Wednesday, August 6, 2014

King of the Hill

"Bobby, you go pick something from the adventure section . . . anything about a boy with gumption should be fine." ~ Hank Hill

Man, is there anyone out there who isn't a fan of King of the Hill? Simultaneously a satire and love letter to small town life, and full of larger than life characters, King of the Hill is one of the few "adult" programs I watched when I was a kid (Yes, I was that kid) that I still find enjoyment in now.

Why is that?

Well, if you've seen the show, then you know why. If you haven't, then I'm not sure how to explain its appeal. But, I guess I'll try.

"Gun's don't kill people. The Government does." ~ Dale Gribble

Do you enjoy shows about human beings trying to live normal lives? Then King of the Hill is for you. Because that's essentially what the show is about.

You have Hank Hill, an average family man and father from Texas, who is simply trying to raise his son through this complete train-wreck of a culture the modern world is. He's sometimes ignorant to a fault, but at other times his old fashioned wisdom is the antidote needed to cut through a lot of the lunacy going on out there.

There's his wife, Peggy, who suffers tremendously from a surplus of self-esteem, and his preteen son, Bobby, who has basically fallen face-first into pop culture to the point that he doesn't even really understand it. These three form the basic dynamic of the show both in how they contrast each other, and how they still love each other. The Hill's are a normal, church-going family, more concerned with getting through the day than indulging in strange ideas, aside from Bobby, and are more or less the moral compass of the wacky universe they live in.

That is where Hank's friend's come in.

"Bureaucrats, like mobs, don't respond to reason." ~ Dale Gribble

Each of Hank's friends suffers heavily from a vice of their own (Hank's would be ignorance, though he is frequently the one to think up good plans) such as Dale Gribble's obsession with conspiracy theories and cowardice, Boomhauer's sex obsession and lustful tenancies, and Bill's loneliness that eats up much of his sociability in public situations. There's also Hank's niece, Luanne, who isn't all too bright and makes dumb decisions, and his neighbours, the Souphanousinphones, who are three separate chracters with issues of their own.

The most fascinating is Cotton Hill, Hank's father. A World War II veteran that encompasses every negative trait of every character and ramped up to 10. What saves him, is his sense of honor and justice beneath his tremendous harshness which is the only light that manages to shine through the black pit he tends to leave himself.

What makes the show work is how all these characters interact. How they all influence each other and the plot, and how they all grow and change as it goes.

"Sorry I'm late. I had to stop by the wax museum again and give the finger to FDR." ~ Cotton Hill

It's an animated comedy that aired on FOX for over ten years spread over thirteen seasons and it always managed a strange consistency. There are very few television shows where it can be argued that the 12th season is the best, but this is one of them.

This, in my estimate, is one of the best examples of storytelling in the medium. Everyone watches King of the Hill specifically to see what the characters are going to do. They don't watch it for the crazy parodies or situations of The Simpsons or the incessant pop culture wasteland of Family Guy, they watch it to see exactly what Hank and his friends are up to this week and how they're planning on solving their problems.

It's simple stuff, yet when I look around the television landscape nowadays I see more people interested in who will have sex with who or who will be murdered this week. Shows about people solving problems just seem rarer and rarer with every passing day.

But that doesn't mean we can't still watch reruns, I suppose.

"Education is the sleeping pill that dreams are made of." ~ Peggy Hill

Of course, I'm clearly a fan. That said, it's probably always going to be one of my favorite shows. Nothing really tops it in consistency or the incredible highs. If you haven't sat through any of the 250+ episodes of this show, you're missing out. Don't believe the lame-oids who call this show boring, or the hipsters that tell you its second to Beavis & Butthead or The Office for the creators' other works. They're wrong.

King of the Hill, in my opinion, is the best animated television show ever made. You won't find a show this consistently inspired, week after week. Even if it is over, we'll always have reruns.

Bobby: Well, Dad, it looks like this is the last one.
Hank: Oh, you're just getting started, Bobby. You'll be grilling your whole life.
Bobby: Just like you.
Hank: Yep.
Bobby: Yep.

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