Making a Mockery of Being Green
The creator of ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ and ‘King of the Hill’ has a new target: Danny Bloom and other green environmentalists
Question: is this a Rip off of British TV Show "The Good Life" which ran on BBC from 1975 to 1978. Repeats are still shown everywhere.
By JAMIN BROPHY-WARREN
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.
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Community activist Helen Goode (the voice of Nancy Carell) chats with a neighbor in the coming ABC animated series ‘The Goode Family,’ which pokes fun at a household of environmentalists living in the Midwest.
On Wednesday at 9 p.m., “The Goode Family” will have its premiere on ABC and become the first animated series on the network’s prime-time lineup since 1995 when “The Critic” starring Jon Lovitz ended its second season.
For ABC, “Goode” will be a test of the network’s ability to find new scripted television hits. ABC had only two non-reality series in the top household shows this season, according to Nielsen. ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” has been strong, but not as popular as it was two years ago.
Although Mr. Judge’s past television shows, “Hill” and MTV’s “Beavis and Butt-Head,” have been successful on television and on DVD, some other recent animated series have fizzled. Earlier this month, Fox pulled “Sit Down, Shut Up,” an animated series with alumni from the cult-favorite “Arrested Development,” after only four episodes. Fox says the series may return in the fall. (Mr. Judge didn’t work on the show.)
The animation process can be prohibitively expensive, costing more than $2 million per episode for a prospective prime-time project. Part of the problem is that each episode can take up to a year to create. (Shows that specialize in less-sophisticated animation, like “South Park,” can churn out shows more quickly.)
Television Clip: "The Goode Family"
View a scene from "The Goode Family," a new animated series from ABC. Video courtesy ABC.
Much as Mr. Judge’s series “King of the Hill” finds humor in the dramas of a working-class Texas family, “Goode” lampoons a liberal Midwestern household. In “Goode,” the characters are often mocked for being green just to fit in with their friends and neighbors. They are a perfect target for the 46-year-old Mr. Judge and his two longtime co-writers, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who have made careers out of finding humor in the follies and pretensions of everyday people.
Mr. Judge says he’s always been more interested in the lives of regular folks than with celebrities—in part, because he understands them better. “I couldn’t imitate famous people,” he says of his earliest comedic efforts. “I was usually good at imitating teachers and people around me.” The work of comic-book writer Harvey Pekar (the subject of the film “American Splendor”) had an influence on Mr. Judge. “Everyday life has a huge effect on people,” he says, paraphrasing one of Mr. Pekar’s creative mantras.
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Creator of ‘The Goode Family,’ Mike Judge.
“The Goode Family” came from an idea that Mr. Altschuler had while on vacation. Mr. Altschuler’s wife observed how difficult it was to “be good”—i.e., environmentally responsible. That became the central premise for the Goode Family. Mr. Judge, who says he was inspired by the mellow tones of National Public Radio hosts, provides the voice of the bicycle-riding college administrator Mr. Goode.
Known for his quiet demeanor, Mr. Judge commutes to Los Angeles when he needs to, but usually records voice parts at his studio near his home in the Austin suburbs. “He likes to whisper at you,” says actor Stephen Root, who’s worked with Mr. Judge on several projects. Mr. Root can recall hearing him raise his voice to actors only once—on a particularly hot day in Austin on the set of “Office Space.” “He wanted to make sure they had water,” Mr. Root recalls.
The son of a librarian mother and an archaeologist dad, Mr. Judge was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, during a family trip. “I became more interested in [my father’s] work later on,” says Mr. Judge. “You naturally think whatever your parents did was boring.” In high school, he developed a knack for impressions, including one of a priest with a lisp.
A string of nondescript jobs followed, including stints unloading spools of chain-link fence and work at Southern fast-food chain Whataburger, where he earned “employee of the month.” A temp position alphabetizing purchase orders influenced the on-screen job of the bespectacled, stapler-obsessed character Milton from his 1999 film “Office Space.” “I could only do that job for two weeks,” says Mr. Judge. After graduating from the University of California-San Diego with a degree in physics, and moving on to a graduate program at the University of Texas-Dallas, his interest in animation was stoked by a traveling cartoon festival. He tracked down an animation camera and started to teach himself the craft.
A Brief History of Mike Judge
Mike Judge’s career took off with the 1993 debut of “Beavis and Butt-Head,” but it didn’t end there. A look at feature films and animated television shows
Beavis and Butt-Head 1993
Based on an early cartoon of Mr. Judge’s called “Frog Baseball,” this series about a pair of metal-loving teens was his first success and became a franchise for MTV that established the network as an outlet for scripted programming.
20th Century Fox/Everett Collection
Office Space 1999
Aiming to capture the doldrums of office life, Mr. Judge’s first film became a cult hit after it fizzled in theaters. It was based on one of his jobs alphabetizing paperwork.
20th Century Fox/ Everett Collection
Joe Bauers (played by Luke Wilson, far left) wakes up in the future and finds a world dominated by rampant stupidity. Although praised by some critics, the film was a box office failure.
King of the Hill 1997-2009
Following the life of Hank Hill, “a propane and propane accessories” salesman, the show was Mr. Judge’s sardonic look at suburban life in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas
Find television listings at LocateTV .In January of 1992, Mr. Judge finished “Frog Baseball,” a three-minute short about a messy game of baseball involving two characters named Beavis and Butt-Head. He finished the short on a Thursday and mailed it to several networks. By the following week, MTV offered to buy the rights to his characters. Mr. Judge dropped out of his graduate program in Dallas and moved to New York City. He was 29 years old.
“Beavis and Butt-Head” made its official debut on MTV on March 8, 1993. A mix of music videos and Mr. Judge’s rough animation, it quickly won over fans. In 1994, just before the success of the full-length movie “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” Mr. Judge signed a two-year deal with Fox, launched the television show “King of the Hill” and turned one of his shorts, “Office Space,” into a feature film.
While “King of the Hill” was nominated for several Emmys, Mr. Judge’s big screen career wasn’t as smooth. “Office Space” opened poorly in 1999, due in part to a small marketing budget, but it did sell more than seven million copies on DVD. Mr. Judge agreed to do a more “commercial” follow-up, he says, called “Idiocracy,” about an average man transported into a future world devastated by rampant stupidity. Starring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph, “Idiocracy” didn’t test well before its long-delayed release in 2006, and it played in about 100 theaters nationwide. The marketing budget was so small that no poster was made for the film.
Mr. Judge’s feature-length film “Extract,” the story of a lovelorn factory manager starring Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, and Mila Kunis, hits theaters in September.
Recently, “King of the Hill,” which ran for 13 seasons on Fox, was canceled. (Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.) Ratings for the show had been steady and increased for the final season, putting it on par with two other animated series, “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.”
Mr. Judge says that he “holds no grudge” against Fox for canceling “King of the Hill” and its handling of “Idiocracy,” but would never again allow a studio, or anyone else, to own his ideas. A spokesperson for Fox says, “Mike Judge and Fox continue to maintain an excellent relationship.”
Mr. Judge had already begun talks to make his exit from Fox as his deal was set to expire with the completion of “Idiocracy.” Fox owns the rights to “King of the Hill,” but “Goode” is owned by Mr. Judge’s production company, Ternion and Media Rights Capital, which helped finance the show. Started three years ago with Messrs. Krinsky and Altschuler, Ternion is the new business vehicle for all Mr. Judge’s projects. The members of the trio say they were tired of selling off their ideas to the studios and wanted a new way to reach consumers. With their former sound editor Glenn Lucas from “King of the Hill” raising private financing, Ternion had enough money to start production on both “Extract” and “Goode” before they had distribution in place.
“When I turned 40, I was thinking that I’m getting too old to complain about studios. You don’t hear Steven Spielberg complaining about the man keeping him down,” Mr. Judge says.