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It's So Hard to Be Good: An Advance Review of ABC's "The Goode Family"

It's no surprise that ABC is dumping its new animated comedy The Goode Family in the hinterlands of summer.

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to watch the first episode of this new series (which launches tonight) from creators Mike Judge (King of the Hill), John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, about a family of vegan do-gooders who are determined to leave the Earth a better place than they found it.

The good-intentioned family consists of father Gerald (Mike Judge), a college administrator, mother Helen (Nancy Carell), a community activist, sarcastic teenage daughter Bliss (Linda Cardellini), and adopted teenage son Ubuntu (Dave Herman), whom the Goodes believed was black when they adopted him from Africa. Now sixteen, he is still oblivious to the fact that he's actually white (he puts down African-American as his ethnicity on his driver's license form). And, oh, even the family's dog Che is a vegan, though the canine harbors an insatiable hunger for the neighborhood pets, stalking and killing most of the smaller animals around the town.

The Goode Family would have been a hell of a lot funnier five or ten years ago when political correctness was in full swing and the sort of observations about organic apples, fuel-efficiency, veganism, and fair trade would have seemed timely and sharp. Here, they seem to have about the same bite as Che's malnourished gums. There's a leaden feeling to The Goode Family that's further weighed down by the sensation that we're seeing a television series that should have aired years ago.

As it is, we've all heard these jokes now ten-thousand times before: the paper versus plastic dilemma at a global organics market (clearly subbing in for Whole Foods), the meat is murder/woven-hemp aesthetic of the vegan culture, the joys of biking to work versus conspicious fuel consumption of SUVs, the earnest confusion of whether to call someone "African-American" or a "person of color," and teens rebelling against their overbearing hippie parents by not having sex at all.

There's nothing particularly new or original about The Goode Family and the overwrought and unfunny jokes about green living and do-goodery fall particularly flat. (They also felt like clunkers on the page as well.) Which is a shame as Mike Judge has succeeded in the past at skewering social subsets with a gleeful abandon, but the same can't be said about The Goode Family, which just seems tired and worn, even in the first outing.

Nancy Carell's Helen bemoans the fact that it's "so hard to be good" not once but twice in the opening episode and I can't help but agree with her, especially in the case of predictable and unimaginative animated comedies like The Goode Family.

The Goode Family premieres tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on ABC.


AskRachel said…
I think this premise could still be funny but it sounds like the humor is too obvious and not clever enough. If you're going to tackle this subject, which has been done a millions times before, you have to really do something unique and original.
Hadley said…
I love Office Space but I have to admit that I've never been a fan of any animated TV that Mike Judge has done. It's not that I don't "get it"...I just don't think it's funny.

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