Sunday, May 31, 2009

Goode for... Something

The Goode Family, Mike Judge's new series on ABC (Wednesday at 9pm), has a ways to go to measure up to King of the Hill, if the pilot episode is any indication. A lot of the gags poking fun at the pretensions of the left fell pretty flat. I'm reminded of Daniel Flynn's comment on Ayn Rand's work in his book INTELLECTUAL MORONS: "Rand's liberals are caricatures of real liberals, but that may be because liberals are themselves often cartoonish." The Goodes' characterizations are "cartoonish" in a way that those of Hank, Peggy, and Bobby Hill never were (though Bobby was a little bizarre at the start of the series, being hypnotized by ants and the like). I don't know how much potential for character development is there.

Towards the end of the episode, the father and daughter basically were on their own, and I think that was a good move. The Goodefather (hyuck) is basically Judge's Mr. Van Dreesen from Beavis and Butt-Head all over again, but seems a likable guy for all that. Bliss may be the character who, wittingly or un-, brings all sorts of non-progressive notions into the Goode's household and therefore will be forced to make real choices about her beliefs. On the other hand, Mrs. (I guess I should say "Ms.," eh?) Goode folded up like an accordion under societal pressure, taking straight to drink at one point, while Ubuntu the African adopted boy (a white kid from South Africa -- Nicky has a white co-worker from S.A. who resents the fact that the term "African American" is reserved solely for blacks born in the U.S.) seems positively weird, with his guttural dialogue and bizarrely deep voice. Given how Bobby started out, however, I would say there's some hope for Ubuntu.

In upcoming eps, I think that the creators will be well served to (1) give the Goodes some good foils and (2) anchor them in some definitive sense of "place." Goode needs some "pals" like Hank's. Perhaps the show can take a page from Hanna-Barbera's Wait Till Your Father Gets Home (viz., Harry Boyle's ultra-right-wing neighbor Ralph) and create a character who is both friends with Goode and an even farther-out liberal than him. The black neighbor who acted bemused when the Goodes tried to interact with him might be a good straight man. Then, to balance the ticket, how about a conservative friend who's a little less stereotyped than the church folks and their "purity ball." Mrs. Goode's "pressure group" at the Whole Foods-type store didn't impress me, but perhaps their personalities will be further developed down the road. No number of supporting players, however, will help if we can't get a feel for where, exactly, the Goodes live. Apparently it's supposed to be a Midwestern town, so we're already fighting against "creeping generic syndrome" in a way that the Texan characters of KOTH never had to. I'm sorry that they didn't make it a true college town, as opposed to a town that simply has a junior college (Goode's employer) in it.

Best gags so far? (1) The dog Che's ravenous appetite for meat in protest of his unwanted vegan diet. Best illustration of the "Law of Unintended Consequences" I've seen in a long while; (2) Mrs. Goode's reacting to flag pins like Dracula to the brandishing of a cross. Those bits don't appear to have much room for further development, however, so the gag writers had better get busy. The pilot supposedly did rather poorly in the ratings, so the next couple of weeks will determine the show's fate. Remember how networks yanked shows like Capitol Critters, God, the Devil, and Bob and Clerks from circulation at the first signs of slippage. Hopefully, Judge's good track record will buy the show the time it needs to improve.

2 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

I’ll exempt Beavis and Butt-Head from this discussion and assume King of the Hill to be Mike Judge’s first “legitimate” network series.

What is it about the producers of Prime Time animated series that causes them to fail to catch the lightning twice?

The Flintstones (the model for ALL that would follow – as both The Simpsons and Family Guy continue to rightly acknowledge) failed to translate into success for Top Cat, The Jetsons, and Jonny Quest. Though ALL these series became HUGE in follow-up Sat AM runs and syndication.

Futurama was not nearly as good as The Simpsons.

American Dad, despite its continuance, is nowhere near as good as Family Guy.

Neither Futurama nor American Dad would have continued on any network other than FOX, making their “lengths-of-run” rather unique situations.

Now, not surprisingly, The Goode Family does not measure up to King of the Hill.

I haven’t seen it (…and maybe I’d better HURRY!), but I REALLY don’t care for the character designs. And, an unfortunate truth (at least with me) is that the designs and “look” of an animated series count for a lot.

Joe.

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

You may be right about twice (or more) not being the charm. If I don't see improved focus and better gags in tonight's ep, I'll definitely start to worry. I wonder whether ABC will be plugging the series during the NBA finals. If you see more ads for WIPEOUT than for the Goodes, the die will probably have been cast.

Chris