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Fit for a King of the Hill: Mike Judge receives the Ernie Kovacs Award.
Fit for a King of the Hill: Mike Judge receives the Ernie Kovacs Award.

Here Comes Judge

Writer-director Mike Judge doesn't sound nearly as much like Hank Hill, the character he created and has voiced for 100 episodes of Fox's King of the Hill, as you want him to. But when discussing his TV habits, the Austin resident does slide into an enthusiastic technical description of his favorite viewing aid. He somehow reminds you of Hank extolling the virtues of propane accessories.

"It's this great little box you can buy at Sears called TiVo," Judge rhapsodizes, "and you can basically program it to locate, record, and store any movie or TV show you want that's available on cable. You never use your VCR. They say it's not selling well because it's hard to market. I was singing The Beverly Hillbillies theme song to my daughter, and she said, 'What's that?' I went over, typed in 'b-e-v, h-i-l,' and we watched an episode."

We're talking influences because Judge will return to Dallas (he lived in Richardson and played upright bass with Anson Funderburgh's band in the late '80s) to receive the Ernie Kovacs Award for television achievement from the Dallas Video Festival. The man with a degree in physics who says The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It To Beaver are still among his favorite programs wouldn't seem to possess the constitution to create Beavis and Butt-head, one of the signature pop-culture phenoms of the '90s and, for some, another sign of the apocalypse. But opposition to "Beaver and Buffcoat," as Strom Thurmond called them on the Senate floor, didn't always come from the expected sources.

"I read a rave review one time in, I think, National Review," Judge chuckles. "And the Village Voice hated it. So go figure."

The slow-paced but hilarious King of the Hill has been praised by former B & B adversaries as extolling traditional values--civic pride, family loyalty, hard work. But Judge resists being a pawn in anyone's culture wars, saying he's more interested in "keeping it small, keeping the world outside Arlen outside" than in any conservative agenda. It's just more fun to side with the Hills against the rest of the world, he insists, because you don't see their kind of viewpoint portrayed very often. Still, the show did get pointedly political one time.

"We had an episode that took a stand against low-flow toilets," Judge remembers. "Hank insisted that you just have to flush them more times, so nobody saves any more water."


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