When I first heard about this new Seth MacFarlane produced TV show, I was obnoxiously skeptical. Keep in mind, all we knew at the time were the bare bones: An animated show about two very different families living on the Mexican-American border. One family, headed by a Border Patrol Officer who is against illegal immigration (as any good Border Patrol Officer would be), and one family headed by a successful Mexican migrant.
Due to the show being billed as a Seth MacFarlane creation, those who have an eversion to his work, upon hearing the premise, instantly turned up their noses not wanting to see another Family Guy or American Dad. Personally, when I read Seth MacFarlane produced, all I could think was, “What could a Connecticut-born, New England-bred, middle class white guy know about living on the border – let alone how could he possibly justify satirizing it?” As it turns out, MarcFarlane, like most good executive producers, saw an opportunity to lend his already successful name to a great show that will undoubtedly have an uphill battle. Let me state that again: This show Bordertown is an excellent show, that is if you are into political satire and raunchy humor.
Thanks to the New Carpa Theater organizing the event last Friday September 25th, I had the opportunity to attend a small screening of two episodes from the show in Phoenix, along with a Q&A with Lalo Alcaraz one of the main writers, moderated by James Garcia.
As Bordertown is a FOX produced television animated show, one can expect animation that is very familiar, but by no means bad (and yet by no means exciting). Though, considering the content and the pacing of the show overall, the animation is appropriate for what is needed.
The most important thing to note in the design of the show is how much thought went into representing the characters as genuinely, and satirically, as possible. The Gonzalez household, in particular, has everything a migrant Mexican house would have: Plastic on the couches, an Aztec sun calendar, and a whole wall of family, extended family, and even more extended family photos (as well as calendars from local mom-and-pop shops that are too old) – all of which feel like running inside jokes for those of us familiar with bi-cultural households.
A trailer released online a while back and, rather than give a good idea of what the show would be like, it merely put on display most of the crude potty jokes and destroyed the delicate pacing that is painstakingly worked into the show. At the screening we had the opportunity to watch the Pilot episode, as well as an episode Lalo Alcaraz headed called “Border Wall.”
The Pilot episode did an excellent job setting up all the main characters, the comedic timing, and the standard for the the type of material that will hopefully be showcased throughout the first season. Of course the humor comes from a sometimes brutal reality as it directly parallels the current political climate in the U.S. Southwest, which may make some viewers uncomfortable. However, through this discomfort the show really demonstrates it’s brilliance; the show is ridiculous and pokes fun at everything that Mexican-Americans, Poch@’s, border babies, anti-immigrationists, and innocent bystanders have to deal with in regards to both daily life and politics along the border. It makes you stare down the face of this political beast, and laugh. Genuinely laugh.
I wish I could share with you some of the excellent jokes featured in both episodes, but I really want you to see the show for yourself and hopefully laugh as much as I did. That’s all that this show really wants: To be laughed at. And then, much later, to be pondered for it’s delicate intricacies of layered comedy over politics.
A word of caution, however: This show will not be for everyone. As with its comparable predecessors (Family Guy, American Dad), some of the humor does get dark and often times inappropriate for some viewers. There is potty humor, sexual humor, and obviously racial humor, but it all plays into a greater purpose. That purpose is comedy for the sake of exposing hypocrisy and revealing bigotry, as well as paralleling the reality of our current political climate.
What We Learned During the Q&A:
- Mark Hentemann is the creator of the show.
- Bordertown was originally pitched eight years ago.
- There are five Latino writers on the show.
- There are three women on the writing staff – two of them are Latina.
- There are thirteen episodes in the first season (depending on the viewership of the first three episodes, which might strike a deal for a second season).
- Bud Buckwald is based on the Archie Bunker “Loving Bigot” archetype.
- There will be a Chapo Guzman cartel leader type character called Pablo Barracuda.
- The writers had to fight for the term “pocho” (which means Americanized Mexican) to be used in the show as it was mistakenly thought to be a curse word.
- There are no talking animals (for those fearing another Brian), BUT there is a UFO.
- Most episodes begin with a Roadrunner themed gag between Bud Buckwald and El Coyote (a man who helps undocumented people cross the border).
- Lalo Alcaraz is also a consultant on Pixar’s upcoming Coco, but could only tell us that the name of the film is a nickname for one of the main characters.
Bordertown is going to be groundbreaking. Not only does it dare to be bold and take on some of the biggest topics of this election year on screen, but it also does so off screen as well. It is crude and confrontational, but it is also hilarious, poignant, and completely well timed in every sense of the phrase. Watch it, give it a shot, and I’m sure you’ll find at least some things that will make you stare down the face of this political beast and laugh.
Bordertown airs on FOX in January 2016.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes