Adult Swim has "permanently retired" several episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Boondocks, citing "cultural sensitivities." The irreverent cartoons have both seen a surge in popularity since they started streaming on HBO Max, and binge-watchers zeroed in on some jokes that do not seem to land anymore. Adult Swim told The Daily Beast it is taking action.
The episodes in question featured cavalier and potentially offensive storylines, mostly on the topic of race. So far, it seems that two episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force have been removed, and three episodes of The Boondocks as well. The absences were first noted by eagle-eyed fans on Reddit, forcing Adult Swim to address these changes. The company described episode selection for streaming as an ongoing process.
"When Adult Swim transitions series to a new platform, we determine what episodes are selected through creative and cultural filters and our standards and practices policies," Adult Swim explained. "Oftentimes these decisions are made in collaboration with the show's creators."
According to fans, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Season 6, Episode 2, "Shake Like Me," disappeared from HBO Max in June, then briefly reappeared in August before going away again. The episode title is a reference to John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. In the episode, a Black man who has been irradiated by toxic waste bites Shake, and he turns "stereotypically" Black.
The network also pulled down the unfinished Season 5 opener, "Boston," which addressed a 2007 bomb scare caused by the guerrilla marketing campaign for the series. This episode was never aired on TV, but some fans still hoped it would be included on the streaming network.
As for The Boondocks, the only episode removed from HBO Max was Season 3, Episode 4, "The Story of Jimmy Rebel," which centered around Uncle Ruckus' combative relationship with an overtly racist country singer. However, fans were perplexed that other so-called "banned" episodes of the show were still online, such as "The Hunger Strike" and "Pause."0comments
HBO Max told The Daily Beast that these episodes were simply not "part of our streaming deals" with Adult Swim. These quiet ommissions followed other backward-looking critiques of mainstream TV shows this summer, such as episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and 30 Rock that were removed from streaming services.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force was canceled in 2015 after 11 seasons, while The Boondocks was canceled in 2014 with 4 seasons. A reboot of The Boondocks is reportedly on the way to HBO Max, and in the meantime, the streaming service has nearly every episode of the two cult-classic cartoons.