‘Legends of Chamberlain Heights’: Boys Will Be Wild Boys

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large

Stick around after the season premiere of South Park to check out Legends of Chamberlain Heights, another minimally animated, guaranteed-to-offend Comedy Central series premiering on Wednesday night. At its best, the new show has something to say about what it’s like to be broke and ambitious.

The show centers around three high school freshmen for whom race — and basketball — matters. Grover worships a poster of LeBron James in his room. Jamal is shrewd and resourceful, even if he uses his smarts for low purposes such as a pharmaceutical mix designed to get his pals high at a party. Milk is the white member of this trio, and thus the source of jokes about his striving to “be black.” Legends, which follows the young fellows as they warm the bench during school games even as they plot their future greatness, is loaded with jokes in poor taste. Young women, with the exception of straight-A student Cindy, do not come off well.

But there’s definitely an intelligence at work behind the studied raunchiness here. Grover’s little brother Malik scores laughs with observations about how, because there were no black figures in either The Flintstones or The Jetsons, “we have no past and no future.” The second episode, airing next week, is funnier than the premiere because it has an amusing plot about the boys’ class being assigned to care for baby robots, to improve their social and nurturing skills. That one manages to satirize no-vaccinators and a government health care policy referred to as “Robamacare.”

The boys’ coach declares, “We progressive like a motherf***er.” Not exactly true, but Legends of Chamberlain Heights does have an engaging visual palette, a good soundtrack from music supervisor Erykah Badu, and enough cleverness beneath the dirty jokes to make it worth keeping tabs on.

Legends of Chamberlain Heights airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.