(Series; ABC, Weds. May 27, 9 p.m.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
What “King of the Hill” did for Texas rednecks, Mike Judge and crew accomplish with Prius-driving tree-huggers in “The Goode Family” — a smart, wryly funny animated comedy that’s going to need a strong word-of-mouth campaign to flourish. The sole qualifier is that the pilot chews through so many juicy storylines, the question of how fast the best plots will be exhausted represents a source of concern; still, assuming liberals can laugh at their own foibles, ABC might just have TV’s first true Obama-era sitcom on its hands.
Judge — the vocal talent/showrunner who has already birthed limited-animation gems “King” and “Beavis and Butt-head” — teams with former “King” colleagues John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky in crafting this half-hour about the Goodes. Gerald (voiced by Judge) and Helen (Nancy Carell) are so committed to their politically correct lifestyle that even the dog, Che, is forced to be a Vegan — though judging by watching him salivate at the sight of small animals that keep turning up missing, the meat-free experiment doesn’t quite appear to be working.
The pair’s teenage daughter Bliss (Linda Cardellini) doesn’t share mom and dad’s zealotry, and their attempt to adopt an African baby misfired when they brought home now-16-year-old Ubuntu (Dave Herman), who happened to be from South Africa and thus, inconveniently, white. When shopping at a big-box store is mentioned, Helen objects. “They don’t even have a mission statement!” she protests.
In virtually every respect, “The Goode Family” provides a tweaked mirror image of “King,” where the nuclear-family humor flows from a general worldview/way of life — there, Hank Hill’s red-state good ol’ boyishness; here, Gerald Goode’s blue-state “save the whales” creed.
Despite seeking to be constantly enlightened, however, the Goodes are equally hapless — unsure of what to call their African-American neighbor, flummoxed by recycled shopping bags, and determined to help each other in navigating ordinary situations consistently exacerbated by the way the couple filters everyday matters through their politics.
Ultimately, there’s no substitute for amusing scenarios like the one with the dog, and clever writing, which “The Goode Family” boasts in abundance. “�’The View’ is on,” Gerald says trying to cheer up Helen, who’s confused about what to tell Bliss regarding abstinence. “The pretty one is saying crazy stuff again.”
Capitalizing upon the show’s sizable comedy footprint might represent another matter. After all, the series premieres post-Memorial Day, without a natural lead-in, following a spring in which ABC comedies were roundly ignored. Moreover, its sensibility appears more obviously suited to Fox, where the program would probably run until Obama is termed out of office.
First things first, though, because with comedy, funny is funny. And at least based on its maiden voyage into TV’s carbon-expending space, “Goode” is flat-out good.