Black Dynamite is the best show on television. Since beginning its second season on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim back in October, Dynamite—an animated spin-off of the 2009 Michael Jai White blaxploitation send-up/homage movie— has depicted the following: Mister Rogers (you know, the army-trained killing machine-turned-children's show host?) using Waka Flocka Flame lyrics to train an army of child soldiers; Rev. Al Sharpton using the shocking content of Alex Haley's Roots ("I heard it was bad, but not THAT bad!") to convince the black community to enslave all white people in retaliation for not getting reparations; and Mr. Drummond from Diff'rent Strokes adopting a group of streetwise black children to compete in a Hunger Games-style tournament for an audience of bloodthirsty, affluent whites. Why are you watching Friends reruns again?
Black Dynamite is a superhero that's equal parts Shaft and Superman. As the central character, his motivation is simple: he likes to fight, he likes to fuck, and he takes exactly zero crap in the process. Alongside his team—the emasculated pimp Cream Corn, the always rhyming Bullhorn, and Honey Bee, the madam and caretaker of the Whorephonage (a combination of, well, a whorehouse and orphanage)—he defends the black community from villains ranging from President Nixon to the police.
Despite the show's no-fucks approach to subject matter and its growing relevancy, it has seen a steady decline in viewership since its debut in July 2012. Season 2 averaged around one million viewers per episode, down from an average of 1.6 million viewers throughout Season 1.
So, why is Black Dynamite so good and why should you be watching it? Let us help.
It's black as hell
Sharing a home on Adult Swim with non-traditional black shows like Loiter Squad, The Eric Andre Show and The Boondocks, Dynamite's solid writing staff (including all of the folks who wrote the film) has a freedom not bestowed to shows on other networks with heavy African-American influences. The message is clear: be as unapologetically capital-B black as you wanna be, and don't worry about the consequences. That alleviates the need to try and pander to wide audiences, leaving the focus on creating a quality product that is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Fair warning, though: a lot of jokes won't make sense to you if you have no affiliation or understanding of black culture. But that's okay! King of The Hill was, like, the 8th whitest show in history and I've still seen every episode. Getting out of your comfort zone is good.
Even though the show is loosely set in the 1970s, Dynamite has creative flexibility that allows it to look back while remaining in the present. Viewers can expect references to Moms Mabley and Lil' Terrio. Nowhere is this more present than in two specific episodes: "Sweet Bill's Badass Singalong Song" where the team takes on Bill Cosby himself, whose vendetta against "negative" images of black people leads him to kidnap blaxploitation icons Rudy Ray Moore and Pam Grier. While Cosby's respectability politics have been commented on before, there's this line Black Dynamite casually throws out that conflates Cosby's complex legacy perfectly: "Bill Cosby? Wait, like Jell-O Pudding, date-raping Cosby?" A few weeks after that episode premiered, comedian Hannibal Buress made headlines for referencing the sordid past of Cosby, leading to a flood of renewed attention and dozens of women claiming Cosby had assaulted them over the years.
While the show has no problem pushing buttons, it usually manages to do so without going over the top. That all went to hell in the season finale, "Wizard of Watts." Odds are that the episode was more than likely a fun homage to the 1978 film The Wiz when it was originally written. Then the events surrounding the tragic deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the country-wide riots happened. A recent interview with Dynamite executive producer Carl Jones revealed that the while the animations were completed ahead of time, the show's voice actors went back and added new lines. [FINALE SPOILER ALERT AHEAD] The Wizard, originally thought to be Magic Johnson, turns out to be disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who kicks off a series of events that reference present-day headlines. Sterling chastises Dynamite and the black community at large, claiming:
"We make sure you Blacks only see yourselves as 12 Years a Slave, Django, The Help and Pootie Tang, whatever the fuck that means...You think we're racists? We're ECONOMISTS! It's all about money! As long as Negroes make the least and spend the most, we'll always be on top!"
Post-monologue, Sterling is confronted by the now-enraged black community members, who have had enough of the unceasing police brutality. "Man, fuck this!" a furious community member says. "I refuse to be treated like a cigarillo-stealing, cigarette selling, syrup-sipping stereotype! We need to do something...We should all turn our shirts inside out!" (a reference to the Clippers players' method of protest after Sterling's racist comments were made public). A villainous cop, who's melting due to being filmed via camcorder while savagely beating the young Rodney King, remarks: "No, not an irrefutable visual record of my illegal actions!... But at least a grand jury won't indict me!" You're not going to see that kind of commentary on any other animated show—especially since The Boondocks isn't on anymore.
The music is amazing
One of the true standouts of Season 2 was the work of music supervisor Fatin "10" Horton (credits include Lloyd Banks, Jean Grae, The Boondocks, etc.). Music supervision is an integral part to the success of a TV show, and Black Dynamite is no exception. Horton recruited top talent like Adrian Younge, Zo!, and Phonte' Coleman (of R&B group The Foreign Exchange and formerly of Little Brother) to record songs and damn near anything else that needed to be done musically. The result is the best music supervision on a television show since Scott Vener's run on Entourage. As the show is so based in parody, the musical staff shines when crafting expert soundalikes of classic tunes. "That's Not a Woman"—an obvious, and hilarious, Bee Gees rip off about transvestites—and "All You Niggas Should Swim," a pitch-perfect Earth, Wind and Fire warning about a racist shark that only eats black people are just some of the best musical moments of the show. My personal favorite? "Chicken Waings," an ode to eating unhealthy soul food to the tune of Rick James' "Mary Jane." Check out all the songs here.
Beyond a purely technical use, music is weaved into the culture of Black Dynamite: from The Godfather-themed episode that focuses on a beef between Dick Clark's American Bandstand and Don Cornelius's Soul Train, to big-name guest stars like Erykah Badu, Tyler, The Creator, and Chance The Rapper (who voices Bob Marley, of all people) who have lent their talents this season.
So what does that mean for Season 3? Well, more ass-kicking for one, but also more references to current-day events (maybe an Iggy Azalea/Macklemore episode using, like, Hall and Oates or something?). More than anything, though, I'm expecting viewers like you to be watching along. You know, because Black Dynamite is the best show on television.