Perhaps it’s not the changing landscape of the political arena that truly marks a shift in the American perspective, but the subject of its animated satires. This fall, FOX’s King of the Hill will end its 13-season reign as America’s go-to caricature study of good ol’ country living. The well-meaning but woefully simple-minded Hills will retire to their Texan abode a little less relevant than when they first appeared in 1997. In their stead, show creator Mike Judge has introduced a new kind of American nuclear family: the exasperatingly PC, über-green, Whole Foods-shopping Goodes.
A compact comedy stripped right from the stereotypes of “progressive” thinking, ABC’s The Goode Family is King of the Hill for tree-hugging blue staters. Gerald (voiced by Judge) and Helen Goode (Nancy Carell) are a couple that adheres to their liberal lifestyle so vigilantly that they fertilize their organic garden with elephant dung, put their dog on a vegan diet, and quip, “W.W.A.G.D? What would Al Gore Do?” The hybrid-driving family is rounded out by teenage daughter Bliss (Linda Cardellini), who is continually mortified by her mother’s attempts to talk openly about sex, and African son Ubuntu (David Herman), whom the Goodes adopted 16 years ago to make a statement about combating racism. What they didn’t realize was that Ubuntu came from South Africa and is inconveniently white.
It’s wry situations like this that fuel the show’s comedic draw. In their constant pursuit of a perfectly green, politically correct lifestyle, the Goodes unwittingly put themselves in ironic compromises that expose their good-natured hypocrisy. “Maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental. Don’t we always try to celebrate people’s differences and learn from them?” Gerald asks his wife after she opposes Bliss’s rebellious move to attend a religious Purity Ball. “Sure, if they’re Native Americans or backwards rain forest tribes, but not these people!” she retorts. As the eco-friendly movement and political shifts in power give rise to a new form of conformity, there’s ample material to be mined here, and Goode Family does well setting up clever dialogue and scenarios. (Another fertile running joke is that Che, the vegan dog, has been secretly consuming neighborhood pets in lieu of his meatless meals.)
What may prove to the show’s disadvantage, however, is the heavy-handedness with which it layers on the jabs. There’s a tendency for Goode Family to rely on cultural pratfalls rather than identifiable characters. Even though they hail from different parts of the lifestyle spectrum, the Goodes share the same haplessness and likeability as their Texan counterparts. But whereas the Hills boasted a fully-fleshed family dynamic, the Goodes seem superseded by the show’s own mission to cram in as many topics as possible into the half-hour timeslot. If the show treads a little more softly, there could be greatness; radical conformity is always lampoon-worthy, no matter the setting.