The good, the bad, and the ugly on the Goode Family
by Danny Gallagher, posted May 28th 2009 3:03AM
Just one look at Mike Judge's The Goode Family feels like Hank Hill and his clan are staring into a periscope that's peering into the Bizarro World. The only thing missing on the Goodes are goatees, including the dog.
It's just too parallel not to notice, and it's an unfair assumption to make. Even though they are from the pen of the same creators, they seem like two completely different shows on the surface. But the similarities end after the premiere episode.
The biggest difference is the first episode of King of the Hill was a gaff-guzzling vehicle for FOX, and The Goode Family's pilot felt more like a smart but bold-lacking hybrid for ABC.
Judge and company are great at creating funny characters that take awhile to develop, and the Goodes are off to a decent start. The Goodes are a family of liberal thinking do-gooders who believe every thought they have somehow has some weird butterfly effect on the thinning string that holds up the entire world.
Father Gerald, voiced by Judge in a toned down Van Driessen accent, separates two-ply toilet paper with a metal crank but still has enough sense to shop at discount stores. Mother Helen, voiced by Nancy Carell, takes going green to the competitive level of the Indianapolis 500, refusing to shop at stores that "don't even have a mission statement." As a whole, their persistent PC do-goodery makes Ed Begley Jr's green initiatives look like a no-bid Halliburton contract.
These practices have rubbed off on their kids. The Goodes have an adopted South African-American jughead of a son, Ubuntu, voiced by Judge regular David Herman, and a daughter, Bliss, voiced by Linda Cardelli. It's a brilliant casting move since Bliss' feelings and withering attitudes towards her parents' mindsets are starting to feel like Lindsay Weir on Paxil.
The funniest of the family is the dog, Che, who has been forced to go vegan and turns to the neighborhood's pet population for meat. I haven't felt this bad for a dog since Beethoven's 3rd.
The concepts of the characters are funny, but they feel more like stereotypes in the context of a 30-minute sitcom. Of course, it's early in the series and there are more chances of development with twelve more to go, especially with Helen's cantankerous red-state dad Charlie, voiced by Brian Doyle Murray. In the first episode, however, they feel like a sketch that slowly runs out of steam, like air escaping from a flat tire that keeps trying to run on what little air is left.
There are some genuinely funny moments, like the large electronic sign in the earth-friendly grocery store that provides real time updates on what foods are "good" and "bad." And lines like Gerald's attempt to quell his frazzled wife by telling her "The View is on! The pretty one is saying crazy stuff again!" There's also that poor dog. The Goode home must be Guantanamo Bay to that poor dog. Seriously, just give him a bone. It doesn't even have to have any meat on it.
Some jokes are just as meatless as the Goode's kitchen freezer. References to the Octomom and the virgin from American Idol scream of a desperate need to make the show feel timely, which is unnecessary in the context of the concept. The plot that pushes the free-thinking Goodes into a purity ring ceremony makes an interesting parallel for a sitcom plot, but doesn't produce any real uncomfortable comedy of any strong calibur.
I have hopes that the series will develop over time into something that can deliver stronger punches, but the first episode is the television equivalent of a soy-free, wheat-free, organically grown meatless veggieburger on a gluten-free bun. It's good for you and different from your usual diet, but it leaves you wanting something more that doesn't taste like over-flavored cardboard.
Dear God, now I really know how it feels to be Che.