Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A chuckle of recognition


You may recall that the Fox Network announced last October they will not be renewing the long-running series “King of the Hill”, which will close out its 13th season next year.
“King of the Hill” is the second-longest running animated series in history – after “The Simpsons” – and in addition to being very popular, garnered much critical acclaim.
Of course, it has always been popular here in Texas, since it’s set in Texas. Neither of the two men behind the series – Mike Judge and Greg Daniels – are native Texans, but Judge lived many years in the Dallas area and obviously drew upon people and places he knew.
The family of Hank and Peggy Hill, their son Bobby and the niece who lived with them, LuAnn Platter – who came to stay with them after her mother went to prison for stabbing her boyfriend – just rang true, along with their neighbors, Wayne Gribble the conspiracy theorist, Bill Dauterive – who’s suffered from low self-esteem ever since his wife left him – and Jeff Boomhauer, always nearly unintelligible since he both mumbles and drawls ( I didn’t know there were people who did that, until I came to East Texas).
The humor on the show was accurate and gentle-natured; the chuckles came naturally. We laughed at the things we recognized. Sometimes I didn’t get some of the humor, not being a native Texan. Other times I was uncomfortable, as the show reminded me that, indeed, I’m not a native Texan. But it was always fun.
Mike Judge now lives in Austin, and I guess when he wanted to come up with another project to follow “King of the Hill”, he drew upon the people and places he now sees every day in that bastion of political correctness. The result – another project with Greg Daniels – was sold to ABC, and it debuts Wednesday night. “The Goode Family” is a gentle satire on eco-freaks and political liberals who try so hard to do good – hence the name.
The father of the family, Gerald Goode, “comes from a long line of over-educated liberals,” in Judge’s own words. Wife Helen is a liberal because her dad is such a right-wing curmudgeon. They have a daughter, Bliss, who is at that awkward stage of being a teenager who just wants to fit in, and is constantly chagrinned by her parents’ behavior.
Being such good politically correct liberals, years ago Gerald and Helen Goode decided to adopt a baby from Africa, but were flustered when the baby arrived from SOUTH Africa. That’s how you get a blond-headed white teenager named Ubuntu.
The family is vegan – meaning not only will they not eat meat, they won’t eat anything that comes from an animal (hence, no eggs, no milk, etc). Their dog, Che, is one of the funniest characters in the show as he frantically tries to catch squirrels and neighborhood pets to get some meat!
I don’t know if liberals will chuckle at themselves as much as more conservative, traditional people did when they watched “King of the Hill”. I hope so, it would do them some good. As the old saying goes, if you can’t laugh at yourself sometimes, other people will do it for you.
(Originally published in the Mount Pleasant (Tx.) Daily Tribune, Monday, May 25, 2009.

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