"The Goode Family" is a short-lived animated TV series from 2009, created by Mike Judge (of "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "King of the Hill" fame) along with John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky who were writers for "King of the Hill". The premise of the show is a married couple with two teenage kids and a dog who live in a town called Greenville. They along with most other people in the town try their best to be environmentally and politically correct. Their eating habits are vegan (no meat or other animal products), they drive a hybrid car and then only when it's absolutely necessary, and are adamant recyclers. All 13 episodes are presented here on two DVDs.
The father of the family, Gerald Goode (voiced by Mike Judge) parallels "Beavis and Butt-Head"'s David Van Driessen (the hippie-like high school teacher) in the same way "King of the Hill"'s Hank Hill paralleled neighbor Tom Anderson from "Beavis". Judge uses the same calm tone of voice as his Van Driessen character, with the attitude of not putting up a fight with anybody and not really caring what anyone else thinks of him (he wears bike shorts in most episodes, which look a bit ridiculous on him). Helen Goode is the mother, voiced by Nancy Carell. She has most of Gerald's beliefs but seems to do most things mainly to appear favorably to the other people in town. Her obsession is shopping at an organic grocery store called "One Earth", an obvious play on Whole Foods Market. Their daughter Bliss (Linda Cardellini) is stuck halfway between wanting to share her family's ideals and just being a "normal" person of her age. Then there's adopted son Ubuntu (David Herman). The Goodes adopted him because they thought it would be good to adopt an African child (presumably black) to "fight racism and inequality in the world". When Ubuntu arrived they found out he was white, having been born in South Africa. He has a rather primitive personality, speaking in a low voice and wears a stereotypical African outfit including a T-shirt with a map of Africa on it.
There are many interesting supporting characters including Helen's dad Charlie, voiced by Brian Doyle-Murray, who has more middle-of-the-road values and drops by the family's house in several episodes. He provides a good counterpoint to the main characters, usually laughing at them. The Goodes' dog Che also provides a humorous counterpoint as the family believes he shares their values including a vegan diet (they give him special vegan dog food) but he is shown devouring any animal he can get his paws on when their backs are turned. (One recurring joke is missing animal flyers posted around town, presumably Che has killed and eaten all of them.)
Julia Sweeney and Laraine Newman voice a number of supporting female characters across the series as well, and there are a few young folk such as a One Earth store worker who could be a more enlightened incarnation of "Butt-Head".
I found many episodes hilarious- such as the pilot episode where most of the characters and concepts are introduced, and daughter Bliss ends up joining an abstinence group that holds a creepy father-daughter dance at a church. Another is titles "Public Disturbance" where Gerald starts a public radio station in town only to find out the "Public Broadcast Radio" corporation (obviously meant to be NPR, National Public Radio) isn't quite as non-profit or non-commercial as it appears to be. I'll just say this one hit home from my experiences. A couple other episodes fall a bit flat though, such as "A Goode Game of Chicken" where the Goodes end up helping a local BBQ restaurant come up with a meatless chili recipe to enter in a local cook-off.
The series ran on the ABC network and was quickly cancelled. I personally gave up on network TV in 1998, after CBS and then ABC joined the other broadcast networks in keeping their logo onscreen during all shows. (I find this practice more annoying than almost anything else in the world, and cannot believe it has been tolerated by viewers or those involved in the production of TV shows.) The only reason I knew of "The Goode Family"'s existence is because I did watch the entire final day of full-power analog TV for sentimental reasons (overall it didn't go out with a lot of class), when the "Helen's Back" episode aired making it the very last animated show to air on analog television (aside from the occasional Bible cartoon I've caught on a remaining low-power religious station). I found the constant ABC logo to be a huge distraction from enjoying the show, and also the excessive amount of commercials. Of course the DVD set presents the shows logo-free and commercial-free, although black spots are obvious where the commercial breaks would have been. These shows ran in 30-minute slots, but only come out to 21 and a half minutes without the commercial breaks (compare that to DVDs of older ABC shows "The Brady Bunch" and "The Partridge Family" which got more than 25 minutes of program time!) and it appears most segments run from about 5 to 7 minutes before viewers were treated to more commercials. This is why I have no reservations about calling the format of current television an unwatchable mess, and intelligent shows like this suffer the most from it. I can't see this show's theme being very favorable with many corporate sponsors either, most likely another reason it was not so successful.
The "Goode" news for the show's fans is that this DVD release may give it a second chance, much like how "Family Guy" and "Futurama" were brought back from cancellation after successful DVD releases, which would of course then mean we'd get more new episodes on DVD down the line.
All "Goode Family" episodes are presented in 4x3 format, although the discs' menus are 16x9. Despite being "only" standard DVD, I was very impressed by the picture quality. Drawn lines are very sharp and there are little to no compression artifacts (a relief after being frustrated recently with watching some older "Simpsons" episodes on DVD on my HDTV and finding the compression on that almost intolerable.) Colors are also very bright.
Audio is in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with an alternate 2-channel mix. I found the 5.1 mix above average for made-for-television content, with a few surprising uses of surround thrown in a few places.
There are no subtitles on the DVDs, but they do include standard TV-decoded closed captions which you will need an analog component, S-Video or composite connection with your player set to 480i resolution in order to access.
A few deleted scenes for each episode are included, most in black-and-white pencil test form with minimal sound. Given the ever-increasing amount of network commercial time, it seems the shows were forced to move fast and not deviate from the main plot too much. Audio commentary from creators John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky are included on four episodes. These provide a good background on the series in general, such as wanting to do something that was the opposite of "King of the Hill", and real-life events that inspired some scenes and characters. They also talk a bit about frustrations in dealing with ABC executives, such as their not understanding the amount of time needed to produce animated episodes (I'm sure the lawyers prevented more of this from being discussed.) During the last commentary they mention their hopes of the series getting a second life in another venue.
The second disc includes two promotional segments with the actors talking about their characters- these appear to have been made for online viewing, as the video quality on these is a bit choppy and they are presented on disc inside a drawn TV screen on a shelf in the Goodes' living room. There is another segment showing how the Groove Addicts made the music for the show, but it turns silly really quick when they try to convince us they used carved vegetables instead of real instruments. Finally there's a satirical "Unaired PSA" in black and white pencil test form with Gerald discussing energy conservation. Three scripts for episodes that would have been produced had the show been picked up for a second season are included in PDF format (viewable only on a PC) on Disc 2 as well.
"The Goode Family" is a bit uneven but it's still very entertaining overall, and fans of Mike Judge's previous work will no doubt enjoy it. Although I simply cannot watch current network or cable TV (at least until they finally ELIMINATE anything onscreen other than the actual show content while it is playing!), I would certainly like to see what else could be done with these characters if the show is able to be revived in one form or another. Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Davis, CA where I spent my formative years and ended up driving back to work in after I had moved out of town. Greenville could likely have been modeled very closely after Davis, and I'm sure many moments will ring true with anyone who has ever lived there.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.