The Hill family. L-r; Ladybird, Bobby, Hank, Peggy, Luanne.


Original medium: TV animation
Seen on: Fox TV
First appeared: 1997
Creator: Mike Judge
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Cartoon aficionados generally maintain that the main reason to use animation rather than real life in telling a story is that in animation, story points that would be impossible to film in live action, such as running past a cliff for a few seconds before gravity kicks in or passing through …

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… a hole that was only painted on the surface of an object, become possible by drawing rather than posing the subjects. That possibility is becoming less of a distinction as special effects technology expands, but still, cartoons tend to be more about impossible events than live action.

That distinction is null and void in the case of King of the Hill, an ordinary sitcom about an ordinary family in an ordinary town, that happens to be produced as a cartoon rather than with living face actors. So true to life is Arlen, Texas, the fictional Dallas suburb where the stories take place, Time magazine once called King of the Hill the "most acutely observed, realistic sitcom about regional American life".

The story concerns Hank Hill, who works for the local propane distributor, and his doings with his family, friends, etc. The sight of Hank having a beer with his neighbors is so familiar to viewers, it's used as the show's opening. The rest of the family consists of his wife Peggy, who sometimes works as a substitute schoolteacher; their son Bobby, who isn't very good at sports but is reluctantly willing to keep trying rather than disappoint his father; Peggy's niece Luann (no relation), who is staying with them until her mother gets out of jail; and Hank's 14-year-old beloved dog, Ladybird.

Hank's next-door neighbor is Dale Gribble, a chain-smoking, paranoid believer in whatever conspiracy theories might get a laugh. Dale works as an exterminator, but moonlights as a bounty hunter. Dale is always ready to help out in any scheme that might involve dirty tricks or surreptitious aggression, or to involve his friends in schemes of his own.

Hank's other neighbors include Bill Dauterive, his best friend back in high school and now a bald, pot-bellied loser; Jeff Boomhauer, who mumbles so incomprehensibly and is so uneducated, he sometimes gives the impression of having mental problems; and Kahn Souphanousinphone, a Laotian refugee who fancies himself more worthy than his declassé associates.

The series was created by Mike Judge, while he was working on an earlier creation, Beavis & Butthead, for MTV. He sold the Fox TV broadcasting company on it, but Fox assigned Greg Daniels, former Simpsons writer, to help by making extensive changes to the script. With his assistance, King of the Hill debuted on the Fox Network on January 12, 1997.

Hank's voice is done by Judge himself, who is also heard in South Park and his own Goode Family. Peggy is Kathy Najimy, also heard in Higglytown Heroes and Disney's Tinker Bell movie, spun off from Peter Pan. Bobby is Pamela Adlon (Spinelli in Recess, Dewey in Quack Pack). Dale is Johnny Hardwick, who lacks other voice credits. Luann is Brittany Murphy, who has had bit parts in Happy Feet and Pepper Ann. Bill is Stephen Root, who has had small parts in Finding Nemo and American Dad. Boomhauer is played by Judge, who said he based the voice on something someone once left on his answering machine.

King of the Hill is currently America's second longest-running primetime animated show. It's scheduled for cancellation in 2010.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Judgemental Films, Inc.