word”), and it’s smart to use the cards as a venue for editorial winking, but if anything, they don’t go far enough. If The Boondocks—a cartoon—is going to do a Kardashian reality show episode, it might as well go totally over the top, especially considering that that’s what the camera-hogging characters would be liable to do in this situation.
The most substantial obstacle to the episode just letting loose with the parody is that the single biggest source of non-reality show jokes boils down to saying the word “ass” or referring to butts in some fashion. In other words, these are not really “jokes.” That the script forces a parody of Huey-Riley interactions in which Huey has to say “Her butt’s going to destroy everything” is a minor catastrophe, and erases almost all of the goodwill the successful jokes have built up. See, Kardashia’s ass is being literally pumped so she can “keep up with the Kardashians” until it literally explodes, which plays as an excuse to both toss in some parody of hospital shows (Robert’s awareness of the sad music is a nice touch) and get a random restaurant patron to yell “Oh my God, look at her butt!” So that’s where we are right now.
Almost everything else in the episode involves uninteresting guest roles. Partially because there are so many hangers-on looking for their time in the spotlight, there are a ton of minor characters floating around the edges of the episode without doing much. Besides Kardashia’s ill-defined “Kardashian-ness,” there’s her assistant Brownee Point, her half brother Bench, and the ass doctor. Maybe most importantly, Huey and Riley are introduced to Mother Maria, a dying charitable nun (wonder who she’s supposed to be?) in the hospital with Kardashia, who suckers Huey in with her stories of helping children and turns on a dime to talk about how she put out for Ike back in the day when the cameras show up. As pointed as that moment is, it’s also rather predictable, and Mother Maria exemplifies the hamfisted approach to “satire” the show has taken this season.
There is a particular, fame-seeking pathology that “Granddad Dates A Kardashian” has in its sights, and one could make an argument that this season of The Boondocks is about, broadly speaking, what people will do for tastes of fame and wealth, but none of it has come together that well. There’s very little to talk about now in terms of the show’s editing and general construction—nothing remotely close to the epic sweep of, say, “The Red Ball.” So there isn’t much supporting all of the unfocused stuff, or helping it cohere in a way that’d make it a really enjoyable half-hour. All of the characters are too busy making asses of themselves.
- Not much to say here—sorry this is so late. My DVR cut out, so I’m working on the 1 AM rerun. Apologies for messiness.
- Next week looks like we’re finding the Freemans in a slavery-themed amusement park. I, for one, am pretty excited.