With material lacking the sweary, snarky, shock value of say a South Park or the universal appeal of simple pop culture references employed by the likes of Family Guy, Mike Judge has always had to work a lot harder for his audience. Seemingly more grounded than other animators – certainly more understated – Judge very carefully skates the line between subtlety and completely flying over people’s heads. The secret to his longevity and the success in such seemingly one note fare as King of The Hill lies in his ability to present divisive characters and controversial subject matter in a seemingly innocuous way.

Careful to showcase first and foremost the humanity of such reactionary figures as Hank Hill he not only enables those who are different to laugh at his antics, but those who are most similar to comfortably laugh along too. This lack of disdain on his part is his secret weapon and the reason he was able to transform the likes of Beavis and Butthead into an icon for the MTV generation despite them being a mocking, unflattering, distorted manifestation of the very people who were watching.

Now with King of the Hill about to come to an end, red state ideology seemingly rejected and the nation in the grip of Obama euphoria, its time for a change. Enter the Goode Family, a “green” household flailing in the paralyzing grip of political correctness (a bumper sticker reads “Support our troops…and their opponents”), where what you call something is more important than your overall attitude towards it. Living by the mantra WWAGD (What would Al Gore do?) they refuse to shop at a local foodmart because “they don’t even have a mission statement.”

In many ways The Goode Family are funhouse reflections of The Hills, and many of the central traits of the show are a direct mirror. They’re just as paranoid, fearful, self-righteous and every bit as loud, because going green to these people is just one more way of keeping up with the Jones’. It’s not enough to drive a hybrid – you have to let everyone know you are driving it. The children too are a constant niggle. Much in the way Bobby’s oddly effeminate behavior gave Hank sleepless nights, moderate daughter Bliss causes the headaches here by poking holes in her parents blinkered world view. Judge even transfers Hank’s daddy issues to Mother Goode, Helen.

One thing that is evident however is the difficulty in nailing down the realism of the humor. Conservative values are built so much on notions of traditionalism and preservation of the status quo that it was very easy for King of the Hill to hit that slow rhythm to the pace of life. Far left behavior is all about provoking change through shock and bold statement and it’s a much more difficult trait to cloak in the shroud of subtlety.

Crucially though as the opening episodes progress Gerald Goode begins to emerge as something of an identifiable human being. Yes he’s beyond feeble, but displays pragmatic tendencies rooted in an innate desire to do the right thing. Whether he manages to evolve into a character as lovable and enduring as Hank Hill remains to be seen, but in the meantime The Goode Family is worth seeking out for no other reason than after eight years of the right making themselves so easy to laugh at its just refreshing to be offered a different target.

Satrring: Nancy Carrell, Mike Judge, Linda Cardellini, David Herman, Dee Bradley Baker

Created By: Mike Judge, John Altschuler, David Krinsky

Network: ABC

Showtime: Friday 8:30pm

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