As the only animated show on ABC's prime-time schedule, "The Goode Family" was probably destined to end up as an orphan. That at least partly explains why it's premiering in the offseason and will be allowed to go on its quiet way at the end of the summer.
The other part is that while it has its moments and is generally a not-unpleasant way to spend a half-hour, "The Goode Family" never really rises above the level of mildly amusing.
The show does contain a few sharply observed jokes about the socially, environmentally and politically correct lives of its characters. But just as the Goodes grow weary of always having to calculate the right choices, the show can wear thin too.
The show comes from the "King of the Hill" team of Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, and Gerald Goode (voiced by Judge, aping his Mr. Van Dreesen character from "Beavis and Butt-head") is in a lot of ways the anti-Hank Hill. Sensitive to a fault and a doggedly good eco-warrior, Gerald is the type of guy who, when his adopted son Ubuntu (Dave Herman) apologizes for using too much gas on a car trip, says "That's OK -- the important thing is that you feel guilty about it."
He's married to Helen (Nancy Carell), who tends to bear the judgmental brunt of her right-living friends and playing bad eco-cop to her husband's good cop. Helen is just as certain as the other shoppers at the One Earth organic market about what's right, but not quite able to pull the trigger when it comes to applying the rules to her own life and those of her kids, particularly teenage daughter Bliss (Linda Cardellini).
Bliss, who doesn't mind being a vegan all that much but considers that her "weirdo tipping point," is probably the most fully realized character on "The Goode Family" and the source of many of its best lines. In Wednesday's premiere, she agrees to attend a "Purity Ball" just to spite her mom's overly eager queries about her love life, only to recoil in horror when she and Gerald see that the dance also involves the girls "giving" their virginity to their dads for safe keeping until after the girls marry. (Plus, the cute boy from One Earth who makes YouTube documentaries is filming it.)
Bliss is OK with much of what Helen and Gerald espouse, but she also has a teenager's ability to through some of her parents' self-righteousness. That's the tightrope the show is trying to walk for the audience as well -- the Goodes are far from bad people, but they're so open-minded that it often paralyzes them.
There is comedy in that, and "The Goode Family" hits the mark fairly often. But as anyone who's ever been stuck listening to someone go on and on about hypermiling in their Prius, the laughs only last so long.