There have been rumors of a King of the Hill revival for a good half-decade or so. While the abrupt series finale was wonderfully satisfying, King of the Hill was handed a cancellation that especially hurts to look back on since it seemingly was canned to make room for the dreadful Cleveland Show. The story of the Hill family and their friends and family seemingly still had more to offer, and while the baby of Mike Judge and Greg Daniels never got the cultural zeitgeist attention of The Simpsons, South Park, or even Judge’s Beavis and Butthead, it easily ranks among them when it comes to the all-time animated greats.
A revival is still in the works and not a sure thing, but the odds are better than ever. Judge is already bringing back Beavis and Butthead. Plus, Judge and Daniels have confirmed that they are trying to bring King of the Hill back. This comeback would age up the characters. More Hank Hill feels more possible than ever.
And we need it.
The trait most defining King of the Hill compared to, well, every other animated show ever made, was its authenticity. The Simpsons was certainly an amazing animated look at a normal suburban family, but King of the Hill upstaged it in that one way. The way this show crafted its humor and storytelling around people just being people was different from what anyone else does. You didn’t see the Hill family literally fighting Walmart or becoming national sensations on Krusty’s TV show. You watched Hank Hill teach shop class and drink with his friends or Peggy teach Spanish. You watched battles to keep lawns alive and city council hearings over low flow toilets.
It was a more compelling, authentic look at a small town and its residents than most live-action sitcoms could ever hope to achieve.
This dedication to making everything feel real gave King of the Hill space to really examine societal issues, without hiding it behind exaggerated cartoon metaphors and antics. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I love how absurd animation can get in order to drag societal issues of the time, and it is usually an extremely effective way to best get the point across. That being said, by opting for something grounded and real, King of the Hill also made it easier to recognize the issues for what they are.
I’m sure that the concept of a show based around small town, conservative Texans and their average lives sounds boring, but not only was it charmingly funny, it was a setting ripe for challenging the viewpoints of everyone watching, no matter where you fall on the social spectrum. And damn could we use something like that today.
This was most obvious to King of the Hill viewers while watching the fraught-but-loving relationship between Hank and his son Bobby. Hank is pure, Reagonism Texan from head to toe. He sells propane, watches football, votes Republican, and goes to church. He wants men to be men, women to be women, and struggles to understand anything outside that “traditional” social standard. When a Laotian family moves in next door, that’s the scandal of the century.
Yet here he is raising a son who defies almost all norms. Bobby Hill refutes some masculine traits and embraces others. He has dreams of being a New York showman yet he loves to go shooting and hunting. One episode sees him show ugly, toxic jealousy over his girlfriend, Connie, another sees him wearing dresses and makeup. Bobby Hill stubbornly refuses to fit into any mold, societal or gender, much to the exasperation of his father.
Because of this, he often challenges his father’s views of the world and makes him a better, more open-minded person. The same is also true for Bobby because of Hank. It’s a show that, more than most television out there, makes its characters (and audience) touch grass and break outside their bubble.
And that trait is what King of the Hill could so sorely provide in today’s television landscape. An authentic, complex view of how the human mindset struggles to change in the wake of societal changes or threats to its worldview.
I would love to see King of the Hill’s version of a small, conservative Texas town deal with the social changes that have occurred since the show last aired. The world has changed in surprisingly significant ways since the show ended in 2010. Significant social divides have only deepened. Social media culture has taken hold. The conservatism of small towns like Arlen has transformed into something else entirely.
King of the Hill would handle stuff like this differently than more outlandish, comical shows because King of the Hill would not treat it like an absurd joke meant only for crafting jokes. The show obviously would crack jokes and be funny, but it would also care about treating everyone like real people, even when they are completely wrong about something.
So much of what causes intense social divides today is the tendency to write off entire swaths of people as irredeemable assholes who deserve to be treated as lesser than you. It is that tendency to live solely online and view people as caricatures on the internet, rather than flesh and blood human beings you see every day. King of the Hill tried its best to never do that.
It is easy to look at Nancy Gribble’s long affair with John Redcorn and treat her like there is nothing redeeming about her, but King of the Hill does not treat the issue that way because there is more to it than that. Peggy is often a suffocatingly egotistical idiot, but she is a stubbornly loyal and good person who improves the lives of everyone around her, even the absolute pieces of garbage like Hank’s father, Cotton. Bill is a terribly depressed and lonely divorcee who is treated like the least capable person in the neighborhood, but he is also a skilled barber, speaks French, and is a sweet person who wants the best for his friends.
King of the Hill was always so consistently excellent at establishing stereotypes for its characters and then expanding well beyond them. Even better, it was good at doing this for the kind of country bumpkin stereotypes that are such easy targets.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awful people out there, and anyone reading this who has rid themselves of those types of awful influences in their life are justified in doing so. Still, shows like King of the Hill are good for instilling a little compassion in the audiences who watch them. I think today’s world can use a little more compassion and empathy.
Sometimes you need something to remind you that people are all people.
Images Courtesy of Fox
Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!