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The Boondocks: "Mr. Medicinal"

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It's always walking a thin line when TV shows — which, on balance, tend to be written, directed, and produced by people with more than a passing familiarity with marijuana — decide to make a show that deals with smoking marijuana.  Luckily, the '80s are long gone, so outside of government-funded public service announcements, you don't have to see any shows where someone gets zooted and then runs over an adorable little girl on a tricycle.  On the other hand, telling the truth about the essential harmlessness of the devil weed, and you risk veering into "Hippie Will Tell You What The Real Crime Is" territory.  So you have to play it a bit coy.  Luckily, the Cartoon Network, home of Space Ghost Coast To Coast, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021, and a bunch of other shows that as weed-centric as a Willie Nelson tour bus, has a lot of experience at just that sort of coyness.

In tonight's episode of The Boondocks, Granddad's high-stress lifestyle — that is, being sidled with "a domestic terrorist and a public menace" as grandchildren — causes him to check into a hospital.  Told that he's sporting all kinds of old-man problems, the doctor prescribes him a number of medications, but Robert Freeman has an all-too-typical distrust of institutions, not to mention the fact that his blood pressure medication lists "total scrotal implosion" and "mild death" as side effects.  So he turns to his former neighbor, Thugnificent, for a more natural form of stress relief: our good friend the chronic.


At first, it's all good in the neighborhood:  his dealer is a friendly and well-stocked fellow (voiced by Mark Hammill), his stress levels lower immediately, and his dope trips are actually pretty well illustrated:  the slow roll, the loss of tension, the sharpening of colors, and, of course, the obsession with breakfast cereal.  But you know how it is with good weed:  one minute, you're just floating like a cloud with not a care in the world, and the next minute you're inadvertently walking around naked in front of your next-door neighbor's kids.

This was another top-drawer episode from the strong third season.  Aside from a few predictable bits (the presence of a hot-looking nurse during some embarrassing parts of Robert's physical exam) and clumsy visual gags, this one rolled along nicely.  It was a combination of the strongest Boondocks qualities:  solid political and social satire in the form of weed culture, increasingly sharp animation, and nice character-driven domestic humor, with Huey finally getting some decent screen time and Riley bugging the shit out of Granddad.  It handled the legal, cultural and personal aspects of marijuana in a way that was straightforward but never preachy or obvious (and I loved the running gag that weed has suddenly become legal just because Obama is president), and the story integrated ongoing characters in a way that's actually important to the plot, a skill Aaron McGruder has really begun to master lately.  With only three episodes to go (and next week, I think, being a rerun), I can't wait to see where he leads us next.

Rating:  A-

Stray Observations:

- "Without admitting any guilt, we want to say we're sorry."

- "How am is supposed to calm down?  I'm dying and the TV's broke!"

- "Do we still have to beat each other?"

- "We need you around as long as possible to cook and pay the mortgage!"

- "He's a doctor and you a dumb-ass, so I'm listening to him."

- "Nigga, that was Friday."

- "Congrats!  Tell Prince Markie Dee I said hi!"  Man, I'm a sucker for a Fat Boys reference.


- One of Tom Dubois' telltale signs of marijuana addiction:  "You start playing the bongos real loud."

- The scene in court where the judge looks up whether weed is legal on Wikipedia just slayed me, as did his little back-and-forth with Tom and Robert.


- "I think we should just move to L.A.  I'ma be the first nigga to be both a Blood and a Crip."

- Huey demands that Granddad choose between weed and his grandchildren.  Riley, after Robert heads to his dealer's house:  "Man.  He didn't even think about it."


- I wonder if McGruder has plans to pursue a television writing career once the show wraps.  This has been the best season so far, and he's written almost the whole thing himself, so he's obviously developed the chops for it.

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