It’s Not Easy Being Goode

John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky discuss The Goode Family‘s eco-drama with a Mike Judge spin.

We’ve all been there: Paper or plastic? Organic or local? Hybrid or diesel? In these confusing times, Joe Everyman is caught in the crosshairs of consumer responsibility. It’s not enough to be good, you have to decide which good is best! Such is the premise behind ABC’s new toon sitcom about a family of wannabe world changers, The Goode Family.

‘The concept arose because I was visiting a friend of mine and she had bought a Prius, and there was this backlash because hybrids didn’t get as good mileage as everyone thought’she was so crushed, and said to me, ‘It’s so hard to be good,” executive producer John Altschuler recalls, chuckling. ‘That’s what we’re all going through!’ After swapping anecdotes with fellow exec producer Dave Krinsky (the two worked together on King of the Hill and live-action comedy Blades of Glory), Altschuler realized they had a great premise on their hands. The duo approached their long-time colleague, toon titan Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill) with the concept, and production took off from there.

Show creators Dave Krinsky, John Altschuler & Mike Judge

The show’s titular characters, the Goodes, are a middle class family trying to stay ahead of constantly shifting politically correct tides’and not quite succeeding. They’re all vegan’including their dog, who resorts to chowing on suburban fauna’and though they adopted an African orphan, turns out little Ubuntu is a white-as-snow Afrikaaner with apartheid running through his veins.

‘The characters kind of came alive working with Mike,’ Altschuler enthuses, ‘One thing that was important to us was the animation. We weren’t going to do the show unless we found a look that felt like Mike, yet felt different’he didn’t want to do King of the Hil again. We were all fans of ’70s underground comics ‘ they’re very colorful, very cheerful, yet there’s this shading that makes you feel like there’s something else going on.’ This aesthetic enhanced the ironic humor of the show: ‘We sold the whole project on the promo poster’it’s basically one of those ‘Give a hoot, don’t pollute’ ones from the ’70s!’

However, this complex, hippie-era style was full of complicated lines and proved a challenge. Luckily the talented team at Starz’s Film Roman studio was available to churn out the digital hand-drawn animation. ‘Getting it to animate correctly was a difficult process,’ Altschuler confesses, ‘It’s exciting because it is a beautiful-looking show. I think it’s some of the best animation work that Mike and we have ever been involved in.’ The crew currently has 13 episodes in various stages of production, dedicating about nine months to each.

Never ones to follow the crowd, the trio of producers got the project financed independently, bypassing the pitch-and-dev quagmire of network financing. By the time they brought the show to ABC, they knew they’d found a match. ‘We went into the room with [head of ABC] Stephen McPherson, and they gave us a little gift bag of eco-friendly products,’ Krinsky recalls, amused. ‘They got it immediately.’

Both producers are excited to be back in the animation scene. ‘In a way, these animated shows feel more real than live-action shows. There’s a little bit of distance you get with animated shows that helps you deal with the political ideas that we like to deal with,’ Krinsky observes, ‘You can suspend disbelief a bit more.’ Altschuler is a bit more matter-of-fact: ‘One of the advantages is, we’ve worked on King of the Hill since season one. We have Mark McJimsey (King of the Hill, The Simpsons) producing it, who’s one of the best animation producers, and [supervising director] Wes Archer ‘ and then you have Mike Judge! So, we pretty much know what we’re doing,’ he beams, ‘We achieved what we wanted to do, so we hope people like that. At least we like that.’

Despite what Krinsky describes as ‘the day to day hardness of animation,’ both producers feel that it’s been worth the struggle. ‘I think the concept of the show is really resonating with people,’ he notes, ‘This is the first thing I’ve worked on that my father in law has actually pitched on.’ Altschuler is pleased that the online buzz has been in favor of the vibrant, retro-y show. And rest assured, granola munchers, they’re not just taking the mick: ‘One of the important aspects is that we’re not trying to make fun of people who are trying to do good,’ Altschuler explains, ‘We’re making fun of the opportunists who are doing things like selling an ‘eco watch’ that’s just a 100-year-old self-winding watch.’

The Goode Family airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.