Exclusive Features
Anniversaries, Cover Stories, Editorials,
Interviews, Lists, and Comprehensive Rankings

King of the Hill’s Top 20 Episodes

on August 08, 2017, 4:15pm
view all

With talks of a potential King of the Hill revival in the works, consider this feature from January a list of reasons why the show should be rebooted.

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 syndication and occasionally on some 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.

raw King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

–Dan Pfleegor
Senior Staff Writer

__________________________________________________________

20. “The Perils of Polling”

luanne King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 05

Episode: 01

Original Air Date: Oct. 1, 2000

One of the tried-and-true ingredients in almost any comedy is the reversal — that flip of perspective or circumstance that leaves one character or another in an unexpected, often hilarious new position. That tack is the core of “The Perils of Polling,” for both the episode’s humor and its storytelling. Hank spends the first half of the episode chiding Luanne for her disinterest in voting and her shallow reasons for selecting a candidate, but he spends the second half recoiling from his own preferred candidate’s ephemeral shortcomings and nearly blows off the election himself in the midst of his disillusionment.

It’s the absurd details of these events that make them funny. The less-than-worldly Luanne grows enamored with Robert Parigi, the local communist party candidate, and stumps for him with her trademark hand puppets. A mere limp handshake from then-Governor George W. Bush is what sends Hank into his downward spiral. And the entire escapade starts after Bobby heroically rescues a drowning stunt-pig at the local county fair. King of the Hill always knew how to couch its stories in a unique combination of the ridiculous and the relatable, which helped its narratives land and its comedy soar.

44572 king of the hill the perils of polling episode screencap 5x1 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

It’s amusing when Hank impresses the importance of voting upon Luanne, only to react in shock when she backs the closest thing Arlen has to a red menace. It’s poetic when Hank scolds his niece for failing to pay attention to the issues, only to grow disenchanted because the man whose stump speech he knows by heart lacks a firm grip. But the peak of the episode’s series of reversals is when the previously apathetic Luanne has to turn around and remind Hank, who’s unwittingly absconded to Mexico with Dale on Election Day, why it’s still worth it to go to the polls.

“The Perils of Polling” basically amounts to a Get Out the Vote PSA, with a few gentle-at-best political jabs along the way. But in anchoring the episode’s story in Hank resigning himself to Luanne’s perspective, only to have Luanne herself snap him out of it, there’s a symmetry there that buoys both the episode’s plot and its humor.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote: 

Hank: “I hate communists. All they do is boss people around.” Luanne: “Sounds like you, Uncle Hank.” Luanne can certainly be cutting in a “from the mouths of babes” fashion from time to time.

__________________________________________________________

19. “The Powder Puff Boys”

bobby cheerleader King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 12

Episode: 03

Original Air Date: Oct. 7, 2007

In 2007’s “The Powder Puff Boys”, a middle-school football coach, recognizing Bobby’s comedic chops, forces him onto the boy’s Powder Puff cheerleading squad. Bobby doesn’t like it, but Hank informs Bobby it’s a great honor to be selected as a Powder Puff. In fact, it’s a privilege usually reserved for actual football players. The coach and Hank convince Bobby to embrace his role as head cheerleader only to be decried by a high-minded PTA board that outlaws the long-standing tradition. Bobby’s eventual defiance of the PTA and arguments for his legal right to cross-dress make for a hilarious critique of adults thinking they know what’s best for children.

Topics like gender, appearance, parody, and sensitivity have become heated subject matters, forcing comedians to navigate a precarious minefield of outrage in order to arrive at big laughs, sometimes. It’s a delicate balance for sure. But Mike Judge proved early and often that he was up to the challenge. While King of the Hill was not a political show, Judge’s subtle call-outs of the absurdity on all sides of an issue make episodes like “The Powder Puff Boys” ahead of its time. It also questions the audience’s own assumptions and stereotypes, such as the fact that conservative Hank Hill of all people wants his son to dress up as a girl, while the progressive PTA fights cosplay outside of one’s gender. Judge’s greatest trick of all though is that King of the Hill can tackle these larger themes without sacrificing the program’s inherent sweetness and goodwill toward all.

–Dan Pfleegor

King of the Quote:

Joseph: “But I’m so pretty!”

__________________________________________________________

18. “I Don’t Want To Wait for Our Lives To Be Over”

bobby cheese King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 05

Episode: 03

Original Air Date: Nov. 12, 2000

Ah, puberty. It was the worst of times … it was the worst of times.

The agonies of adolescence have been covered in “A Very Special Episode” of every sitcom you can imagine, but as was often the case, King of the Hill found a way to make the concept fresh and hysterical. Bobby is offered the keys to the golf cart and his own room while staying with his grandma over the summer, leading him to believe that at 13, he’s now a man. Then Joseph Gribble comes back from camp. He’s grown immensely, to the point where from this episode forward, he stops being voiced by Brittany Murphy and is instead voiced by Breckin Meyer.

Bobby must grapple with the juxtaposition of being technically older than Joseph but looking nowhere near as grown-up. This comes to a head when, while out to dinner, the waitress asks Joseph if he wants a beer, while Bobby is forced to order off the kids’ menu.

Another reason “I Don’t Want To Wait…” is a classic is for its supporting story, which finds Hank hard at work on couples’ coffins for himself and Peggy. Hank’s inability to see the morbid nature of his project reflects his earnest sensibilities. The coffins ultimately become a point of romance for Hank and his wife as they drink wine and eat pizza in the garage in their future death vessels while Bobby holds his birthday party in the house.

Lastly, the episode explores the relationship between Bobby and Connie. When Connie kisses Joseph, Bobby loses his mind, punching his best friend. Things are resolved when all three unite in blaming teenagers for Dale’s crashed car, an indirect admission that they all still have plenty of time to grow up.

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote: 

Peggy: “If you try to stick the late Peggy Hill in an inferior casket, she will come back to haunt you. I will see to that.”

__________________________________________________________

17. “Escape from Party Island”

Season: 03

Episode: 17

Original Air Date: Mar. 16, 1999

“Escape from Party Island” puts Hank between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he is responsible for “500 years of old lady” in the form of his mom and her quartet of friends, a group of miniature-enthusiasts. (They like little glass animals; they’re not especially diminutive themselves.) This gaggle of golden girls views Hank as totally uncouth and shiftless, causing him no end of trouble when he’s forced to chaperone them on a trip to Port Aransas to see famed designer Lyle Neff and the local miniatures museum.

But, unbeknownst to Hank and his wards, it’s Spring Break, and MTV, with the cadre of raucous partiers that come with, have descended on the otherwise humble island, sending things into beer-fueled chaos. Suddenly, Hank finds himself surrounded by young people who he sees as just as uncouth and shiftless as the old ladies he’s responsible for see him.

Nevertheless, “Escape” is an episode about seeing people, especially those close to you, in a different light. The emotional throughline for the episode is Hank’s relationship with his mother. Hank is repeatedly weirded out by his mom’s collection of miniatures, particularly when she talks to them, because it brings him back to a time when she was still married to Cotton and would descend into her “funks.” But with the help of Lyle Neff himself, Hank realizes that those little glass animals were a way for Tilly to cope with the trauma of being married to a man like Cotton, and he understands why they, and this trip, are so important to her.

So Hank turns into a one-man, old lady-saving machine. After bristling at the seniors around him (of both the university and planned-community vintage), Hank rescues his mom’s elderly cohorts from hordes of rowdy teens, blasting MTV personalities with a super soaker and making it to the last ferry off the island in the nick of time. It’s a ridiculous thrill of an ending that adds some verve to an otherwise goofy episode about Hank getting the third degree from both young and old, but gaining a new understanding of his mom in the process.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote:

Peggy: “As long as he does not take [our trash] into his house, we’re okay … oh no.” The subplot of Bill inserting himself into the Hill family in Hank’s absence is suitably weird but darkly funny.

__________________________________________________________

16. “The Peggy Horror Picture Show”

the peggy horror picture show 20070126053055878 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 11

Episode: 01

Original Air Date: Jan. 28, 2007

“The Peggy Horror Picture Show” is another Peggy classic, this one focused on two of her character’s central tropes: her inability to find common ground with her friend group and her gigantic feet.

When a girl’s night clothes swap leaves Peggy lamenting her lot as a large-footed woman, she finds an outlet store where everything is in her size. There she meets Carolyn, a friendly gal who is eager to learn from Peggy’s womanly ways. Despite many hints, Peggy fails to see that Carolyn is in fact a drag queen. Perhaps even more alarming, Carolyn initially believes Peggy to be a man in drag as well.

It would’ve been quite easy to play this episode for its surface laughs, but “The Peggy Horror Picture Show” digs deep into Peggy’s insecurities about her own femininity, unfamiliar territory for many mainstream animated shows. The conceit reaches its heights when Carolyn empowers Peggy by telling her that the qualities Peggy sees as “unwomanly” are actually her greatest strengths.

Beyond the main arc of the episode, we also get another installment of Hank supporting his wife by asking Jamie (the man behind Carolyn) if his “friend” might consider reconciling with Peggy. We never know whether Hank fully understands that Jamie is Carolyn, but it seems like a subtle way in which Hank comes to terms with something he doesn’t approve of or understand. Finally, the sub-plot finds Bobby and Joseph flummoxed by a prank book where every prank seems to improve the lives of their intended victims.

“The Peggy Horror Show” is proof that while King of the Hill may have slightly downgraded in quality over its final handful of seasons, it never fully lost its touch, delivering gems up until the final can of Alamo Beer was cracked.

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote:

Bill: “What does it mean if instead of a purse, a woman carries a tattered grocery bag?”

__________________________________________________________

15. “Returning Japanese Pts. 1 & 2”

kohreturningjapanese King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 06

Episode: 21, 22

Original Air Date: May 5 and 12, 2002

The majority of King of the Hill takes place in Arlen, but occasionally the characters venture beyond the small town. The funniest and most heartwarming of these fish-out-of-water tales takes place in Tokyo, where the Hills seek out Hank’s long-lost half-Japanese brother, Junichiro. It turns out that the racist and bloodthirsty Cotton Hill sired an illegitimate child during WWII. And while Hank swells with a boyish excitement at the prospect of meeting his big brother, it’s crushing to watch his fraternal dream collapse after Junichiro refuses to recognize the Hills as his blood.

The two-part episode allows all of the Hills to explore this brave, new world on their own. Bobby, for his part, manages to escape Peggy Hill’s patented Tour-iffic Tokyo tour, “First stop, the Disney Store,” and finds himself falling for a young Japanese schoolgirl during rounds of Dance Dance Revolution, despite the language barrier. Bobby is traditionally one of the few characters that Cotton treats with respect, so it’s fitting to watch his own story mirror Cotton’s continent-crossing tale of love.

bwah King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

It’s also very moving to watch Hank’s attempts to ingratiate himself to Junichiro, who himself happens to be an assistant manager at a robot factory that sells robots and robot accessories. The brothers gradually let their guard down and relate to one another over King of the Hill’s signature alleyway beers — Hank: “Yep” Junichiro: “Hai” — plus their shared curse of having narrow urethras. Although Grandpa Hill’s intentions start out cruelly, the sight of his two sons finally working together forces Cotton to swallow his pride and the massive loogie he planned to spit in the Japanese Prime Minister’s face. This very special set of episodes brings all of its characters storylines together, including one last hurrah for Bobby who gets to dance a final time with his Japanese crush before the family flies back to Texas.

–Dan Pfleegor

King of the Quote: 

Hank: “A brother. I have a brother!” Peggy: “A Japanese half-brother. That is some freaky stuff.” Hank: “The Hill brothers. “Watch out for those Hill brothers. Did you see what those Hill brothers were up to the other day?” Peggy: “Just be prepared for when your new half-brother decides he’s in love with me. I must be quite a sight to him, with my exotic unbound feet.”

__________________________________________________________

14. “Rodeo Days”

4bsrcod King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 04

Episode: 12

Original Air Date: Jan. 16, 2000

Another theme that persisted across the entire series was Bobby Hill joining an activity of which Hank fundamentally disapproves.

Of course, the precursor to most of these storylines is Hank trying to get Bobby into something “proper” – a pastime Hank believes is the birthright and obligation for all young men of Texas. In the case of “Rodeo Days”, it’s roping cattle, an enterprise that Bobby’s friend Joseph excels at, but one that the youngest Hill struggles to master. Instead, Bobby befriends some rodeo clowns and becomes their newest recruit.

One of the episode’s finest moments comes when Bobby — a devout student of prop comedy — lectures the rodeo clowns on the execution of their signature bit. “The baby routine doesn’t work. It’s all talk. When the diaper explodes, we’re like, “finally!” Then the doctor comes out and his bag explodes. What the heck does that mean? There’s logic to an exploding diaper gag. Kid cut a fart, fine. Why would the bag explode?”

It’s both refreshing to see Bobby be the expert instead of the novice for a change, and the scene pays off when he uses a fire extinguisher to simulate flatulence and distract a bull set on mauling Joseph. While Hank is oftentimes a hard father, constantly berating Bobby for playing too many “vidya” games, his true colors show when, as Bobby prepares to risk life and limb to protect Joseph, Hank offers to apply a generous coat of lipstick on his son.

These little moments, coupled with big laughs, are the formula that elevated King of the Hill from a cute concept into a true contender for one of the best animated shows of the past 20 years.

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote:

Peggy: “The salesman said with children’s western wear, the hard thing is if you don’t want husky sizes.”

__________________________________________________________

13. “Keeping up with Our Joneses”

bobby King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 01

Episode: 10

Original Air Date: April 27, 1997

King of the Hill established early on that while the show was willing to engage in the occasional flight of fancy, most of its storylines would find their heart in everyday, true-to-life family ordeals.

“Keeping up with Our Joneses” plumbs the trope of finding your child smoking a cigarette to its extreme. After finding Bobby sneaking a smoke, Hank makes Bobby smoke an entire carton. Instead of assuring Bobby never lights up again, the action gets Hank back into his old habit, which eventually carries over to Peggy smoking again, too.

This episode is memorable for being one of the first to show another side to Hank’s rule-abiding, patriarchal nature. While Hank is often (and hilariously) horrified at many things, part of what provides an empathetic angle to his character is that he is, of course, not perfect himself. As he and Peggy delight in reuniting with their nicotine demons, things reach their downward apex when Hank flicks a lit cigarette near a propane puddle (the horror!). Luanne becomes the default voice of reason, ultimately locking the family in a room until the worst of their withdrawals have passed.

Of course, the episode is also ripe with laughs, from Hank chiding Bobby for holding his cigarette “like some kind of European Nazi in a movie” to a silly but authentic post-credits PSA from Boomhauer on the dangers of smoking. The flashbacks to a younger Hank and Peggy enjoying their life as carefree smokers are also sure to ring true for those who have quit the habit.

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote:

Luanne: “I cannot believe you’re all smoking! Don’t you know more people die of smoking than die of… war… in Vietnam… every day?”

__________________________________________________________

12. “Lupe’s Revenge”

lupe King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 06

Episode: 03

Original Air Date: Dec. 12, 2001

Peggy Hill is a rare character in the pantheon of modern animation.

While BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Wakberg accurately mused on the fact that Marge Simpson doesn’t have friends, that has never been the case with Peggy. She is her own woman and one that is refreshingly multi-faceted and as a result, equally flawed. Her pride in her own Spanish skills (which are shown over and over again across the seasons to be muy malo) finally come back to haunt her when she inadvertently kidnaps a girl from Mexico.

“Lupe’s Revenge” begins with Peggy receiving the substitute teacher assignment of a lifetime: taking her Spanish class on a field trip to Mexico. Ever boastful, Peggy refuses to acknowledge she has gotten the bus horribly lost, which leads to an incredible scene in which she leads the children to what she proclaims is a petting zoo, but is actually just an alleyway where chickens are slaughtered.

Pitting Peggy against her own hubris, she is only able to avoid persecution in the Mexico court system upon returning Lupe when Hank suggests she take the stand, proving her poor understanding of the Spanish language to the judge.
The writers had a field-day crafting ridiculous Spanish exchanges and translations for Peggy. Their crown jewel finds Lupe instructed to call her parents from the Hills’ telephone. Lupe explains in Spanish that her parents don’t have a phone. Peggy tells Luanne that Lupe “refuses to call her parents because they hate her.” Peggy tries to assure Lupe her mother loves her with Spanish gibberish, to which Lupe, again in Spanish, replies: “I have no idea what you’re saying, but it had better not be about my mother.”

“I was afraid of this,” Peggy sighs. “Now she wishes I were her mother.”

Brilliant.

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote:

Peggy: “Bobby, if you ever marry a Spanish teacher — and you probably will — never doubt her enormous gifts.”

__________________________________________________________

11. “The Unbearable Blindness of Laying”

foot King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 02

Episode: 11

Original Air Date: Dec. 21, 1997

One of the tried-and-true formulas of King of the Hill is to pair Hank with some comic foil who doesn’t quite fit into the world as he knows and understands it. So when his mom comes home for the holidays and brings along her new boyfriend, Gary, who is Jewish, publicly affectionate, and most shocking of all, doesn’t eat steak, Hank is, as usual, a bit upset by the development. But things go from bad to worse for Hank when he sees his mom and Gary “in the throes of activity,” causing him to go blind.

That plot point is a bit out there, but works as an illustration of Hank’s fears about his mom finding a new partner after the horrors of being married to Cotton and of his own uneasiness about this unfamiliar man (Carl Reiner, who is, as usual, a laugh riot) disrupting his world. Hank is worried that his mom will repeat her mistakes and link up with someone who’ll mistreat her in the same way her prickly ex-husband did, while simultaneously harboring some distress at just how different Gary is.

tumblr lmelrj5bhd1qje0v1o1 400 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

And yet, when Gary defends Tilly’s honor and threatens to kick Cotton’s ass the same way Hank would, Hank realizes that he and Gary have more in common than just their affection for his mom. And when Gary brings Hank to the faith healer Hank had feigned interest in, a well-meaning attempt to help cure his blindness, Hank appreciates the gesture to the point that he uses Gary’s own Yiddish phrasing and even goes so far as to hug the man back.

It’s a sign of growth for Hank and a wonderful illustration of his unassuming ability to see the best in people, even those who throw him for a loop at first. When Hank’s sight returns, the first thing he sees is the smiling face of a man who’s proved himself worthy of Tilly’s, and maybe Hank’s, love.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote: 

Bobby: “That is so Arizona!” The only thing better than Bobby taking to Gary’s Jewish sentence structure like a fish to water is his mistaking it for hip, new Arizona slang.

__________________________________________________________

10. “Soldier of Misfortune”

Season: 06

Episode: 02

Original Air Date: Dec. 9, 2001

“Soldier of Misfortune” presents Dale at his Dale-iest. The combination of his bravado, paranoia, and incompetence culminates in the perfect rousing adventure for the character. An accidental discharge at the Arlen Gun Club prompts a challenge to Dale’s presidency of this auspicious group of marksmen from its resident loose cannon, Mad Dog (a truly frightening vocal performance from a well-cast Gary Busey). But more importantly, it prompts a crisis of faith for Dale, who’s so used to feeding on his own bluster that his spirits are totally dashed after being humiliated in front of the precious few who believe it.

Hank and the Rainey Street gang respond by giving Dale a fake mission (sorry “fake errand”) in order to help him get his groove back, and in true Dale fashion, even that goes horribly wrong. The result is a story with well-defined, if loony, character motivations and a strong narrative throughline.

tumblr lykultn4fq1rnrwsbo4 400 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

It’s also an episode with big laughs. Dale’s frantic declaration that dying on his first mission would be “bad for business” and his iconic use of pocket sand(!) are both knee-slappers. By the same token, Hank’s “Mr. Big” voice, combined with his panicked admission that he was “just calling for help” when using Boomhauer’s phone, keep the comedy coming.

That humor helps build to the episode’s clever ending, which features Dale feigning the same “flower delivery routine,” a tall tale from his “mercenary days” that he told to a rapt audience at the beginning of the episode, allowing him to save the day. It’s a nice win for Dale, showing that even though his larger-than-life boasts rarely match up with his humdrum existence, Arlen’s most incorrigible little nutcase is surprisingly resourceful when he needs to be, especially when his best friends are at risk.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote:

“He’s already got the black vote — Earl — and the gay vote — Earl.” Dale faces an uphill climb in the limited but potent demographic challenges of the gun club electorate.

__________________________________________________________

09. “Cotton’s Plot”

tumblr m78yu68itf1r7h8szo1 500 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 04

Episode: 02

Original Air Date: Oct. 3, 1999

Peggy and Cotton have always had, shall we say, a fraught relationship, but they’re also two of the most unique and self-confident personalities in Arlen. That’s why it makes a strange sort of sense that the two find their own bit of symbiosis in “Cotton’s Plot” when Cotton becomes Peggy’s physical therapist-cum-drill sergeant, and Peggy helps Cotton with his application to be interred as a war hero in the Texas State Cemetery.

Peggy’s narrative in the episode is clear. She’s used to being a self-sufficient, “grab your own destiny by the horns” type of person, and her skydiving accident and slow recovery have made her despondent and dependent on others. The kind of coddling, “take it slow” approach her real physical therapist recommends leaves her feeling useless and, more to the point, not like herself.

So when Cotton emerges to berate her, but also to challenge her and, in his own peculiar way, believe in her, it’s an unexpected but invigorating boost for the famed Mrs. Peggy Hill. She’s inspired by Cotton’s war stories, the tales of his own adversities overcome, to fight and scratch and claw toward feeling like herself once more. But when she digs deeper and finds holes in Cotton’s World War II-focused yarns, she falls back into the sad stupor she’d labored under previously.

In her weakest moment, Hank reminds Peggy that whatever Cotton did or didn’t do during the war, the man undeniably lost his shins in combat, and yet there he is, still standing, walking, and being a general pain in the ass 50 years later. It’s a reminder that however rude and crude Cotton may be, he went through the same sort of struggle Peggy’s facing, and it’s enough to lift Peggy’s spirits and convince her to help him persuade the Veteran’s Committee.

There is, despite their significant differences, something that Peggy and Cotton have in common – an indomitable spirit. When Cotton coaxes that out of Peggy one last time as she scales the hill at the cemetery to literally dance on Cotton’s grave, the pair of firebrands dancing cheek-to-cheek is one of the most unlikely, but undeniably earned moments of triumph and sweetness in the show’s history. They may not like one another, but you can’t keep either of them down.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote:

“Stephen Austin. Is that the bionic guy, or the wrestler?” Bobby’s not quite well-versed in Texas history.

__________________________________________________________

08. “Meet the Manger Babies”

luannebabies King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 02

Episode: 12

Original Air Date: Jan. 11, 1998

There are few things in life that Hank values more than American football. He idolizes Hall of Fame coaches, holds several Arlen High Class of ‘74 varsity records, and worships competition: “An all Texas Super Bowl. Thy will be done.” This obsession lifts every Super Bowl Sunday into a de facto Rainey Street holy day. And as it turns out, the only thing in the world that would cause Hank to make other plans is the quiet and paternal love he harbors for his troubled niece-in-law, Luanne.

Throughout the series, Luanne and Hank’s relationship is difficult to navigate. Good old boy Hank has a hard enough time relating to class clown Bobby, let alone the highly emotional, born-again-virgin, boy-crazy Luanne, who makes mistakes but still views the world through rose-tinted glasses. Luanne’s lack of autonomy and poor decision-making drive Hank crazy. But in “Meet the Manger Babies”, Hank demonstrates a strong moral character that is unmatched by any other contemporary cartoon.

meet the manger babies 1 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

The episode finds Hank playing the role of God the Father by helping Luanne produce a religious puppet show after she discovers an old box of props at a local garage sale — “I used to play with puppets all the time with the social worker.” Hank encourages her self-expression but faces a nightmarish scheduling conflict once Luanne books her first live television spot during Super Bowl Sunday, forcing Hank to choose between supporting the fragile, young woman or watching the big game.

It’s fascinating to witness Hank’s internal struggle, but his best angels do win out — with a little help from Peggy and Bobby — as he rushes to the TV studio to save a struggling Luanne. Perhaps rewarded upon high for his good deeds, Hank encounters former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Troy Aikman enjoying “The Manger Babies” live taping. When asked about his presence at the religious play, Aikman shares: “A bunch of the guys were snapping towels in the locker room, and I went to Bible Study to get some perspective on it.” Amen!

–Dan Pfleegor

King of the Quote:

Dale’s Best NFL Conspiracy Theory: “The Super Bowl was pre-taped six months ago in the same Nevada hangar where they faked the moon landing.”

__________________________________________________________

07. “Aisle 8A”

43521 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 04

Episode: 05

Original Air Date: Nov. 7, 1999

One of the sweet spots for King of the Hill’s writers was putting Hank Hill in uncomfortable situations. From learning he has a “diminished gluteal syndrome” that requires him to wear a prosthetic butt to an epic battle with constipation, Hank is a proud man constantly forced to confront his own embarrassment. “Aisle 8A” pits Hank against his greatest fear – feminine hygiene.

In the episode, Kahn and Minh go to Hawaii and leave Connie with the Hills. While Bobby is overwhelmed at the prospect of sharing a roof with his girlfriend, things go south after Connie gets her first period. As the only adult around, Hank must swallow his shame and take his neighbor’s daughter first to the doctor and then to Mega Lo Mart to purchase needed supplies.

He, of course, calls every woman he knows, but Minh is on the beach, Peggy on a substitute assignment, and his mother a figure Hank simply can’t discuss such matters with (“I even hung up on my own mother … and she’s such a nice woman”). Of course, he eventually (and reluctantly) rises to the challenge.

Hank’s storylines often serve to reveal that he has a lot more heart than he wishes to let on. While many of us living far away from the fictional town of Arlen might view its citizens as somewhat simple or redneck, King of the Hill did a fantastic job of dismantling stereotypes and proving that we are, mostly, very much the same.

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote:

Nurse: “Band-Aids aren’t going to work in this situation.”

__________________________________________________________

06. “The Redneck on Rainey Street”

king of the hill season 8 episode 21 the redneck on rainey street King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 08

Episode: 21

Original Air Date: May 16, 2004

When I told my friend I would be writing up some of my favorite King of the Hill episodes, he gave his approval for “The Redneck on Rainey Street” and added, “every episode that stars Kahn is amazing.” He’s not wrong. In this gem from the eighth season, Kahn and Minh abandon their nature as perfect, assimilated Americans after learning that Connie has been rejected from a Rice University summer program because they had too many qualified female Asian applicants. Instead, Kahn goes full-tilt and becomes a redneck with the help of Elvin (voiced by country singer Trace Atkins), who ingratiates Kahn into the hillbilly way of life.

After so many seasons of Kahn serving stories as the judgmental neighbor, to see him “catfisting” fish from the river and engaging in street racing is simply hysterical. King of the Hill has always welcomed reversals of character (remember when Bill becomes a trendy metrosexual hair stylist?), but in Kahn’s backwoods renaissance takes the cake. The episode resolves with him deciding to take inspiration from his daughter’s perseverance and later using the façade of being poor rednecks to help Connie get into a summer program at Stanford.

Worth noting is an exchange Kahn has with his boss over the phone regarding “TPS reports,” which likely shares some DNA with King of the Hill creator Mike Judge’s film Office Space, and Luanne professing her adoration for the new Kahn: “He’s got the coolest car-truck, and he’s got a laundry machine in his backyard for stray dogs to have puppies in.”

–Zack Ruskin

King of the Quote:

Hank: “I didn’t get novelty mailboxes out of this neighborhood just to see this happen.”

__________________________________________________________

05. “Dances with Dogs”

ladybird King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 07

Episode: 05

Original Air Date: Dec. 1, 2002

Hank is repressed but caring. He’s conservative but flexible. He’s competitive but principled. And by God, all of these sides of him are on display in the context of a dog dancing contest.

“Dances with Dogs” is one of King of the Hill’s odder episodes, but also one of its sweetest and truest to the series’ main character. When Hank catches Bobby dancing with Ladybird in preparation for a “Musical Canine Freestyle” competition in McMaynerbury, he scolds his son and bans him from dancing with the family pet ever again. But then, a funny thing happens. It turns out that Bobby’s trained Ladybird too well. The bloodhound manages to persuade Hank to try out a doggie box step, and against all odds, Hank discovers that he likes it.

tumblr lzm9ssbpb71rnrwsbo8 400 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

In fact, he really likes it. So despite his staid demeanor, Hank’s enthusiasm for the way that Ladybird has taken to dancing — the energy and joy they share in the activity — is palpable. Despite the shame that makes him secretive about their unorthodox two-stepping, his pride and confidence in his pup prompt him to continue and even to bend to bits of showmanship like costumes and special tricks. And despite his competitiveness (which leads to a hilarious cold war between him and Bobby, who starts dancing with Kahn’s dog instead), Hank still does something as silly and unusual as a human/dog dance contest in his own, old-school sort of way.

tumblr lzm7cvyqp81rnrwsbo3 400 King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Throw in some amusing commentary from the competition’s announcers and a cruel but undeniably funny C-plot about Bill trying to pull off the same trick with a tempestuous Rottweiler, and you have a recipe for a great episode. But what’s striking about “Dances With Dogs” is that through it all, Hank is so enamored with Ladybird, so proud of their little routine, that he always believes they’re going to win. And even when they don’t, he’s not crushed, just steadfast in his understated but clear belief that showing off the animal he loves so much is worth it. It’s a testament to the heart and depth of Hank Hill, no matter how reserved he may seem on the outside.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote:

As Bobby dances with Doggy, the announcer declares: “We are witnessing a dream. I hope I never wake up, and this dance lasts forever. A boy, a dog, a dance.” As Best in Show proved, canine contest commentary is an endlessly fount of comedy.

__________________________________________________________

04. “Meet the Propaniacs”

propane King of the Hills Top 20 Episodes

Season: 04

Episode: 20

Original Air Date: April 16, 2000

Hank likes propane, Bobby likes comedy, and never the twain shall meet – that is, until “Meet the Propaniacs”. When Bobby is forced to work at Strickland Propane after Hank refuses to let him go to theater camp, an unexpected grille shortage leads to anarchy (prompted, of course, by Dale) while Bobby’s on the job. Jumping into the fray, Bobby uses a propane tank and his natural showmanship to win over the crowd, and more importantly, makes his dad laugh in the process.

One of the recurring threads in King of the Hill is Hank and Bobby’s difficulty in relating to one another, but in this episode, the pair come together through a melding of the two things they love most: humor and C3H8. There’s a great moment early in “Meet the Propaniacs” where the show feints toward Hank being angry at Bobby’s propane-related comic shenanigans, but instead veers into a big belly laugh from Hank at the sight of his son’s antics. When processed through the lens of propane, Hank can’t help but find Bobby’s routines funny, and Strickland’s own sketch comedy group, the titular Propaniacs (or as Peggy repeatedly insists on calling them, “The Propane Maniacs”) are born.

The plot hurdles Hank, Bobby, and the comedy group face are not especially remarkable. The combination of utility player Joe Jack’s stage fright and an unfortunate coincidence involving Charlie Fortner, the diaper-wearing President of the Texas Association of Propane Dealers, threatens to sink the group’s fortunes in an amusing-if-contrived fashion. But what stands out in the episode is how the Propaniacs act as a bridge between father and son, where Bobby is excited to learn about propane, and Hank, in his adorably square way, is excited to learn about comedy.

In the end, what matters is that Hank is willing to defy a man he deeply admires in order to support his son, and Bobby’s willing to do comedy that no one else laughs at so long as Hank’s still chuckling, because no matter what anyone else thinks, they’re both so glad for this weird, silly thing that brings them together.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote:

“On keyboards, the Big D himself … Rusty Shackleford!” Dale’s nom de guerre is even funnier when he can’t keep his initialisms straight.

__________________________________________________________

03. “Yankee Hankee”

Season: 05

Episode: 10

Original Air Date: Feb. 4, 2001

Hank Hill has a nice truck, a good dog, and an immaculate lawn. He’s just about as Texas as it gets. Or at least we thought so until “Yankee Hankee” reveals some hidden secrets about our hero’s past. Hank’s failed application for a Native Texan license plate and frantic search for his missing birth certificate — “I’m pretty sure the license people are gonna need to see a birth certificate. Otherwise you’d have a bunch of Oklahomans trying to get Native Texan license plates” — leads to the stunning revelation that Mr. Hank Rutherford Hill was in fact born in New York, not the Lone Star State. Fugetaboutit!

To make matters worse, Tilly Garrison, Hank’s Mother and long suffering ex-wife of the abusive Cotton Hill, acknowledges that Hank’s birth took place inside the ladies’ room at Yankee Stadium. The episode stands out for its various flashbacks spliced between present-day cuts of a dejected Hank absorbing painful details about his birth, including the fact that a very preganant Tilly and Cotton made a trip out to the east coast to facilitate Cotton’s assassination attempt on a then visiting Fidel Castro. Typical Cotton.

The best King of the Hill episodes show Hank struggling to maintain his steady head even as circumstances and the world around him change. Dale sneaking an “I ❤ NY” sticker onto Hank’s bumper, Peggy’s Biblical observations on Sodom and Gomorrah, and Hank’s cathartic admission that he enjoys eating bagels are just a few of the hilarious moments that challenge this integrity. But at the end of the day, we all recognize that Hank Hill is a good man, a real American, plus an honorary Texan reborn. Hank’s poetic discovery of a New York state flag waving among the 32 birthplaces of historical Alamo defenders is also an emotional peak of the series’ middle seasons.

–Dan Pfleegor

King of the Quote:

There’s a moment in “Yankee Hankee” when Hank contemplates that maybe he is just an orphan who never met his actual birth father. “Maybe my father is Tom Landry. That would explain my strong chin and my love for the flex defense. I wonder if I would call him ‘dad’ or ‘coach.’ Nah, who am I kidding. I would call him ‘sir.’”

__________________________________________________________

02. “Jumpin’ Crack Bass”

Season: 02

Episode: 05

Original Air Date: Nov. 2, 1997

Leave it to King of the Hill to present a riff on the old anti-drug after-school special, one involving crack no less, where the actual addiction du jour is fishing. When we first see Hank in “Jumpin’ Crack Bass”, he is the symbol of purity, waxing poetic about the peace and tranquility of fishing regardless of how many fish you catch and chastising his compatriots for using anything but the “hand-dug American worm” at the end of their lines. He refuses to use any “cheater bait” like scented lures and won’t even drink ginseng tea, which he considers “dope.” Nevertheless, Hank does have a dependency, and it’s at the bottom of a lake, not a bottle.

After coming home empty-handed after an outing on the water, Hank tries to follow a tip for some homemade bait from a local son of the soil and unwittingly ends up buying crack. Only Hank could be oblivious and provincial enough not to realize the difference.

But it works! The fish are biting like mad, and it’s then that Hank shows all the signs of an addict, albeit one pulled by the rush of reeling in a bass rather than any sort of chemical high. He finds any excuse to head to the lake, sneaks in and out in the wee hours of the night, lies to his friends and family, and has to scare off desperate chums trying to raid his “stash.” And, as in all good anti-drug PSAs, he gets caught and is forced to face the consequences of his crime (the crack-buying, not so much the fishing).

Still, Hank finds his salvation by seeing the error of his ways and remembering why he became an angler in the first place. He goes back to using the worm that brought him to the dance, and in a lovingly animated sequence, he takes in the still beauty of his surroundings. The tiny fish he catches in the process is enough to convince the judge who holds his fate in his hands (James Carville, playing a jurist with a knack for creative punishments) that he was telling the truth. In the end, it’s Hank’s reaffirmation of that purity, of the things he believed in and cast off while he was casting off, that eventually saves him.

–Andrew Bloom

King of the Quote:

“No, no, this guy never went to school. He grew up in the hills. But he wrote the book on homemade bait. ‘Course it’s just a bunch of scribbles ’cause he never went to school.” Layaway Ray is poetic but practical.

__________________________________________________________

01. “Bobby Goes Nuts”

Season: 06

Episode: 01

Original Air Date: Nov. 11, 2001

“That’s my purse! I don’t know you!” is an empowering mantra repeated by Bobby Hill throughout a classic sequence of fisticuffs. The usually laid-back, prepubescent Hill child — voiced with exceptional range by Pamela Adlon — attends the YMCA at Hank’s urging after losing a fight. Although Hank wants his son to enroll in boxing lessons, the precocious Bobby instead joins a women’s self-defense class and eagerly adopts their testicle-booting combat move, much to the chagrin of bullies throughout Tom Landry Middle School. Bobby’s groin kicks start out as a shield but gradually become a lance as he aggressively takes down classmates for increasingly trivial reasons: “Which one of you guys is the tallest?”

The brawls gets so out of hand that Principal Moss meets with Hank and Peggy for an emergency behavioral meeting. It’s a treat to see Hank’s swelling pride when he first hears that Bobby has been beating up the other students rather than absorbing their abuse. But the glowing emotions quickly turn to disgust once Bobby reveals his hidden, nut-busting strategy. Hank also eventually ends up hobbled by one of Bobby’s patented sneak attacks, leaving Peggy to best the boy in single combat while Hank recovers on the couch for a few days.

“Bobby Goes Nuts” highlights the differences between the athletic, moral, disciplined Hank and the whimsical, laid-back Bobby, who prefers making people laugh to doing hard work. This dichotomy is repeated throughout some of the series’ most heartfelt episodes because it’s fascinating to see the two characters attempt at making a connection. These efforts also speak to Hank’s kind desire to forge a close relationship with his son, avoiding the distance that exist between Hank and his own father.

–Dan Pfleegor

King of the Quote:

Poor Bill just wants a family like Hank’s. “I wish I had a son to kick me in the nuts.” (Dale kicks Bill, who falls.) “Be careful what you wish for.”

view all
6 comments