Thursday, June 04, 2009

Goode Enough?

When I heard that Mike Judge was coming out with a new animated series about the foibles of an all-too-earnest, environmentally over-conscious family I was intrigued. I've enjoyed Judge's work in the past, especially "Beavis and Butthead" and "Office Space." "King of the Hill" had its moments, but I thought the show far outlasted the useful shelf life of its premise.

While I missed last week's premier of The Goode Family, I was able to catch both of last night's episodes. At this point, my verdict on the show is mixed.

The two episodes did feature some hilarious examples of Judge's deft touch at nailing the mannerisms, dialog, virtues, and vices of particular personality types that we're all familiar with. Once again, we're able to relate cartoon characters who are far more real to us than 95% of the people we typically see portrayed on television.

But some of the Goode characters seem just a bit too familiar. Perhaps Judge is just following the family mantra of "reduce, reuse, and recycle." The father Gerald Goode is clearly based on the tree hugging teacher from "Beavis and Butthead." At first blush you might not think it, but the mother Helen shares many of the same impulsive personality traits with one Peggy Hill, although both would likely be far too stubborn to ever admit it. You can also see some Bobby Hill in the Goode's adopted son Ubuntu (great back-story there). The most obvious example is Helen's dad Charlie, who likes to drive a SUV and kill and eat animals. There is more than a little Cotton Hill (Hank's dad) character carryover there.

While this familiarity isn't necessarily a negative, it does lead me to question the long-term sustainability of the show. At this point in the life cycle of the series it's impossible to make a definitive judgment. The success or failure of the show will likely come down to the answer to this question: Is there enough material in the tank to keep the "Goode Family" hybrid running for an extended journey? Some of the storylines in last night's episodes already seem to be borrowing from "King of the Hill"--especially the high school football sub-culture--and it's not clear if the "Goode Family" premise will generate the necessary original content to keep the show consistently fresh and funny. But if anyone can pull that off, Mike Judge can. We'll definitely be watching.

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