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The good, the bad, and the ugly on the Goode Family

by Danny Gallagher, posted May 28th 2009 3:03AM
The Goode Family

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.

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GerryofNorVA

Not interested, premiere episode repelled more than attracted me. The show is WAY too much like King of the Hill, from the animation technique, the voicing/audio, the quaint neighborhood, the four person family with dog, etc. I guess Judge figured he had a winning formula with KotH and decided to rip it off in this new venture, but he didn't remember we have a phrase for this: "been there, done that". Some will watch, many others won't.

May 29 2009 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Vegan

Well as my name indicates, I am a vegan. I am also very liberal. I thought the show was amusing. Nothing great, so far, but I will give it a shot. I actually had a dog, a Shepard, who lived 16 years on a vegan diet. She truly did enjoy it. Anyway I figure since I see so many shows that attact conservatives I can take some abuse too. I think with show I will get a lot of abuse. Let's hope, it's at least funny.

May 28 2009 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to The Vegan's comment
Leroy

I'm a vegan too (because for humans it has clearly been shown to be healthier), but I would never even consider forcing a carnivorous pet to join me in that.

One thing so many vegans choose to ignore is that all animal life on earth (including us vegans) survives solely by consuming other living things. Claiming a moral high ground because you only eat plants and not animals is, in my opinion, arbitrary and meaningless. Until we humans manage to genetically modify ourselves to perform photosynthesis, we will be killers in order to survive.

May 29 2009 at 10:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Vegan

Leroy all pets are 'forced' to eat whatever we decide. In the wild dogs are omnivores and do not eat out of cans. Dogs have been domesticated and the people who care for them decide what is best for them. I fed my dog nutricious and delicious food in which she enjoyed. Whenever I was over at my friends house and there was meat dog food out as long as I put out the food I prepared for her she would not touch the other food. In fact my friend's dog would also eat the food I prepared as well.

May 29 2009 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Leroy

The writing was so awkward and amateurish in the first five minutes that I could hardly believe this was from the same person who gave us King of the Hill. At least there were eventually a few funny moments, but overall I found it just dreadful, and not because of the politics. What makes King of the Hill work is that the characters are always three dimensional and surprising. This lot were ridiculous and annoying.

May 28 2009 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chrysee

I just watched it on abc.com (when are they gonna be on hulu again?). I'd watch it again, online, but probably wouldn't make the effort to remember when it's on tv.

May 28 2009 at 10:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

LMAO - which is all you can really expect out of TV these days. The only thing I don't understand is why Ubuntu is some kind of idiot savante. One minute he's staring numbly off into space while the phone rings, the next he's fixing some guy's car out on the highway. Other than that, it's brilliant.

I just wonder if they aren't going to burn through all their PC jokes in the first few episodes, or be forced to touch on topics like reverse racism (and yes, I caught the University president's solution to that problem - hilarious!) that will cause Hollywood to want to drive them out of town on a rail. We'll see.

May 28 2009 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment
litehousebeacon

You forgot about his excellent driving, even though he just got his license.

Also, he wasn't staring into space. He was staring at the car keys.

May 28 2009 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

Well, it's a lot better than "Sit Down, Shut up" was, but that's not saying anything at all.

I figured they'd have a redneck Dale Gribble neighbor (and maybe they do). Hell, just stick Dale Gribble next door to them and the show will probably turn out okay.

South Park summed up this whole show in one episode (the hybrid car / fart smelling ep) and did it a lot better - that's really all you need to see, and makes this show entirely moot.

May 28 2009 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to bruce's comment

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