Let’s get right to it: “Bordertown” is funny.
The animated comedy, which premieres Sunday night on Fox, inspires the kind of laughs that come with a wince. How uncomfortable you are will depend on how much you’ve been paying attention to current events.
Created by “Family Guy” writer Mark Hentemann, “Bordertown” revolves around two neighboring families in the fictional Southwest desert town of Mexifornia. Bud Buckwald, voiced by Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”) feels threatened by a growing immigrant population that looks a lot like his neighbor, Ernesto Gonzalez. Ernesto runs a successful landscaping business, much to the ire of Bud, who perpetually struggles to keep his job as a border patrol agent.
Both are family men. Bud has three children — Sanford, 24, still lives with his parents and looks a bit like an animated Kid Rock. Five-year-old Gert is a pageant queen with a pet pig named Sparkles. She’s also the only one in her family with an accent (hi, Stewie Griffin), a spirited Southern drawl courtesy of Missi Pyle. Bud’s other daughter, the gravel-voiced Becky (“Family Guy’s” Alex Borstein) shares an often naive idealism, and a love connection, with Ernesto’s college-student nephew, J.C.
In the first episode, Mexifornia residents are asked to pass an anti-immigration ordinance — also known as the “show me your papers law” — and Bud is a staunch supporter: “The Southwest belongs to retired art teachers and meth-lab entrepreneurs.”
The immigrant debate and a growing culture clash are the targets of “Bordertown’s” satire, but nothing and no one is left unscathed. In one scene at the Gonzalez house, a pundit named Bob Mothers (wink, wink) rails against Republicans.“I love Bob,” J.C. says. “He stands up for the little guy on a network that costs $50 a month.”
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane is an executive producer of “Bordertown,” which, depending on what you think of MacFarlane’s brand of humor, could make you want to tune in — or out. On a scale of “Ted” (the lowest of the low) to “Family Guy,” “Bordertown” would end up on the higher end of the spectrum. In the two episodes I screened, there’s an alien gag that overstays its welcome and a still-too-soon Philip Seymour Hoffman joke. But the show is off to a good start with its timely humor.
In fact, today’s headlines might be “Bordertown’s” best asset. The second episode is called “Borderwall,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Bud is among the Mexifornia residents in favor of building a wall to keep Mexican immigrants from crossing the border.
Last month, Hentemann told entertainment website TV Insider that he had written the episode long before leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump began his campaign and the promise that he would build an impenetrable wall along the Mexican border.
“We should give Trump a writing credit on the episode for making it relevant and topical again,” Hentemann told the site.
Bordertown (30 minutes) premieres Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.