Mike Judge is often more astute than he is funny. Idiocracy, for instance, is a better movie for what it portends than for what it actually is: A mildly amusing but brilliantly sharp satire on the direction our popular culture is heading. It’s a modestly enjoyable movie to watch, but it’s the movie’s commentary that sticks with you long after it’s over. Likewise, the brilliant Office Space bombed at the box-office, but its subsequent cult following owes as much to the relatable aspects of the movie as it does the gags. Judge is an impeccable observationalist, but he’s not always keen with the zingers. His work tends to be a little more clever than it is entertaining, which is why — I suspect — “King of the Hill” managed to stay on the air long after it stopped being funny; it still has some nice social commentary running through it.
Judge’s latest animated sitcom, “The Goode Family,” which he created and writes along with “King of the Hill’s” John Altschuler, is on the extreme end of that spectrum. It’s not very funny at all, but at least it is sometimes clever in a way that’s relatable to hippe liberal do-gooders and when the stabs at social commentary aren’t terribly outdated. “The Goode Family” concerns a family politically opposite to Hank Hill’s and, like “King of the Hill,” it seems to poke fun at the political ideology of the central family far more than it embraces it. The Goodes are a painfully politically correct family, the type with a bumper sticker that reads “Support Our Troops … and Their Opponents,” who are vegan (even their dog, Che), and who spend a lot of time worrying about the appropriate terminology for African Americans (“Black? African American? Colored People? People of Color? ). They’re far more apt to follow their ideology to its logical extreme than they are to use common sense.
They’re also annoying as hell.
That’s sort of the point of “The Goode Family,” to demonstrate just how annoying do-gooderism can be — they live by the creed, WWAGD? (“What Would Al Gore Do?); they separate two-ply toilet paper into one-ply; and they won’t shop at the big-box stores because they “don’t even have a mission statement.” The problem, unfortunately, is that they’re also too annoying to bear for a full 22 minutes. The family, for instance, is too poor to shop at high-end organic stores, but insist on doing so anyway. So when the mother is unable to afford a reusable bag, instead of using paper or plastic, she carries all of her items out by hand. Also, they wanted to adopt a child from Africa; however, the mistakenly ended up with a White South African child, and they’re not able to fully hide their disappointment.
The pilot episode centers on the parent’s struggles with their 16-year-old daughter’s sexual life (her name is Bliss, of course). So insistent is Helen Goode on talking to her daughter about her sexual activity and be “tight, like BFFs” (“I was going to tell her the story about my first orgasm”) that Bliss turns to an Abstinence-Only club to rebel. Bliss attends a Purity Ball with her father as a date. “You’re teaching our son to drive and our daughter not to have sex,” Helen says to her husband, Gerald. “Where did I go wrong?!”
But the real question is, where did this show go wrong? “The Goode Family” demonstrates why Mike Judge’s observational humor occasionally fails. Instead of incorporating actual humor into the show, Judge presents an irritatingly obnoxious, overly liberal family and expects that we’ll simply laugh at the absurdity. Instead, it’s mostly just irritating, like an entire sitcom devoted to Bill Lumburgh might be. Indeed, “The Goode Family” demonstrates why, while I like to buy local food at the farmer’s market, I don’t actually like to talk with the sellers. I’m just glad that “The Goode Family” isn’t presented in Smell-O-Vision — I’d have to stand 20 feet away from the TV to watch it.