When it came time to announce that Season 4 of The Boondocks would premiere on Adult Swim, executives at Sony, which produced the show, had a standoff with creator Aaron McGruder's representative over how to present McGruder's involvement in the new and final season. And afterward, Sony executives trashed the Boondocks creator, calling him slow and incompetent.
In an email exchange between McGruder's agent, Norm Aladjem, and executives at Turner Broadcasting (which owns Cartoon Network and its late-night block, Adult Swim) and Sony in March of this year, Aladjem insisted that the release say that McGruder was not at all involved in the new season. Saying he had any involvement, Aladjem wrote, "would have only one purpose: to palm off Aaron's good name and reputation regarding his life's work by implying that he is associated with or endorses this season of the Boondocks."
The Boondocks was based on a cartoon strip McGruder started writing while at the University of Maryland, it follows brothers Huey and Riley — the former a pint-size political radical named after Black Panthers founder Huey Newton, the latter a gangsta rap-obsessed kid — after they move from Chicago to the suburbs to live with their grandfather.
Aladjem wrote that if the press release did not go out as they had agreed upon, "we will have no choice but to protect Aaron and his reputation by putting out a separate, contemporaneous release that separates and distances Aaron from this season. I do not think that's good for Aaron, or for Sony, or for the show."
Ultimately, the press release that came out just over a week later adhered to Aladjem and McGruder's demands, saying, "This season was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined."
But other emails suggest that might not be the case. Sheraton Kalouria, the chief marketing officer at Sony Pictures Marketing, after being forwarded the message from Aladjem, wrote that it would be "untrue" to say that McGruder had "no involvement" in the show, "as he was partially involved."
In response, Zack Van Amburg, the head of U.S. programming and production at Sony, wrote that Aladjem "doesn't want our version of the story out there" and that "they're wasting everyone's time and holding us hostage over Aaron's incompetence."
Steve Mosko, the head of Sony Pictures Television, wrote, "Fuck em. He's going to tweet shit anyway. The fight w create good press. Send it all my way. I wish he wrote this fast on show."
Aladjem and Sony Pictures Television spokesperson Paula Askanas did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests to comment.
When the news went out that The Boondocks would return for its last season without the involvement of its creator, many wondered exactly what had happened. In a statement he released a week later, McGruder said, "To quote a great white man, 'Hollywood is a business'. And to quote another great white man, 'Don't hold grudges.'" He didn't give any details behind the split, but did mention "minefields of controversy" and alluded to the show's own slow release schedule. The show's first three seasons came out over a five-year period from 2005 to 2010.
After the season premiere had better than expected ratings, Mosko said in an email, "Never would have guessed this," while Sony Entertainment CEO said, "terrific." Mosko forwarded the exchange to Philip Kent, the former head of Turner, saying, "How about this!!"
Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.
Contact Matthew Zeitlin at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.