Bordertown follows two families living in the fictional Mexifornia (on the border of California and Mexico); one led by a conservative border agent and the other led by an easy going and friendly immigrant.
Warning there may be spoilers ahead.
Created by Family Guy veteran Mark Hentemann with Seth MacFarlane serving as executive producer Bordertown had a lot of buzz surrounding it. Not just because of the aforementioned big names but at a time when immigration is such a hotly debated topic the show’s subject matter is very relevant. With a solid trailer debuting at Upfronts week earlier in the year there was even more pressure on Bordertown to deliver a great pilot with big laughs.
For me the laughs were there. Whilst some of the jokes were hit and miss there were enough good ones to keep me happy for 20 minutes. A constant source of hilarity came from J.C. Gonzalez and Becky Buckwald, a very liberal couple who spout out absurd observations and thoughts throughout. Highlights included “I want you to put a baby in me so I can fight for the right to abort it” from Becky, and J.C. campaigning to re-name America “the United States of Indigenous Rape”. They’re obviously a little controversial but that’s what we’ve come to expect from both Hentemann and MacFarlane.
A character that fared less well was Bud, the patriarch of the Buckwald family. The problem with having a “casually” racist character as I’ve seen him described as in so many articles is that it makes him incredibly unlikeable. Family Guy’s Peter Griffin isn’t the most affable character but he’s funny enough that he gets away with it. Bud just doesn’t have that humour to him yet which is a shame because Hank Azaria has heaps of comedic talent that felt wasted in the pilot. I’m hoping that as we see his and Ernesto’s friendship develop we’ll see a lighter side of Bud and that he’ll come across better because it’s hard to watch a show where you dislike the main character. Ernesto on the other hand is fantastic but we didn’t see him enough in the pilot.
The other characters haven’t been established well enough yet but that’s typical of a pilot and we’re sure to see more of them in forthcoming episodes. The Buckwalds are incredibly like the Griffins; there’s the eccentric but caring wife, the awkward daughter and the slacker son. The new addition is the young daughter who seems to be based on Honey Boo Boo. As much as I love the Griffins I’m hoping the Buckwalds will be able to break free of those labels as it would be good to see something fresh and original.
Bordertown started off well but has left room for improvement. So far the jokes are working and the political undertones are smart but the characters need tightening. Bordertown will no doubt draw comparisons to Family Guy and American Dad which will mean a tough road ahead if it wants to establish itself as a separate entity. It has a lot to live up to.
Pilot Rating – 3/5