I admit that when King of the Hill first premiered in 1997 I was not a big fan. I couldn't always put my finger on why. It was not so much that the show wasn't funny or anything like, but mostly because at the time, King of the Hill came out when shows like The Simpsons and Southpark were pretty big. In short, my expectations led me away from King of the Hill. The Simpsons and especially Southpark were a bit more whacky. You also have to understand I was just ten going eleven. When I watch cartoons the last thing I wanted to see then was real life. Why would I want to watch King of the Hill when I could watch a show like All in the Family or something like that instead? In fact, why make King of the Hill animated at all?
Well, I eventually did come around. King of the Hill, like The Simpsons and Southpark, was able to really separate itself from those shows in spite of (probably because of) it's realistic depiction of life in an animated form. It comes from Mike Judge, the guy who made Beavis and Butthead. The animation was crude when the show began and some of the voice work and what have you was actually quite annoying. What King of the Hill did have, however, was a fine cast of characters, many of whom are strange and eccentric in their own way. What it also had was the implimentation of ironic humor. In fact, much of King of the Hill's humor comes from being ironic and observational. Part of what makes the show so nice is that it happens to be a show which, by and large, is able to show us characters we can potentially relate to, and because it abandons certain things that lots of shows like to do.
King of the Hill is unique in that regard. It's a comedy, but not a show that abandons the same messages that shows like The Simpsons tried to carry. Much like Family Guy and Southpark, King of the Hill was heavily inspired by The Simpsons. But rather than try to mimic the show as Family Guy did when it started out, it used the strength of The Simpsons to push its own kind of show. It's a clever satire in and of itself, but a lot of it comes from the idea that in some ways we can see ourselves or someone we know within these characters. Yet what's also interesting is that King of the Hill succeeds while being completely down to earth about what it does. There's almost nothing over the top. As I said, most of its humor comes from irony and situations that are taken in humorous ways. What makes it better is that each character has the tone and voice of taking these situations very seriously. Hank is always the best character. He's always going on about Propane and Propane Accessories. A lot of the time his talks about Propane seem crazy. In an episode where Hank is dreaming of Nancy naked and Peggy finds out, she think it's because Hank doesn't find her attractive. But that's NOT it at all. No, what Peggy seems to forget is that in the dream Hank is grilling naked... and she soon discovers that he's turned on by propane. To us it's pretty funny and non-sensical in a way. But to Hank it's serious stuff. It's stuff like this that makes King of the Hill funny.
There's more to the characters than that. Hank's friends also add to this in some ways. His next door neighbors are an Asian Family from Laos who Hank and his friends keep asking upon meeting them, "So are you Chinese or Japanese?" He answers several times that he is neither, but what makes it funny is that Hank and his friends are still curious because he's quite literally the only Asian on the block. It's saying something while not really pushing the button on it too much. And King of the Hill does more than that to tackle some of the racial issues. And for what it's worth, we can appreciate it. While it may play on stereotypes such as Con's broken English or Dale being a conspiracy theorist who doesn't trust the government, it rarely goes too far over the top with these instances.
Dale is another one of those characters that really gives the show some life. He is the one who is so distrustful of the Government that he often goes by the alias of Rusty Shackleford. We might see him as crazy, but it's very important to realize that Dale doesn't see himself that way. This is another strength of King of the Hill. The characters are all believable. Even Dale comes off that way, despite that he is close to being a lunatic with his conspiracy theories. And throughout the years the show has never forgotten characters personalities as they change.
Bill is a divorced man who suffers from depression, among other things, but looks up to and respects Hank for who he is, and Boomhauer is a ladies man and perhaps the most mysterious of any character. We don't know too much about him.
As Hank and his friends get into trouble one thing becomes very clear, throughout; the show is trying to say something. It actually manages to pull out some neat little messages throughout. Hank may best be seen as the stereotypical "Family Man" to many, but he most certainly isn't portrayed as crazy or anything like that. In fact, some may find that Hank is far too serious and that King of the Hill in and of itself is far too serious when compared to other shows like The Simpsons which get out family messages in a far more comedic manner. And I won't lie, King of the Hill isn't nearly as funny as Classic Simpsons or Southpark. And because of its down to earth manner some may not really like the show much at all. Again, why watch an animated show when so many live action shows do the exact same thing? And true enough, it could be hard to give King of the Hill a chance as a result.
As I said earlier, there's a lot of ironic humor that propels King of the Hill forward. Throughout the show we know that Dale's wife, Nancy, has bee cheating on him with John Redcorn, and as a result, Nancy's has John's child (but Dale is too stupid and slow to realize it's not his) but they hide behind Dale being the father so that Nancy doesn't have to admit it to Dale. In another episode we find out that John was actually cheating on Nancy and has another child. As a result of Dale's skepticism to everything, he ends up testing her DNA and finds that Joseph (his son) and this girl have the same father. And as a result, Dale thinks that's his child... And the woman is dating Bill. Dale remarks to John Redcorn that it's hard to watch an idiot raise your child. To which John Redcorn gladly responds, "I know." Get it? Because John Redcorn really IS watching an idiot raise his child. It may not be hilarious to some, but it does show that there's some clever writing in the show.
Perhaps the best part about King of the Hill's humor is that the characters really do take it all so seriously. And the character that doesn't, Bobby, is one of the strongest characters in show. He often disappoints his father because he's interested in comedy, theater and has no interest in sports whatsoever. His conception is a lucky thing anyway given Hank's narrow urethra. Another bit of irony on the shows part. Hank wanted a son and got a son... but Bobby is nothing like the son Hank wanted. He loves Bobby, but never hesitates to show when he's disappointed. It's the relationship between Bobby and Hank that makes much of the show fun. Because they're so different. Bobby is one of the show's more interesting characters. The episodes which revolve around him are often the best in the show.
Yet each and every episode concerning Hank and Bobby always comes back to how Hank loves his son no matter what. In spite of how Bobby disappoints him. Even though he needs a push from his wife to do so.
If there was one thing to complain about with King of the Hill it may actually be that sometimes it doesn't take off from the earth. Sometimes it gets a little too real, to the point where sometimes the climax of a particular episode could be something of a letdown. In short, some episodes just don't pack a punch because of it. Later seasons have introduced a couple of less interesting characters. In particular, Lucky is not much of an amusing character. But at least we can say that characters undergo changes and that they evolve. At the same time, it's amazing to see that some characters haven't devolved too much. The Simpsons, for all its greatness devolved into something it clearly was not. King of the Hill has yet to do that, even with some episodes not really being as memorable as older ones, the show is far from jumping the shark. On the other hand, it's not like there's a worry. The show is pretty much getting cancelled to make room for Seth MacFarlane's "The Cleveland Show" and to continue with *shudder* "Sit Down and Shut Up."
King of the Hill, in some ways, is an acquired taste because of how it's humor is done and perceived. It may take a moment, but some may grow to love it. I grew to really enjoy it over time. In the middle is when it's at its best, but it's nice to know that King of the Hill didn't take the same hard fall as The Simpsons did in later years.
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