Mike Judge has come a long way since his seminal Beavis and Butthead cartoon “Frog Baseball”. (Heheheheh–I said “seminal”.) At least financially. Those early shorts, along with the lesser known “Inbred Jed” cartoons, revealed a lot of his sensibility and grasp of human character.
“King of the Hill”–possibly the only primetime show with a genuinely conservative lead (excluding cartoonish parodies done by far-left liberals like Seth MacFarlane’s “American Dad”)–is something of a phenomenon, having run for thirteen seasons (and possibly being picked up for more by ABC) distinguishes itself by being consistently funny and also essentially kind. Kind sitcoms are only slightly rarer than funny ones, but kindness seems to be one of Judge’s hallmarks. Even the biting satire of Idiocracy and Office Space had an essential benign optimism.
So, it’s not surprising that “The Goode Family”, Judge’s new show is both funny and kind. In fact, it’s “King of the Hill”, only instead of the well-meaning, stalwart Hank Hill, we have the well-meaning, and less stalwart Gerald Goode. (Mr. Goode is surely in touch with his feminine side, a proposition that would appall Mr. Hill.) Judge uses a voice closer to his Office Space character’s (the passive aggressive Chotchki’s manager) but the cadences are still very similar to Hank’s.
It’s also a bit more exaggerated, I think, than KotH. At one point, Helen Goode (the wife, played by Nancy Carrell) is at the Whole Foods-clone and looking at a big board which lists things that are Good on one side, and things that are Bad on the other. As she watches, “farm raised catfish” toggles between good and bad several times.
There is a religious aspect to all of this, as well as a social-religious aspect. Where people used to go to church for guidance and also to one-up each other, the Goodes go shopping. And you sort of have to admire Helen for handling the paper-or-plastic dilemma in a way that makes every other woman shopping–who had all been trying to make her feel bad a second ago–feel ecologically inadequate.
There are a lot of good dynamics here already: The Goodes’ neighbor is a black man who doesn’t eat vegetables. Gerald’s boss at the university is more interested in the bottom line while paying lip service to diversity. Helen’s father brings rib take out over to the (naturally, vegan) Goodes house.
And then there are the two kids: Ubuntu (Judge regular, David Herman) , the child that the Goodes adopted from Africa, without realizing he was a blond-haired South African; and Bliss (Linda Cardellini) who rebels in the first episode by eschewing frank talk about sex with her mom for an abstinence group.
Christians make an appearance in the form of purity pushers. David Herman also plays Trayvor (Trevor?) who Bliss likes and who is an aspiring Michael Moore-type “documentary” maker who is planning to ridicule them. The show doesn’t dance around the fact that these open-minded, tolerant people–represented most squarely by Helen–really aren’t particularly interested in–or comfortable with–people who disagree with them.
So, a lot like “King of the Hill”.
I was laughing out loud through a lot of the episode. Here are some lines I liked:
Gerald, trying to distract his wife from Bliss’ interest in abstinence: “The View is on. The pretty one is saying crazy stuff again.”
Helen, who doesn’t approve of Gerald’s support of Bliss, and also doesn’t want their newly 16-year-old son to drive: “You’re teaching our son to drive and our daughter to not have sex: Where have I gone wrong?”
Gerald, in response to Helen’s objections that a man is wearing a flag pin: “Since the election we can all wear flag pins!”
If you missed it on ABC Wednesday, you can view it at ABC.com and IMDB.com.