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'BOON' SHOCKS
By DON KAPLAN

'THE Boondocks," probably the most controversial comic strip in newspapers right now, is poised to become the most controversial animated show on TV, too.

The comic and the cartoon, both written by Aaron McGruder, follows the experiences and reflections of a black family - two kids, Huey and Riley, and their grandfather - who move from the inner city to the lily-white suburbs.

Since 1999, when "Boondocks" first launched in newspapers as a syndicated strip, McGruder's musings on racism, politics and popular culture have frequently drawn fire from critics in all corners - and gotten the comic strip tossed out of some papers. In many cases, it runs on the editorial page instead of with the funnies.

His new show faithfully brings the same shock-tactics to Adult Swim, the Cartoon Networks' popular late-night programming block for grownups.

In it, his characters use the N-word frequently ("I think every episode is about racism," says Cartoon Network's Mike Lazzo, the programming executive who oversees Adult Swim), and an episode about searching for love includes Granddad's bizarre fling with a busty 20-year-old prostitute named Krystal, "like the champagne," she coos.

"But Granddad, she's just a lazy ho!" cries Huey to no avail.

"There's no doubt in my mind that some people are going to take offense, but you have look at things in context," says Lazzo. "Aaron has a strong point of view, and we want to support him as an artist. We think he's a voice that is sadly lacking in popular culture in general and television specifically."

Like the comic strip, "Boondocks" resembles Japanese anime and features young Huey Freeman, McGruder's alter ego, who for years has treated readers to a steady diet of indignation, paranoia and hatred.

Huey, whose world view could most easily be described as "black nationalist," is a self-proclaimed practicing member of the "church of self-righteousness."

He opens the pilot episode with a narrative of his recurring dream in which he attends a stodgy garden party for rich, white people and causes a riot when he takes the stage to inform them that: "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil and the government is lying about 9/11."

Riley, his younger brother, is a wannabe thug who loves guns, while Granddad is a grouchy cynic. All three represent "different facets of the sort of angry-black-man archetype," McGruder, 31, told a reporter.

"Someone said to me the other day that in some ways this is filling a void that Dave Chappelle left behind," Lazzo says, invoking "Chappelle's Show," Comedy Central's super-hot sketch-comedy program that tackled tough racial issues with a smile. The program burned so brightly last year, its star quit.

Lazzo says that the network has given McGruder almost no limits in terms of content, except sex.

"We let him make the show he wants to make," says Lazzo. "We told him what the company [Turner Broadcasting] said to us: 'You can do what you want as long you make money.' "

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