On this day in 1997, “King of the Hill” debuted on the Fox Network, beginning a 13-season run. The show, which centered around the antics of proud propane salesman and Texan Hank Hill, his wife Peggy, son Bobby, and his zany friends, would end up becoming the third-longest running prime time animated series. Only “The Simpsons” and “South Park” have lasted longer.
Creator Mike Judge, best known at the time for “Beavis and Butthead” (which is much wittier than generally credited for), said in a “Making of” documentary that his original idea was to have Hank be as crazy and misguided as the rest of the characters. However, he found it made for a much better show having Hank be the most normal character and exacerbating all of the other characters’ eccentricities, i.e. Dale being a crazy right-winger, Peggy thinking she’s great at everything, etc.
That change resulted in a show that masterfully blended cartoonish humor, biting commentary and morality play, and what I believe is the modern-day “Andy Griffith Show.” Seriously, the idea is not as far as off as you think; moral southerner plays straight man as his family and friends get in crazy jams. That being said, Hank did not have the sense of humor or self-awareness of Andy Taylor.
There are 258 episodes of the “King of the Hill,” but if these ten don’t leave you with a smile on your face, then you need to stop taking yourself so seriously.
- The Order of the Straight Arrow (Season 1): Hank and the boys take their kids on a camping trip and reminisce over their youth, prompting the line “When I grow up, I want to sell propane and propane accessories, if my grades are good enough!”
- Junkie Business (Season 2): Hank accidentally hires an unapologetic drug addict at Strickland Propane and federal law prevents him from taking action until he comes up with an ingenious plan.
- Jon Vitti Presents: ‘Return to La Grunta’ (Season 3): In this episode about sexual harassment, Luanne goes to work at a country club where she finds herself ogled by the jackass golfers. Meanwhile, Hank has an unpleasant encounter with a dolphin.
- Love Hurts and So Does Art (Season 3): Liverwurst or being able to walk? That’s the decision Bobby is faced with when he becomes addicted to deli food and comes down with gout.
- A Fire-fighting We Will Go (Season 3): When one of them accidentally burns down the firehouse, Hank Bill, Dale and Boomhauer each tell their own version of what happened in this hilarious take on “Rashomon.”
- Ho Yeah (Season 5): Peggy unwittingly befriends a prostitute and before long, Hank becomes her unsuspecting pimp. Renee Zellweger guest stars.
- Returning Japanese (Season 6): In this two-part episode, Hank takes his World War II vet father, Cotton, back to Japan and learns some shocking news. David Carradine guest stars.
- Reborn to Be Wild (Season 8): Bobby joins a youth group and experiences a newfound excitement for Christianity, but Hank is skeptical. It’s hard to write an episode about being “on fire for the Lord,” with a message that everyone can appreciate, but this show manages to do it.
- A Rover Runs Through It (Season 9): The Hill family travels to Montana to visit Peggy’s family, Bobby doesn’t quite understand how to find all the answers in nature and Hank engages in a land war with Henry Winkler.
- To Sirloin with Love (Season 13): The show fittingly ends with Hank and Bobby finally being able to bond on… something.