While that Hank Hill jpeg remix is becoming popular on social media, news has come out earlier this year that Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, who created the series King of the Hill, are considering reviving it. This could be very good or it could be very awful.
Some TV shows only live within the short era in which they were broadcast. Shows like Maude, All in the Family or Diff’rent Strokes might have seemed groundbreaking back in the 1970s, but not today. We live in a society where an interracial lesbian couple, where one is pregnant, is shown in commercials. Why do we want to take a step back? Judge and Daniels have a huge issue on their backs. How are they going to portray a small-town Texas family in the 2020s?
When the series first aired on Fox back in the winter of 1997, it seemed to be a more political moderate response to the changing times in the 1990s with knee-jerk reactions affecting policies and mindsets. Hank (voiced by Judge) and his wife, Peggy (voiced by Kathy Najimy) seemed to be stuck in an old-fashioned nuclear family fantasy world that wasn’t playing out the way it was expected. Hank has a narrow uretha and was only able to have one child, Bobby (voiced by Pamela Adlon), who was everything Hank wasn’t. He would often say of Bobby, “that boy ain’t right.”
But both Hank and Peggy loved Bobby regardless and the series focused on them raising a family in the fictional Arlen, Texas town as they were having to deal with other changes to the American landscape. Hank and his friends, Dale Gribble (voiced by Johnny Hardwick), Jeff Boomhauer (also voiced by Judge) and Bill Dauterive (voiced by Stephen Root), had all grown up together and lived in the same neighborhood. They seemed to fit the ultimate goal of the post-WWII Baby Boom mentality.
But there was problems in the neighborhood. Despite being a conspiracy theorists and skeptical of a lot of things, Dale was oblivious to the notion that his wife, Nancy (voiced by Ashley Gardner) was having an affair with John Redcorn (voiced by Victor Aaron and then Jonathan Joss) who was the real father of his son, Joseph (voiced by Breckin Meyer). Boomhauer was a known womanizer and philander whose behavoir was condoned as it was brushed aside. And Bill was a divorced Army sergeant who worked as a barber at the nearby Army base. Bill was also the whipping boy of the group as he was struggling with life following a messy divorce.
You could see that Judge and Daniels were trying to break down the archetypes set up by a Norman Rockwell/Leave it to Beaver Americana while still being respectful. To complicate matters more in the neighborhood, they got a Laotian family as new neighbors. Kahn Souphanousinphone (voiced by the non-Laotian Toby Huss), his wife, Minh, and daughter, Connie (voiced by Lauren Tom) added a cultural shock needed in the show. Ironically, even though Bill signed up during the Vietnam era, he had no idea of Laos. One of the gags is Hank and his friends were asking Kahn if he was Japanese or Chinese.
The Hills were also having to take care of their niece, Luanne Platter (voiced by Brittany Murphy) who was struggling at a beauty college. Her family was known for only being dysfunctional. Her mother had gone to jail for stabbing her father. There was concerns she’d follow down the same path of trailer trash with her selfish boyfriend, Buckley (voiced by David Herman).
During the first few seasons, the series was ripe with satire of American life. It never really took a political stance, but you could assume that at least Hank was a registered Republican. I think Peggy was more liberal minded. Hank worked at Strickland Propane and had almost an obsession with the product. Peggy was a substitute teacher who was ready to go once getting the call. However, Bobby seemed to be more focus on being a prop comic. He also was attracted to Connie almost from the start.
But, like a lot of series, the show began to wane a little. Murphy’s movie career took off around the first part of the 2000s and Luann was hardly on the show during this time. But it was hard to keep the same tone going as George W. Bush was now president and 9/11 happened. (One of the jokes in a 2000 episode is Hank not wanting to vote for Bush because he had a limp handshake). By 2003, America was thrust into two wars. Yet, it seemed little was mentioned on the show about the changing tides in America.
Eventually, Judge and Daniels became less involved in the series after the fifth and sixth seasons and the drop in quality was evident. It didn’t help matters that Fox had moved the series around earlier in his run. The first two seasons were on betweeen The Simpsons and The X-Files on Sunday nights. Then, they moved it to Tuesday nights. And viewership was affected.
By the time, Bush was in office, the show had returned to Sundays but then shown at 7 p.m., which created problems in the Fall months as NFL games on Fox often pre-empted some episodes. Others weren’t shown at all. By the ninth season, production had been cut from 22 episodes to 15. Because of the pre-emptions, the 10th season actually aired episodes intended for the ninth season. The show was originally supposed to end after the 10th season but there were three more seasons before it finally ended with a two-part finale in September of 2009 after it had been canceled. Four episodes were shown in syndication in 2010.
By this time, Judge had directed Idiocracy, which didn’t get much of a theatrical release but found its audience on the home video and pay-cable markets. Judge also directed another comedy, Extract, in 2009 that didn’t a good reception either.
Judge was also spearheading The Goode Family on ABC, but this would be a sign of how a King of the Hill revival might look if changes aren’t made to reflect the times. The Goodes were an ultra-liberal vegan green family who often did more damage than good. But the jokes weren’t there. It was as if Judge was still stuck in the late 1990s Clinton era. Imagine the 2006 Correspondents Dinner where Rich Little did Jimmy Carter impersonations. It’s a lot like that. Naturally, ABC canceled the series.
So, what would King of the Hill about 15 years later look like? That’s the tightrope Judge and Daniels are going to have to walk. A lot of Hank’s ideals don’t sit well with many people nowadays. He’ll come off just as a Boomer screaming at the clouds. Boomhauer’s womanizing wouldn’t go over in the MeToo era. Dale’s conspiracy theories would turn him into a QAnon nutjob. At the time, it was funny because very few people would open about their non-sense theories. Now, it’s all over the Internet and anyone with a podcast, a YouTube account or blog can spread it. And Bill’s behavior isn’t a laughing matter. It’s obvious Bill was struggling with mental issues that no one talked about 20-25 years ago, but they do now.
Maybe Boomhauer and Bill both find someone to marry. Bobby, Joseph and Connie all need to grow up. There were Millennials during the serie’s run. They don’t need to be Gen Zers in the revival. Seeing them grown into people in their late 20s/early 30s might give the series some good material. It might actually be good to see Peggy as a grandmother.
However, they do need to do something about Kahn. Tom has Chinese ancestry. Huss doesn’t. Having Huss do it now would be no different than Mickey Rooney’s awful performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Also, making John Redcorn just someone obsessed with sex fits another Indigenous stereotype.
And that’s the problem with the series. It was pushing back saying you got to take some issues with a grain of salt. Some political correctness was going to far. But now, some of the ideals of Hank and Co. are outdated. And Judge and Daniels got to get with the times. Everyone changes over time. Hank probably does know what a jpeg is now.
The series could have some fun with Dale being mistaken for a QAnon conspiracy theory or Peggy, an educator, focusing on changes in our education system. But I seriously doubt Hank being the same as he was 20 years ago would work in this time. It was apparent after a while the writers felts Hank was stuck in the past. He became a joke of himself.
It could work if the right writing staff is willing to go the extra mile. Otherwise, we’d get something like the 2017-2018 season of Roseanne that seemed dated with Roseanne concerned about an Islamic family in the neighborhood. I’m not sure Hank and friends dealing with an Islamic family the same way they did with Kahn and his family would work as well. Also, the joke was on Hank who were expecting a white family and mistook the movers for the occupants.
But to address the elephant in the room, how will they handle Luanne since Murphy passed away in 2009? Luanne began a relationship with Lucky (voiced by the late Tom Petty) and many fans, myself included, felt it was a step in the wrong direction to have Luann go from the selfish Buckley (who was killed in an explosion) to the foolish redneck that was Lucky.
Judge, who is technically a Boomer, being born in 1962, could handle it the same way he did with Office Space. That spoke to people regardless of what their political or socioeconomic beliefs were. Everyone could agree with the futility of the work environment at the time. Now, as the Great Resignation is happening, many people see Office Space as a symbol of that movement. Hank, himself, seems to be stuck in that Boomer mentality that hard work is the only way to get ahead. Ironically, his employer, Buck Strickland (also voiced by Root) was really just a toxic manager exploiting his workers. It’s obvious Hank was stuck in some form of Stockholm Syndrome. I agree with others that Buck Strickland doesn’t need to come back. Maybe Hank has his own propane company. Or maybe he’s decided to focus more on natural energy.
Who know? Judge and Daniels have a lot to focus on.
What do you think? Please comment.