Film and TV

The Most Texas Episodes of King of the Hill

King of the Hill co-creator Mike Judge
King of the Hill co-creator Mike Judge Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
We're experiencing a reboot renaissance when it comes to movies and TV shows these days. One is finally making a comeback far more deserved than a fourth Matrix film.

The FOX animated sitcom King of the Hill created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels is in development for a second time. The duo told The Hollywood Reporter that they are working on an updated incarnation of the lives of the Hill family and their neighbors and fellow Arlen residents. This comes with a handful of new TV concepts from Daniels and Judge including a Beavis & Butt-head revival through their new animation company Bandera Entertainment.

King of the Hill's award-winning 13-season run from 1997-2010 used Texas as its virtual playground at a time when pretty much every Texan on the small and big screen came off as loud, obnoxious, big-hat wearing morons out of a Pace Picante Sauce commercial. Judge and Daniels embraced the characters' Texas roots and accents but found their comedy and voice as belonging to a changed time.

Here are some of the best King of the Hill episodes that showed Texas in clever, honest and hilarious ways.
"The Order of the Straight Arrow" (Season 1, Episode 3)
The concept of the snipe hunt isn't germane entirely to Texas (see the Cheers episode "The Heart is a Lonely Snipehunter") but for Texas natives, it's still a serious rite of passage in childhood. Hank, Bill, Dale and Boomhauer take the kids on a camping trip to relive the ordeal that Hank's short-but-larger-than-life father, Cotton, took them on as kids. Bobby's flair for the dramatic and his naïve nature cause him to accidentally bag something much more endangered than the deadly snipe with his "whoop-ass stick," as Bill calls it.
"How to Fire a Rifle Without Really Trying" (Season 2, Episode 1)
Guns and Texas go together like peanut butter and jelly. It's inevitable that King of the Hill would feature an episode surrounding our state's love for firearms.

Bobby struggled through the first season to find a skill that doesn't make Hank run for his BC Headache Powder, and he finally finds one with target range shooting. Unfortunately, Hank's rough and tough upbringing makes him too terrified to take a steady shot. A big part of the joke comes from the shame of Hank admitting that he can't shoot straight, along with a one-thumbed, one-eyed shooting range manager who leads the safety course.
"The Company Man" (Season 2, Episode 9)
Even though a show like King of the Hill strives to stay away from the coloring book-style caricatures of Texans as loud, obnoxious hillbillies, it would inevitably have to introduce such a character — but in its own clever way. Hank is tasked with winning a propane contract for a new housing development from an out-of-towner whose only education about Texas history seems to come from reruns of Dallas and Frontierland at Walt Disney World.

The newcomer, voiced by cartoon legend Billy West, has a heavy Boston accent to rev up the absurdity as he forces Hank to dress like an extra in Blazing Saddles, much to the amusement of his snickering neighbors. It also gives Hank a chance to show his client and the audience the truest parts of Texas culture, such as homemade pies in quiet diners, the state's contributions to art and literature and the sprawling majesty of its natural beauty. A ridiculous group of salespeople then play up the cowboy stereotypes for a quick buck for Hank's propane rival M.F. Thatherton, voiced by Burt Reynolds. All of these characters are solely responsible for making people think we always wear chaps down here.
"Three Coaches and a Bobby" (Season 3, Episode 12)
Football is another sacrosanct Texas tradition that can wind people up to the point of insanity. Part of the reason its stuck around for so long is its connection to our youth as that "good ol' time," even if it mostly consisted of forgotten injuries and coaches who equated a simple game with the spoils of a major war.

Hank tries to help his son Bobby make his own sporting glory days by bringing back the loud, angry coach who helmed his team to a state loss, voiced perfectly by radio and comedy legend Phil Hendrie. Even though the kids are barely old enough to play Pee-Wee football, the coach makes the kids conduct "helmet tests" by running head-first into brick walls, motivating them to run faster by chasing them down with his car and treating every minor or major injury with salt tablets. If you think that's over the top, then you've clearly never been to a high school football game.
"Rodeo Days" (Season 4, Episode 12)
A rodeo seemed like another inevitable setting for a King of the Hill episode that's also fraught with the potential peril of easy cowboy stereotypes. Rodeos are a cultural tradition in Texas, and the episode does a great job of explaining their significance and appeal in ways that the characters and anyone watching can actually grasp.

Bobby's comedic pursuits once again push him away from Hank's hope that he'll become more like him when Bobby discovers the art of rodeo clowning. The plot shows Hank how the thing he understands least about his son can actually become an asset as well as a hilarious trick anyone can do at a party with a fire extinguisher.
"Yankee Hankee" (Season 4, Episode 10)
The developments of this episode made me literally drop the soda I was drinking at the time. Anyone who's lived in Texas for any stretch of time knows how our nativism is something that gets pushed into our bloodstream with a syringe.

Hank learns the startling news that he's not a native-born Texan. He eventually learns to accept who he is but the twisting, writhing and gauuuughing he does with each new development is hilarious because everyone in Texas either is or knows someone who would suffer a seizure if they learned the same thing about themselves.
"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Alamo" (Season 8, Episode 17)
There are few moments more debated and studied in our state's history than the 1836 Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio. New revelations from historians still pop up along with info such as the collection of Alamo artifacts rounded up by singer Phil Collins, who has a Trekkie-like obsession with the fort's story.

In another way, the episode also showcases our love and often unhealthy relationship with our own state's history by taking on two extremes at once: Hank's undying love for the sacrifices made by the men of the Alamo and the exaggerated truths that arise from its history, both good and bad. It paints a touching but sometimes ugly look at our stubborn obsession with our history as "good," a question we still seem to struggle with in the controversies over Confederate monuments. It also finds ways to wind up Hank's id really good, which always makes for a hilarious episode. 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.