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King of the Hill

King of the Hill is an American animated sitcom created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels for the Fox Broadcasting Company that ran from January 12, 1997 to May 6, 2010. It centers on the Hills, a middle-class American family in the fictional city of Arlen, Texas. Patriarch and main character Hank Hill, who works as assistant manager at Strickland Propane, is the everyman and general protagonist of the series. His modest conservative views and biases often clash with those of his wife, Peggy; his son, Bobby; his father, Cotton; his niece, Luanne; his boss, Buck Strickland; and his neighbor, Kahn. Hank is friends with other residents on his block, especially Bill Dauterive, Dale Gribble, and Jeff Boomhauer, all of whom he has known since elementary school. It attempts to maintain a realistic approach, seeking humor in the conventional and mundane aspects of everyday life.

Judge began creating King of the Hill during his time making the MTV series Beavis and Butt-Head, which he also created and voiced. After pitching the pilot to Fox, Judge was paired with Greg Daniels, an experienced writer who previously worked on The Simpsons. The series debuted on the Fox network as a mid-season replacement in 1997, quickly becoming a hit. The series' popularity led to worldwide syndication, and reruns aired on Cartoon Network's late night programming block, Adult Swim from 2009 until 2018. Reruns began airing on Comedy Central from July 24, 2018 to November 2019. The show became one of Fox's longest-running series. A total of 259 episodes aired over the course of its 13 seasons. The final episode aired on Fox on September 13, 2009. Four episodes from the final season were to have aired on Fox, but later premiered in nightly syndication from May 3 to 6, 2010.

In 2007, it was named by Time magazine as one of the top 100 greatest television shows of all time. King of the Hill won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for seven. The series' celebrity guest stars include Chuck Mangione (playing a fictionalized version of himself), Tom Petty (playing the recurring character Lucky), Alan Rickman (playing a king at a Renaissance fair), and numerous country music artists.

Bless the Harts takes place in the King of the Hill universe, and features Mega-Lo-Marts in the script. It was also created for Fox. Despite this, Judge is not involved in the series. However, story editors Christy Stratton and Emily Spivey for King of the Hill are involved in the show.

Series synopsis

King of the Hill is set in the fictional small town of Arlen, Texas. The show centers around the Hill family, whose head is the ever-responsible, hard-working, loyal, disciplined, and honest propane salesman Hank Hill (voiced by Mike Judge). The pun title refers to Hank as the head of the family as well as metaphorically to the children's game King of the Hill. Hank is employed as the assistant manager at Strickland Propane, selling "propane and propane accessories". He often finds his traditional values challenged by the changing world around him, though his common decency always sees him through. Hank typically serves as the de facto leader for his friends and family. Peggy Hill (née Platter) (voiced by Kathy Najimy) a native of Montana, who is a substitute Spanish teacher, though she has a poor grasp of the language; she has also found employment and avocation as a freelance writer for the local newspaper, Boggle champion, notary public, softball pitcher and real estate agent. She is confident, sometimes to the point of lacking self-awareness. Hank and Peggy's only child, Bobby Hill (voiced by Pamela Adlon), is a student at Tom Landry Middle School. His lack of athleticism and interest in things like comedy and cooking are mystifying to his more conventional father and encouraged by his mother. Throughout the series, Peggy's niece, Luanne Platter (voiced by Brittany Murphy), the daughter of her scheming brother Hoyt (voiced by Johnny Knoxville) and his alcoholic ex-wife Leanne (voiced by Adlon), lives with the Hill family. Naïve and very emotional, Luanne was originally encouraged to move out by her Uncle Hank, but over time, he accepts her as a member of the family. Luanne attends beauty school and eventually creates a Christian puppet show for a local cable access TV station. Luanne later marries Elroy "Lucky" Kleinschmidt (voiced by Tom Petty), a snaggle-toothed layabout who lives on the settlements he earns from frivolous lawsuits.

Hank has a healthy relationship with his mother, Tilly (voiced by Tammy Wynette, later Beth Grant and K Callan), a kind woman who lives in Arizona. Hank is, at first, uncomfortable with his mother dating Gary Kasner (voiced by Carl Reiner), a Jewish man, but he warmed up to Gary as their relationship progressed. Hank was dismayed by his mother's choice to break up with Gary to marry a man she's only known for a few weeks: Chuck Garrison, but eventually found Chuck as likable as Gary. In contrast, Hank has a strained relationship with his father, Cotton Hill (voiced by Toby Huss), a hateful World War II veteran who lost his shins to machine gun fire in Japan, and who verbally abused Tilly during their marriage, leading to their divorce. Cotton later marries Didi (voiced by Ashley Gardner), a candy striper who attended kindergarten with Hank. Together, Cotton and Didi have a son, "G.H." ("Good Hank"), who bears a striking resemblance to Bobby.

Other main characters include Hank's friends and their families. Dale Gribble (voiced by Johnny Hardwick) is the Hills' chain-smoking, balding, conspiracy-theorist next-door neighbor and Hank's best friend. As a result of his paranoia, he does not trust the government or "the system". He owns his own pest control business, Dale's Dead Bug, and is also a licensed bounty hunter and President of the Arlen Gun Club. Dale is married to Nancy Hicks-Gribble (voiced by Ashley Gardner), a weather girl—and later anchorwoman—for the Channel 84 news. The only Gribble child, Joseph (voiced by Brittany Murphy; later Breckin Meyer), is best friends with Bobby Hill. He plays quarterback for the football team, enjoys destructive activities like setting ants on fire, and is somewhat girl-crazy when he gets older. Joseph is the result of Nancy's 14-year-long affair with John Redcorn (voiced by Victor Aaron; later Jonathan Joss), a Native American healer. Their affair is obvious to everyone except Dale, who suspects nothing. Joseph likewise believes that Dale is his biological father.

Living across the alley from the Hills is Bill Dauterive (voiced by Stephen Root). Formerly known as the "Billdozer" in his high school football glory days, Bill is now overweight, bald, and clinically depressed, still struggling to get over his divorce. He is a Sergeant and barber in the United States Army who idolizes Hank. Bill's loneliness often results in him being easily taken advantage of by strangers until his friends come to his rescue. Throughout the series, he finds near-success with women, including former Texas Governor Ann Richards. He frequently expresses an unrequited attraction to Peggy, which she occasionally uses to her advantage.

Jeff Boomhauer (voiced by Mike Judge), known simply as "Boomhauer", also lives across from the Hills. Boomhauer is a slim womanizer whose fast and jumbled speech can be hard to understand for the audience, but is easily understood by his friends and most other characters. He can sing clearly; he can also speak fluent Spanish and French. His occupation is not explicitly stated; a single line early in the series indicates he is an electrician living on worker's comp. The series finale reveals that he is a Texas Ranger. His given name, "Jeff", was not revealed until the 13th and final season.

Early in the series, the Souphanousinphones, an upper-middle class Laotian family, move in next-door to the Hills. The family consists of the materialistic Kahn (voiced by Toby Huss), his social-climber wife Minh (voiced by Lauren Tom), and their teenage daughter, Kahn, Jr., or "Connie" (voiced by Lauren Tom). Kahn—who fled poverty in Laos to become a successful businessman in America—is often at odds with his neighbors, believing them to be hillbillies and rednecks due to their lower socioeconomic status (despite evidence to the contrary). Minh often becomes involved in activities with Peggy and Nancy, whom she looks down on as uncivilized and ignorant, despite still considering them her best friends. Connie has been pushed by her father to become a child prodigy and excels at a variety of things from academics to music, though she rejects her father's materialism and judgmental nature. She develops a relationship with Bobby that blossoms into romance over the first half of the series before the two decide to remain friends. Connie often accompanies Bobby and Joseph on their adventures.

Other minor characters include Buck Strickland (voiced by Stephen Root), Hank's licentious boss at Strickland Propane; Joe Jack (voiced by Toby Huss) and Enrique (Danny Trejo), Hank's co-workers at Strickland; Carl Moss (voiced by Dennis Burkley), Bobby's principal at Tom Landry Middle School; and Reverend Karen Stroup (voiced by Mary Tyler Moore, later Ashley Gardner), the female minister of Arlen First Methodist.

Following the show's slice of life format, which was consistently present throughout its run, the show presented itself as being more down to earth than other competing animated sitcoms, e.g. The Simpsons, due to the way the show applied realism and often derived its plots and humor from mundane topics. Critics also noted the great deal of humanity shown throughout the show.

History



Conception



In early 1995, after the successful first run of Beavis and Butt-Head on MTV, Mike Judge decided to create another animated series, this one set in a small Texas town based on an amalgamation of Dallas suburbs, including Garland, Texas, where he had lived, and Richardson. Judge conceived the idea for the show, drew the main characters, and wrote a pilot script.

The Fox Broadcasting Company was uncertain of the viability of Judge's concept for an animated sitcom based in reality and set in the American South, so the network teamed the animator with Greg Daniels, an experienced prime-time TV writer who had previously worked on The Simpsons. Daniels rewrote the pilot script and created important characters who did not appear in Judge's first draft, including Luanne and Cotton. Daniels also reworked some of the supporting characters (whom the pair characterized as originally having been generic, "snaggle-toothed hillbillies"), such as making Dale Gribble a conspiracy theorist. While Judge's writing tended to emphasize political humor, specifically the clash of Hank Hill's social conservatism and interlopers' liberalism, Daniels focused on character development to provide an emotional context for the series' numerous cultural conflicts. Judge was ultimately so pleased with Daniels' contributions, he chose to credit him as a co-creator, rather than give him the "developer" credit usually reserved for individuals brought onto a pilot written by someone else.

Initial success

After its debut, the series became a large success for Fox and was named one of the best television series of the year by various publications, including Entertainment Weekly, Time, and TV Guide. For the 1997–1998 season, the series became one of Fox's highest-rated programs and even briefly outperformed The Simpsons in ratings. During the fifth and sixth seasons, Mike Judge and Greg Daniels became less involved with the show. They eventually refocused on it, even while Daniels became involved with more and more projects.

Format change



Judge and Daniels' reduced involvement with the show resulted in the series' format turning more episodic and formulaic. Beginning in season seven, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who had worked on the series since season two, took it over completely, tending to emphasize Judge's concept that the series was built around sociopolitical humor rather than character-driven humor. Although Fox insisted that the series lack character development or story arcs (a demand made of the network's other animated series, so that they can be shown out of order in syndication), Judge and Daniels had managed to develop minor arcs and story elements throughout the early years of the series, such as Luanne's becoming more independent and educated after Buckley's death, and the aging of characters being acknowledged (a rare narrative occurrence for an animated series). Lacking Judge and Daniels' supervision, the series ceased aging its characters and even began retconning character backstories; in the episode "A Rover Runs Through It", Peggy's mother was abruptly changed from a neurotic housewife with whom Peggy shared a competitive relationship to a bitter rancher from whom Peggy had been estranged for years. The format change also resulted in at least one minor character—Laoma, Kahn's mother—being written out of the show completely, and her relationship with Bill ignored in all future episodes.

Facing cancellation

Because it was scheduled to lead off Fox's Sunday-night animated programming lineup, portions of King of the Hill episodes were often pre-empted by sporting events that ran into overtime; in season nine especially, whole episodes were pre-empted. Ultimately, enough episodes were pre-empted that the majority of the series' 10th season—initially intended to be the final season, consisted of unaired ninth-season episodes.

The 13th-season episode "Lucky See, Monkey Do" became the first episode of the series to be produced in widescreen high definition when it aired on February 8, 2009.

Cancellation

Although ratings remained consistent throughout the 10th, 11th and 12th seasons and had begun to rise in the overall Nielsen ratings (up to the 105th most watched series on television, from 118 in season 8), Fox abruptly announced in 2008 that King of the Hill had been cancelled. The cancellation coincided with the announcement that Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and American Dad!, would be creating a Family Guy spin-off called The Cleveland Show, which would take over King of the Hill's time slot.

Hopes to keep the show afloat surfaced as sources indicated that ABC (which was already airing Judge's new animated comedy, The Goode Family) was interested in securing the rights to the show, but in January 2009, ABC president Steve McPherson said he had "no plans to pick up the animated comedy."

On April 30, 2009, it was announced that Fox ordered at least two more episodes to give the show a proper finale. The show's 14th season was supposed to air sometime in the 2009–2010 season, but Fox later announced that it would not air the episodes, opting instead for syndication. On August 10, 2009, however, Fox released a statement that the network would air a one-hour series finale (which consisted of a regular 30-minute episode followed by a 30-minute finale) on September 13, 2009.

The four remaining episodes of the series aired in syndication the week of May 3, 2010, and again on Adult Swim during the week of May 17, 2010.

During the panel discussion for the return of Beavis and Butt-head at Comic-Con 2011, Mike Judge said that no current plans exist to revive King of the Hill, although he would not rule out the possibility of it returning.

Potential revival

On August 8, 2017, it was revealed that Judge and Daniels had talked with Fox executives about a potential revival. On March 19, 2018, in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Judge said he would want the revived series to include aged characters, such as an older Bobby. On March 20, 2020, Daniels said that he and Judge have an idea for the reboot. Daniels stated "[W]e do have a plan for it and it's pretty funny. So maybe one day."

Television ratings

*Twenty-four episodes were produced for season 13, but four remained unaired until 2010 when they were broadcast on local TV stations from May 3 to May 6.

Setting and characters



Opening sequence

In the opening sequence, Hank joins Dale, Bill, and Boomhauer at the curb outside his house in the morning. When he opens his can of beer, the playback speed increases greatly and depicts other main and secondary characters carrying out various daily activities around them in a time-lapse. Meanwhile, the four continue drinking beer and a nearby recycling bin fills with their empty cans. When Peggy brings a bag of garbage out to Hank, the other three leave and the playback returns to normal speed as he takes it to the trash can and gathers with Peggy and Bobby.

The opening theme is "Yahoos and Triangles" by the Arizona rock band The Refreshments. For season finales there is a slight variation for seasons 1–11. Season one's finale featured an opening guitar riff one octave higher. Season two's fifteenth episode has the three note guitar. Season two's finale added a "yeehaw" to the beginning, the 3–11 finales accompanied the "yeehaw" with a dinner triangle, and the Season five finale has the first part of the full version of the theme song, with the exception of the season six, season ten, season twelve, and season thirteen finales. Season 13 and the series finale used the regular theme song. Two 1998 and 2004 Christmas episodes also featured jingle bells in the background.

Setting

King of the Hill is set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, an amalgamation of numerous Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs including Garland, Richardson, Arlington and Allen. In addition to drawing inspiration from the DFW Metroplex, Judge has described Arlen as "a town like Humble" (a suburb of Houston). Time magazine praised the authentic portrayal as the "most acutely observed, realistic sitcom about regional American life bar none". As seen in the episode, "Hank's Cowboy Movie" the town has a population of 145,300 people.

In the episode "Harlottown", it's revealed the town was originally a watering hole on the Chisholm Trail. A group of eleven enterprising women invested in a tent and a cot, and the site eventually formed into a town-wide brothel dubbed Harlottown until the prostitutes decided to make the brothel into a prospering town. Eventually, it was called Harlen because, according to Peggy, "People were in such a rush to get here they didn't have time to say Harlottown." The many visitors to Harlen included President Garfield, the Terry's Texas Rangers, the University of Notre Dame football team and Mark Twain.

Though the location is based on suburbs of the DFW Metroplex, the physical location of Arlen is never specified in the series, other than that it is in Texas. Similar to the location of Springfield on The Simpsons, the location of Arlen within Texas is arbitrary based on the needs of a particular episode's plot, and multiple episodes give conflicting information as to Arlen's geographic location within the state. For example, one episode indicates that it is just north of the Brazos River in central Texas. Other episodes place it near Houston or Dallas, while others feature trips to Mexico and back taking place within a matter of hours. In "Harlottown", the location is revealed to be somewhere on the Chisholm Trail.

Arlen includes settings such as Rainey Street, where the Hills and other major characters reside, and Strickland Propane, Hank's employer. Also included are parodies of well-known businesses, such as Mega-Lo Mart (a parody of Walmart), Luly's (a parody of Luby's), Want-A-Burger (a parody of Whataburger, although Whataburger itself makes several appearances in the series), Bazooms (a parody of Hooters), Frozen Cow Creamery (a parody of Cold Stone Creamery), 61 Flavors (a parody of Baskin-Robbins) and Pancho's Mexican Buffet. Hank's friend and neighbor Bill Dauterive is a barber at Fort Blanda, an army post (similar to Fort Hood) near Arlen. Most of the children in the show attend Tom Landry Middle School (named after the former Dallas Cowboys coach). Not long before the series premiered, an elementary school named after Tom Landry opened in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas which until 2008 was home to Texas Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys. Likewise, the local elementary school is named after Roger Staubach. Early in the series, the school is referred to as being in the Heimlich County School District (according to markings on the school buses), though in later seasons this is changed to Arlen Independent School District. The school's mascot is a longhorn steer. The local country club is the Nine Rivers Country Club, though this club's membership is almost exclusively made up of Asian-Americans. The "Devil's Bowl", where Lucky races his truck, is actually a race track in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. When Bobby tries to impress Connie's delinquent relative Tid Pao in "Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?", he takes her to The Pioneer Woman's Museum, a parody of the real-life Women's Collection Archive permanently housed at Texas Woman's University whose flagship campus is in Denton, Texas. In Season One, Hank plays golf with Willie Nelson, who is from Abbott, Texas, at the Pedernales Golf Course, which is a reference to the Pedernales River in the Texas Hill Country in Central Texas.

Characters



King of the Hill depicts an "average" middle-class family and their lives in a typical American town. It documents the Hills' day-to-day-lives in the small Texas town of Arlen, exploring themes such as parent-child relationships, friendship, loyalty, and justice. As an animated sitcom, King of the Hills scope is generally larger than that of a regular sitcom.

Episodes

Home media



The first six seasons were released on DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment from 2003 to 2006. The seventh season was originally planned to be released in late 2006, but, most likely due to poor sales of the DVDs, the release was cancelled. However, in 2014, Olive Films acquired the sub-license to release future seasons of the show, and seasons seven and eight were released on November 18, of that same year, with nine and ten released on April 7, 2015, eleven released on August 25, 2015, twelve released on September 22, 2015, and thirteen released (also Blu-ray) on October 20, 2015.

Netflix streamed all episodes, but stopped streaming on October 1, 2013, and in early 2017, the series was removed from iTunes and Google Play, though it returned to the latter later that year. As of May 2018, all episodes were again removed from Google Play.

On November 1, 2018, all episodes became available for streaming on Hulu.The show airs in syndication on broadcast networks. From 2001 to 2009, FX aired the series daily nationwide. The show aired on Adult Swim (the Cartoon Network programming block) from January 1, 2009, to July 22, 2018. The aired on Comedy Central from July 24, 2018 to November 2019.

Video game

A video game based on the series, was released on November 13, 2000 for the PC. The player goes on a hunting trip with Hank and the gang where the player must hunt for various animals. The game however, received mixed to negative reviews.

Reception

King of the Hill received critical acclaim over its 13-year run. Early reviews of the show were positive. Diane Holloway at the Chicago Tribune considered it the "most Texan television series since Dallas," and praised the show's "sly sense of humor and subversive sensibility." At the Los Angeles Times, writer Howard Rosenberg suggested that the show "totes a few smiles, but [there's] little to bowl you over, and it takes a spell getting used to."

At the show's conclusion, James Poniewozik at Time opined that it had "quietly been the best family comedy on TV," calling the show's ending "one of the most moving things I've seen on TV this year." Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger described it as "sweeter and more human than the great majority of live-action sitcoms that overlapped its run." Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club described the program as a "steadfast, down-to-earth series," while noting "the show saw its fair share of silly conceits and contrived setups—and got fairly repetitive in the final seasons."

Writers have examined the show through a political lens. "It's not a political show," said Mike Judge in 1997. "It's more a populist, common sense point of view." In 2005, Matt Bai of The New York Times Magazine called it "the most subtle and complex portrayal of small-town voters on television." A 2016 reappraisal from The Atlantic dubbed it the "last bipartisan TV comedy," with writer Bert Clere noting the program "imbued all of its characters with a rich humanity that made their foibles deeply sympathetic. In this, King of the Hill was far ahead of its time, and the broader TV landscape has yet to catch up."

King of the Hill is currently ranked #27 on IGN's "Top 100 Animated TV Series". In 2013, TV Guide ranked King of the Hill as one of the top 60 Greatest TV Cartoons of All Time.

Awards and nominations