Top Episodes is a new feature in which we handpick the definitive best episodes of a groundbreaking, beloved, or otherwise awesome television series. This time, Dan Pfleegor, Zack Ruskin, and Andrew Bloom head down to Texas and crack open a few beers in an alley. Yep.
King of the Hill is the most down-to earth animated program ever broadcast. Its story is simple, and its struggles are relatable. The Hill family (Hank, Peggy, Bobby, and Luanne) and their quirky neighbors in Arlen, Texas, experience the micro-tragedies and triumphs that befall all middle-class households. But what might look like a study on tedium at first glance soon unfurls into a rich world of long-winding arcs, dynamic relationships swelling with deep reservoirs of emotion, and comedic takes on the mundane. From the US Presidential race to cemetery plots, from self-defense and pocket sand to puberty and propane accessory sales, the show managed to wring humor and heart from the most trivial details of modern life. And that’s just part of what makes it feel so real even 20 years after its premiere.
Co-creators Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head) and Greg Daniels (SNL, The Simpsons) each had impressive resumes leading up to King of the Hill, and both have gone on to produce numerous critically acclaimed television shows, such as Judge’s Silicon Valley and Daniels’ work on The Office and Parks and Recreation. But the duo wisely chose to distinguish King of the Hill from their previous work, especially in regard to the show’s lead.
Unlike Beavis, Butt-Head, or even Homer Simpson, King of the Hill’s titular protagonist isn’t a prisoner of apathy, cynicism, or boundless stupidity. Instead, Hank Hill is a thoughtful and caring man, albeit an impatient one. He is a modern-day cowboy with a sensible moral compass who just happens to be thrust into a world progressing and evolving faster than he can keep up with. But even when his way of life is challenged, Judge and Daniels blessed Hank with a decency in his thoughts and an old-fashioned nobility that guided his actions over 13 seasons.
King of the Hill now lives on in perpetual syndication across streaming services. But unlike some of the show’s contemporaries, the series remains fresh to this very day. The show’s writing staff, animators, and an incredible cast of voice actors did a fantastic job of rooting the show in a specific time and place, but also making it feel timeless. The conflicts facing the Hills are still relatable, and most of the celebrity guest vocals are woven so carefully into the scripts that they are often unrecognizable until the end credits. All of these careful details ensure that King of the Hill will continue to entertain for generations to come. Even though the world will go on changing in unforeseen ways, we’ll still always have our old neighbors on Rainey Street ready with a beer and a big Texas smile. Yep.
Senior Staff Writer