We watched the 1st 3 episodes of The Goode Family last night — the latest cartoon from Mike Judge (Beavis & Butt-head, Office Space, King Of The Hill, Idiocracy). Good[e] stuff! Way better than King Of The Hill.

No, this is not simply King Of The Hill with rednecks instead of yuppies.

That would be like calling American DadFamily Guy with a government employee instead of a Homer Simpson clone”, or like calling Family GuySimpsons but with normal looking people”, or like calling Simpsons “Fred Flintstone in the modern age”, or like calling The Cosby Show “Growing Pains with black people”.

Adult cartoons are a genre, and it’s no coincidence that these shows have similar aspects. They’re all in the same genre. Bugs Bunny is like Tom & Jerry, but only because they are in the same genre.

They are differ net shows with different dynamics.

And so is The Goode Family.

Like King Of The Hill, both cartoons are shows about families, drawn in the animation style of Mike Judge, and living in a realistic depiction of our current world. And that’s where the similarity ends.

Hell — American Dad and Family Guy are closer to each other than King Of The Hill and this show are. American Dad and Family Guy, while quite different, have a lot of the same kinds of jokes and craziness. American Dad is a bit more zany with weird characters (an alien and a talking fish), and Family Guy has the non-plot-related cutaway scenes (Manatee jokes). Remove the alien and the talking fish from American Dad, and the Manatee jokes from Family Guy — and the shows are indeed somewhat similar. But they have distinctive elements that set them apart from each other. For example, American Dad is waaaaay more political-oriented than Family Guy, and many of the jokes are about America and its current political culture.

Similarly, The Goode Family seems to be at least as political as King Of The Hill — but in the opposite direction. Instead of dealing with Hank Hills annoying conservatism, we get to deal with Gerald Goode’s annoying liberalism and ultra-environmentalism.

Character-wise, Mike Judge has basically upgraded every character from King Of The Hill into a superior character in The Goode Family:

1) Gerald Goode > Hank Hill. Gerald Goode takes things way farther than even the most liberal people I know. He really does take showers outside, using rain water. He believes you should feel guilty every time you drive. He, like me, has no comprehension of football. Hank Hill was a great character, pretty much based exactly on Tom Anderson, but with the depth that 253 episodes will give a character. But David Van Driesen from Beavis & Butt-head was *always* funnier than Tom Anderson, and Van Driesen is the basis for Gerald Goode. Even the way he talks is funnier.

You can only make fun of conservative Texans for so long — 13 years, and it starts to grow old. We get it. Making fun of conservatives is fun, but it’s also a bit scary that they’re really like that. Now it’s time for some equal time to make fun of liberals. And what a better time than now, since we once again have a Democratic president with Obama. I wonder how many environmentalists will be offended by this? (Get a sense of humor, guys!) Either way, Gerald Goode is someone I’d much rather know in real life than Hank Hill. College administrator > propane salesman. Hippie > redneck. Environmentally conscious > truck driver. Liberal > conservative. Van Driesen > Tom Anderson.

2) Helen Goode > Peggy Hill. She has some of the same “common television housewife hangups” regarding competing with the other housewives. We’ve seen this in Marge Simpson, we’ve seen this in Lois Griffin (Family Guy), and we’ve seen this with Francine Smith (American Dad). Competing with other housewives is about as generic as you can get, and it doesn’t mean the shows are similar, but rather that they employ similar two-dimensional views of women (they are created by a man, y’know… And Mike Judge was never as good as creating female characters as he was male characters.) But Helen is still better than Peggy Hill. You know the feeling you get when you watch an episode of King Of The Hill, and you realize it’s going to be a “Peggy episode”. Like S3E6: Peggy’s Pageant Fever, where Peggy enters a beauty pageant in hopes of winning a truck, but quickly discovers she is not fit to compete with the other contestants? Peggy has always been SO INCREDIBLY FULL of herself. She thinks she’s smarter than she is, and it stops being funny after awhile. Helen Goode doesn’t seem to be so full of herself. She is much realer, and much less annoying. Helen Goode > Peggy Hill.

Then we have the kids:

3) Ubuntu Goode > Luanne Platter. While Luanne wasn’t technically Hank & Peggy Hill‘s daughter, she does have the “dumb child” role in King Of The Hill. In The Goode Family, the “dumb” child is Ubuntu. They tried to adopt a black kid from South Africa, but forgot to check a checkbox, and got the white son of Afrikaners instead. What sweet irony! He gets to have a driver’s license that says “African American”, even though he is white-skinned. And he’s named after a Unix flavor (Ubuntu), for chrissakes. How cool is that? But Ubuntu is WAY less annoying than Luanne. Remember that sinking feeling you get when you watch King Of The Hill, and you realize it’s going to be a “Luanne episode”? Her playing with her Christian puppets. Jesus Christ, Christian puppets are NOT funny, and neither is Luanne. She makes incredibly stupid comments — which are often funny. But she is basically Joey from Friends. Remember when everyone groaned that it was Joey who got the spinoff show? And it didn’t last, either. Luanne has always been occasionally funny, but quite annoying. Ubuntu, I think, has Aspergers Syndrome. He rarely talks, and only talks a few words at a time. (He makes me think of the NoFX song “Monosyllabic Girl”.) But he can parallel park without ever being taught, and is fascinated with machinery. I’d almost lay down some money that, if the show continues past Season One, there will be an episode revealing that he has Aspergers syndrome. Either way, Ubuntu is not nearly as annoying, wholesome, stupid, or skanky as Luanne Platter. Ubuntu Goode > Luanne Platter/

4) Bliss Goode > Bobby Hill.. As the “smart”-ish kid, she is the “female Bobby” for this show. Call me superficial, but even in an animated show, I’d rather see a skinny teenage girl than a chubby pre-teen boy full of prop comedy and sometimes-bad humor. Bliss (what a name!) is thinking of becoming sexually active in one of the episodes — this is far more interesting than anything that happens to Bobby. Bliss, while not quite as overtly comedic as Bobby, is simply a more realistic character. She is not as superior to Bobby as the other characters are — and she hasn’t had much coverage in the first 3 episodes. But I’m still going to have to say: Bliss Goode > Bobby Hill.

Then we have the pet. Even the pet is better!

5) Che > Ladybird. Even the name is funnier. But the fact that this poor dog is being forced to eat flaxseed vegetarian dog food is SO SO SO sad, yet fills my heart with schadenfreude. Whenever the dog sees another living creature, we go into an almost Ren & Stimpy-esque “Dog view cam” where you see the dog’s tunnel vision and increased pulse. HE. WANTS. MEAT. But meat is murder! There’s a reason there’s missing pet posters all over town. The dog can’t stand the vegetarian food being forced upon him, and the owners are so over-liberalized that they can’t even understand they are being cruel to the dog. AND THAT’S FUNNY! “Look at Che try to warn that squirrel to stay in the trees so the other dogs don’t get him!” No, actually… Che is trying to eat the squirrel. Look carefully. What’s in Che’s mouth during the theme song? Haha. Ladybird from King Of The Hill was NEVER this funny, not even when Ladybird was determined to be a racist dog. Che has more humor in 3 episodes than Ladybird has had in 253 episodes, so I am declaring Che no less than 84.3333 times funnier.

There’s also a grandad:

6) Charlie Goode. He has only been on screen for a few minutes, and mostly not until episode #3. This guy actually seems very close in character to Cotton Hill, Hank’s shinless father. Except he’s not so incisively and incessantly annoying. He seems to be more ignorant, than malicious. While these are probably the 2 most similar characters between the show, I don’t yet want him dead the way I (and Peggy) wanted Cotton Hill dead. Cotton was GODDAMN ANNOYING. Which was part of his humor. But I still think Charlie Goode > Cotton Hill.

In short, it seems like Mike Judge is doing the same thing he’s been doing since 1993: Making funny cartoons with funny characters.

While nothing will ever top Beavis & Butt-head, most die-hard B&B fans will admit that King Of The Hill was a disappointment.
Yes, it’s a great show.
Yes, it was sometimes even funnier than The Simpsons.
But it represented SUCH a step down from Beavis & Butt-head that it was disconcerting.

And while Fox stupidly canceled cartoons that were better than King Of The HillFamily Guy, Futurama, and even The Critic (depending on one’s humor preference) — King Of The Hill JUST KEPT GOING. I didn’t mind. I watched every episode the week it came out for 13 years, never missing a single one. If I could push a button and un-cancel King Of The Hill — I would. But not at the expense of losing The Goode Family. Every character is better. I look forward to show’s continued development, and exposure to secondary characters. Every cartoon eventually builds up a rich library of secondary characters that help keep things interesting. King Of The Hill has many, many characters that don’t live on the same street as Hank Hill or appear in every episode — John Redcorn, Chuck Mangione, Stuart Dooley, Buck Strickland, Hank’s co-workers, etc. Hopefully The Goode Family also builds up a nice repoire of secondary characters — because they definitely make cartoons more interesting.

In conclusion… I look forward to the rest of the episodes greatly. Mike Judge has finally made a step up, instead of a step down (even Idiocracy wasn’t as good as Office Space). It’s been a long time coming, and I’m happy to see him back in business, and finally surpassing things he’s done in the past for just about the first time ever.

But nothing will ever be as good as Beavis & Butt-head!

Mood: full
Music: Nine Inch Nails – The Great Destroyer