It's So Hard to Be Good! John Altschuler, Executive Producer of The Goode Family
For thirteen seasons, King of the Hill cast its lens on a conservative, red meat-loving, pickup-truck driving Texas family. John Altschuler, along with Dave Krinsky and Mike Judge (the team also responsible for Beavis and Butthead and the film Office Space) now has us TreeHuggers directly in his sights. The Goode Family is the next chapter in this adult animation legacy, telling the story of an American family struggling to live green and hold hands with the schizophrenic world around them.
Full text after the jump.TreeHugger: So John, tell us where the idea came from to make The Goode Family.
Altschuler: Well all of the work that Dave Krinsky and Mike Judge and I have done is just observational: looking at the world around us.
I'm from North Carolina and I was back there visiting a few years ago and this friend of mine had just bought a Prius. Now, I don't know if you remember this, but there was this backlash against hybrid cars when we found out that they actually got about 30 percent less gas mileage than we thought they got, and then there was this thing about what to do with the batteries.
And she was reading the paper and she just looked up and she said, "It's so hard to be good."
That just struck a chord with me because I'm like, yes, it's always been hard to be good, but now it's impossible--because we keep being told that we're not good enough, the playing field keeps changing, and we keep failing.
I thought that was funny. So I came back to L.A. and I was talking to my writing partner, Dave Krinsky, and Mike Judge, and we've all have these same experiences.
For example, my wife was in charge of this group called Roots and Shoots, which is a Jane Goodall-created group; it's like Boy Scouts but nice to gays, and it's environmentally themed. And it was funny because she was waking up in the middle of the night--and my wife is not a neurotic person-- because she was going to take the kids out to pick up trash. And then she realized, oh my god, we're going to be creating more trash than we're picking up by the time we drive there, use the bags, and so forth. And she was paralyzed.
And then there was something in the pilot, the first episode of the Goode Family, that actually happened to me. There was a thing in the newspaper about the fish that you were supposed to eat and not supposed to eat. Then I was in a Whole Foods and they had a poster of what you're supposed to eat and not supposed to eat. And I swear to God, farm-raised catfish was listed as one that you were supposed to eat in one and that you were not supposed to eat in another. And that's why in the pilot there's this board where it bounces back and forth.
So the whole idea of the show is that everybody that I know, unless people are just really crazy and cranky, want to do good. They want the world to be a better place, but it's just incapacitating.
TreeHugger: And in each episode the underlying theme is the Goode family going through these frustrations to stay chipper and optimistic. So walk us through, if you would, a few of the characters in the family and how this theme plays out in the show.
Altschuler: Well, the thing that was important to us is that we wanted the Goode family to be people who put their money where their mouth is. These aren't limousine liberals. These are the guys that really believe and are trying.
Gerald Goode, we always describe him as fourth-generation Quaker academic. In his family it's always been very easy because there's never been any tension. And they've always been good and it's just part of his natural being that people are good, and that if you give people a chance they'll do the right thing, which of course leads to comedy.
But then his wife, Helen Goode, we have this thing in our mind where--and this is going to sound more political than it is, but it's more of a character thing--reminded us of Hillary Clinton. She knows that everybody has the right to their own opinion but goddammit, it pisses her off.
Helen wants to be good but it's hard for her and she has to really try against some of her baser instincts. Now, her father is Charlie, who's played by Brian-Doyle Murray, and he's just that throwback Archie Bunker type, and Helen's whole existence is in reaction to him, proving 'I'm not like him'.
Their daughter, Bliss, we've always seen as the Marilyn Munster of the family. She actually doesn't reject their beliefs, it's just she's in high school and sometimes it's just damn embarrassing. So she's a little more normal.
And then there's Ubuntu. Now, these characters are all based on real people, OK? The Goode family wanted to adopt an African baby, and what happened is they got a South African baby, so instead of having a lovable, adorable black child, they have the offspring of Afrikaner racist criminals.
And the thing about Ubuntu is that genetically, he's like a commando, but he's raised by the Goode family, so he is good and sweet, but deep down, there are these weird urges to play football and repair a car.
And then I think the last part of the family is Che, the vegan dog, which is sadly another true story. They're all based on reality. We knew somebody who was raising their dog vegan, and it was the saddest thing you'd ever seen. And we thought that, well, this is the law of unintended consequences: they're going to do the right thing and raise their dog vegan, so it doesn't eat meat, but now it's just eating all the other pets in the neighborhood.
TreeHugger: So there are always missing posters for Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas that Che has feasted on.
Altschuler: Exactly. We change those week to week.