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The Unaired, Rejected, Resurfaced ‘Boondocks’ Pilot Is Still Better Than 99 Percent of Today’s Comedies

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The Unaired, Rejected, Resurfaced ‘Boondocks’ Pilot Is Still Better Than 99 Percent of Today’s Comedies

Twenty years after Fox passed on the pilot of an animated TV adaptation of Aaron McGruder’s comic strip The Boondocks, the six-minute screen test is finally available to the general public — somehow, Boondocks fans got the fabled failed pilot before Max made Season Five.

Back in 2003, McGruder teamed up with legendary TV producer and the writer/director of House Party, Reginald Hudlin, to make a six-minute pilot adapted from his successful comic script as ordered by Fox. McGruder had always planned on running comic and TV show versions of The Boondocks concurrently, and with a major network on the hook, his plan seemed close to fruition. However, McGruder quickly found that adjusting his distinct satirical tone to fit the delicate sensibilities of Rupert Murdoch’s mega-network was no small task, and when the pitch was complete, Fox passed on The Boondocks and Hudlin exited the franchise. 

A retooled, revitalized version of The Boondocks eventually found a home at Adult Swim, where it ran for three cult-beloved seasons (and a not-so-lovable McGruder-less one), and the original Fox sample fell on the same pile of rejected pilots where thousands of similar projects slipped out of entertainment history for good. That is, until the mysterious Internet Archive user Kal_Eastwood uploaded all six minutes and fourteen seconds of the first attempt at a Boondocks TV series this past weekend. And, much like the most recent Super Bowl halftime show, this one features the confusing presence of Alicia Keys

Mike Lazzo, the architect of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block, was the first animated comedy fan to stumble across the unaired Boondocks pilot back in 2004 when he saw the potential of McGruder’s brainchild but still declared the screen test to be “too network-y” to truly fulfill the creator’s vision. Lazzo ordered a 15-episode season from McGruder, and told the cartoonist and satirist to “just tell stories” instead of trying to appease his patrons.

This unaired pilot featured Keys playing the lead role of Huey Freeman opposite Regina King’s Riley. But, of course, when the series moved to Adult Swim, King took over both roles and went on to kill each of them for 55 straight episodes. The pilot also featured an animation style that more closely matched the character designs of the comic strip rather than the more anime-like art style of the eventual Adult Swim series. And, perhaps most surprisingly, the original pilot gave Uncle Ruckus an undefined number of offspring — and a hilarious bookshelf featuring a compendium of Uncle Tom’s Comics.

Despite being an inferior version of an incredibly underrated series, this pilot still feels funnier, more fleshed out and more original than so many of today’s insipid comedies that get greenlights from Fox and other unambitious networks. Perhaps the revival of interest in The Boondocks following the leaking of this pilot will inspire Max to reverse course on its canceled reboot of the show. If Velma can score a second season, they might as well throw The Boondocks a single bone.

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