TV Review | The Goode Family 1.1

It’s hard to believe, but Mike Judge has been a continuous presence on television since the early 1990s.  In 1993, Beavis and Butt-Head began its often controversial run on MTV.  As that show ran down in 1997, Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky were hard at work on King of the Hill.

It’s a toss-up as to which show Judge will be better remembered for, but his future is in The Goode Family (ABC/CityTV: premieres May 27, 9:00 PM) now.  I’m not sure it’s a good move for him.

As spotty as King of the Hill was near the end of its run, the show made fun of everyone’s insecurities and character flaws.  I see that in The Goode Family, but in a blunter and less intelligent fashion.  The Goode Family is just King of the Hill with thematic sightlines aimed at the politically correct.

Gerald Goode (Judge) is just David Van Driessen from Beavis and Butt-Head, much as Hank Hill was initially Tom Anderson with hair.  He has a wife named Helen (Nancy Walls), but there’s not much to the two characters aside from white liberal guilt.  They’re the most boring characters on their own show, which is not a good sign.

Ubuntu (David Herman) is the Goodes’ near-mongoloid adopted son, originally from South Africa.  The Goodes wanted to adopt a black baby, but neglected to mark the appropriate race box on the adoption form.  Bliss (Linda Cardellini) is a relatively normal teenager, wary of her parents intruding into her personal life.

In keeping with King of the Hill‘s subversive tradition, neighbour Ray Johnson (Gary Anthony Williams) is a black redneck/NASCAR fan.  Che is the Goodes’ “vegan” dog, who eats the neighbourhood pets away from the Goodes’ purview.  Charlie (Brian Doyle-Murray) is Helen Goode’s father, as conservative as Helen is wannabe liberal.

The cast is well-rounded, but there’s something troubling about all the one-note characters.  Brian Doyle-Murray is great as Charlie, and he’s given less screen time than the dog.  Ubuntu is at this point grunt stupid.  How is The Goode Family going to flesh his character out?  Also, does the show really need a pet?  King of the Hill at least had the good sense to keep Ladybird way in the background as it focused on Bill Dauterive and John Redcorn III.

The use of one-second gags might be the worst thing about The Goode Family.  Mike Judge’s shows are great at dialogue and character interaction.  King of the Hill lasted thirteen seasons for that reason.  Even when Beavis and Butt-Head were making fun of music videos, they were reacting to the world at large.

The Goode Family‘s first episode is reminiscent of The Critic, betraying Judge’s strengths for easy “What Would Al Gore Do?” jokes.  A subplot about purity rings was worked to better effect on South Park‘s thirteenth-season premiere, and South Park has the shorter lead time.  Judge is capable of far better than purity ring bashing.

I can only see a decent run for The Goode Family if it develops as King of the Hill did.  There are worse animated shows on TV – the latest episodes of Bob and Doug are complete shit – but this show is disappointing coming from Judge, Altschuler and Krinsky.  If ABC stays with The Goode Family past the summer, I’ll be amazed.

C. Archer
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