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May 27, 2009

Mike Judge's New Anti-Liberal (???) Show Launches Tonight

Just a head's up in case you're interested.

Director Mike Judge’s new animated television series “The Goode Family” is a send-up of a clan of environmentalists who live by the words “What would Al Gore do?” Gerald and Helen Goode want nothing more than to minimize their carbon footprint. They feed their dog, Che, only veggies (much to the pet’s dismay) and Mr. Goode dutifully separates sheets of toilet paper when his wife accidentally buys two-ply. And, of course, the family drives a hybrid.

It's on ABC at 9 PM.

Here's the thing: It's not going to be anti-liberal. It can't be. No one can write a show starring unlikable, unsympathetic characters. Not only is that a commercially awful idea, but writers and producers themselves can't manage it -- imagine writing scripts every week for characters you personally don't like. It's a hard thing to do.

30 Rock tosses out a lot of cheap jokes about Republicans. But archliberal Alec Baldwin plays a gonzo Republican, and the character is too likable to do service as an anti-Republican mouthpiece. Among other things, he's the smartest and wisest character on the show.* It's kinda hard to really slam Republicans via a Republican character when that character is the smartest, wisest, and also funniest. In an unintentional way, 30 Rock is actually kinda pro-Republican. The political jabs at the Baldwin character's expense are too usually too silly to be credited as serious (he's on the Committee to Re-Invade Vietnam, for example) and the rest of the time the character is too busy being cool, being loyal to friends, etc., to make for much of a scare-figure.

And so it will be with The Goode Family. Mike Judge certainly intends some kind of spoof of liberals, but the fact that these liberals are the show's main characters will make that spoof very soft indeed. Really aggressive political parody relies in no small part on dehumanizing the opposition (or at least failing to consider their humanity much at all); any tv show is going to mostly about the humanity of its main characters.

I'm not saying don't watch the show or anything. Mike Judge is a funny guy, and the show might be good. I'm just sayin' -- don't expect any sort of genuine red meat. A few barbs, sure, but ultimately the characters are going to be shown as warm and trying to do what they think is the right thing, and that sort of empathy for them is going to blunt the attacks down to almost nothing.

Another Example: Spinal Tap. Yeah, supposedly the movie is spoofing these guys. But the characters are so lunkheadedly lovable that the movie basically becomes and advertisement for heavy metal.

* I guess the Jack McBrayden character might be the funniest. A Bible-thumping southern boy who, again, is so likable (without doubt he's the most unselfish, idealistic, and ethical character on the show, even if he's naive to the point of diagnosable mental retardation) that he is not a particularly useful vehicle for attacking the religious right.



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posted by Ace at 09:52 AM

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