'What would Al Gore do?'

Helen and Gerald Goode, the mom and dad in ABC's new prime-time cartoon "The Goode Family," use the mantra "W.W.A.G.D." — or, "What would Al Gore do?" — to guide their every action.

They struggle to minimize their carbon footprint, raise ecologically and politically conscious kids and be sensitive to their Black, err, African American, err, Person of Color neighbor.

For Ashlanders, the series' depiction of the Goode family will probably strike close to home.

The Goodes try to do everything right. They have solar panels on their home, a front yard planted with vegetables and an outdoor shower with water heated by the sun.

But as Helen laments, "Being good is so hard."

Their emaciated vegan dog Che is secretly wolfing down pets in the neighborhood, their adopted son from Africa turns out to be a white South African and the mere act of grocery shopping becomes a tightwire act where any misstep can spell disaster.

Gerald asks Helen to shop at "Save Big" instead of the pricey "One Earth" organic food store. She protests, "We can't shop there! They don't even have a mission statement."

At "One Earth," a voice over the store intercom exhorts shoppers to check out a reader board that lists eco-friendly food options "to see how you can limit the impact of your existence."

Helen arrives at the check out counter with a small pile of groceries — total tab $146.57 — only to find that she has forgotten to bring along a reusable shopping bag. That sets off a store alarm and earns her glares from the other shoppers, who are toting their own reusable bags emblazoned with sayings like, "An inconvenient bag."

Although the show pokes fun at people who are trying to live a green lifestyle, other groups don't get off the hook.

Driven by Helen's awkward attempts to start conversations about sex, the Goodes' daughter Bliss joins an abstinence club. Bliss and Gerald go to a father-daughter Purity Ball, only to be creeped out by a ceremony where Bliss is supposed to present her father with a ring representing her virginity that he will safeguard until her wedding night.

They place a quick call to Ubuntu, the teenage South African son, and ask him to rescue them. As a gas-saving measure, Ubuntu is only allowed to drive the family's hybrid car during emergencies. He relishes the opportunity to speed to their rescue and whisk them away from the Purity Ball, but then adds, "Sorry I used so much gas, Dad."

"It's OK, Ubuntu," Gerald responds. "What's important is that you feel guilty about it."

"The Goode Family" premiered on Wednesday at 9 p.m. and, predictably, within minutes after it was done, people began writing posts on ABC's Internet message board lambasting the show. Although some praised its humor, the bulk of the comments from the public either came from people hailing it for attacking "hippie tree-huggers" or calling it a smut-filled assault on Christian families that is cleverly disguised as a cartoon to lure in innocent children.

Those types of comments, of course, miss the mark. Mike Judge, who co-created the series, also created "King of the Hill." That cartoon points out the foibles of an average American family, but always depicts them as decent people who love each other. Members of the Goode family are portrayed in the same way.

As with most good comedy, we'll recognize our friends, neighbors, relatives and ourselves in the show. For me, it also brought back memories of living with an excessively eco-conscious roommate during graduate school at the University of Oregon. He adhered religiously to the principle of flushing the toilet only when necessary. (Not a major bowel movement? Then not necessary.) The next episode of "The Goode Family" airs at 9 p.m. this coming Wednesday. Don't forget the organic, locally grown, sustainably harvested popcorn.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.

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