Life rolls on in Arlen as the Hill family returns with 20 more episodes:
• "The Perils of Polling"
In one of the series'
most overtly political episodes, Hank has qualms about voting for George W. Bush
after experiencing his limp handshake. To add to his troubles, when he tries to
get Luanne excited about voting, she ends up backing the Communist party. Though
it seems like a bold choice for this I'll-tell-you-whut-Texan show to really
flex its Republican undertones, the episode—like the series
itself—is actually a lot less partisan than one would expect.
Special Guest Voice: Phil Hendrie
• "The Buck Stops Here"
Tired of watching his son
loaf around all summer, Hank compels Bobby to work as a caddy. Unfortunately,
the reckless and vulgar Buck Strickland takes the boy under his wing and teaches
him a lot more than how to haul a bag of clubs around a golf course. A subplot
about Peggy and Minh competing to see who can donate more blood brings out the
pettiness of these characters, and not really in a funny way. Actually, the
humor mostly fails in the main plot, as well, though it is a nice story about
role models and disillusionment.
• "I Don't Want to Wait for Our Lives to Be Over, I Want to
Know Right Now,
Will it Be…Sorry. Do Do Doo Do Do, Do Do Doo Do Do,
Do Do Doo Do Do, Doo…"
A trip to his grandparents' retirement
community makes 13-year-old Bobby feel like a man…until he sees Joseph,
who grew about a foot taller at summer camp. This episode is a painful reminder
of adolescent awkwardness, but also an amusing reminder of adolescent drama with
Bobby and Connie breaking up and getting back together over and over. Meanwhile,
Hank gets "the coffin-making bug" and foolishly tries to assign the
better of his two homemade coffins to himself, much to Peggy's displeasure. My
only complaint about this great episode is that we all know Bobby thriving in a
retirement community could have been an entire episode itself, or spin-off for
Special Guest Voice: Carl Reiner
• "Spin the Choice"
Thanksgiving brews up all
kinds of trouble in Arlen as Bobby learns about the evils of the white man and
John Redcorn decides to reclaim his land…and his son. Plus, Peggy studies
the secrets of successful gaming and theorizes that people like two things best
about games: spinning and choosing. So she makes up a party game that is nothing
but. This is one of those exciting episodes in which it seems for a brief moment
that something could change in a series that combines many static, truly
unchangeable elements—animation, sitcom, and Texas conservatism.
• "Peggy Makes the Big Leagues"
Peggy scores a
long gig subbing at the high school level, but her success is jeopardized when
she flunks the star football player who needs a passing grade to stay on the
team. Enraged, Hank and the Booster Club hatch a plan to get him back on the
team. The steps the writers go through to get to the satisfying conclusion of
this episode feel forced. It is a testament to how "realistic" this
cartoon usually is that the scene of all the Booster Club members booing Peggy
loudly when she walks into the room just didn't work.
Voices: Brendan Fraser, Terry Bradshaw, James Brown, Howie Long
• "When Cotton Comes Marching Home"
Cotton episode this season is the weaker of the two. Hank discovers that his dad
lost the house in Houston and is broke, so he helps him get a new job…but
the ornery veteran is not the most employable fellow. Meanwhile, Peggy tries to
get her hands on his WWII medals for her parade float. This episode may want to
be a sad and inspiring story about old people and how they're treated in our
society, but Cotton is too anomalous (for example, he doesn't have shins and has
an infant son) and too unlikable to play well in that role.
• "What Makes Bobby Run?"
In an attempt to get
more pictures of himself in the yearbook, Bobby becomes the football team's
mascot, The Landry Longhorn. But what he didn't count on was a time-honored
traditional whooping he must receive from the opposing team at halftime. This is
a good chance to see Bobby both in and out of his element: he's a natural for
the school mascot, but he also has to exhibit some unnatural bravery to keep the
Special Guest Voice: John Ritter
• "'Twas the Nut Before Christmas"
When Bill sets
up a Christmas playland in his front yard, he finds joy and companionship by
making children happy. But as usual, his happiness is short-lived. When the new
Santa refuses to stop the merriment well after the holidays are over, he quickly
becomes a joke. This one uses the popular make-Bill-happy-and-then-take-it-away
formula, and the results are as depressing as ever. But that doesn't make it a
bad episode, and in fact the specific Santa story is pretty entertaining.
Special Guest Voice: Ryan Phillippe
• "Chasing Bobby"
A quality tale about a man and
his truck…and about a boy and his dad, though Hank would rather not admit
that. When Peggy catches Hank crying during a sappy chick flick, she thinks it
is related to his strained relationship with Bobby. But the real source of the
tears is his dying truck, which a mechanic says has only 500 miles left to live.
This whole story comes together perfectly and allows Hank and Bobby to share a
connection by the end despite their wildly different personalities.
• "Yankee Hankie"
Hank finds out that he was born
in New York City! "Bwaaa-aah-aah!" His dad, Cotton, promises to take
him out to "raise some Hell" Texas-style to make him feel more like a
real Texan, but instead schemes to frame him for the murder of Fidel Castro,
giving us more proof in this episode that Cotton is a terrible, terrible father.
And we also get to hear Hank admit guiltily that he investigated his New York
heritage by eating a bagel. He's ashamed to say it, but wants "no more
lies"—he loved it.
Special Guest Voices: Ed Asner, Jack
• "Hank and the Great Glass Elevator"
take Bill to Austin for a birthday weekend where he ends up meeting—and
courting—former governor Ann Richards. This plot is about as awkward as it
sounds. But the episode is partially redeemed by a delightful subplot in which
Peggy and Bobby guiltily down charcoal-grilled burgers while propane patriarch
Hank is away.
Special Guest Voices: Ellen Barkin, Ann Richards
• "Now Who's the Dummy?"
Bobby gets a
ventriloquist's dummy named Chip who is dressed as a football player, so he
learns all about sports to get material for his routine. Hank is delighted, but
gives all the credit to Chip and continues ignoring his son who "plays with
dolls." But Hank's new wooden pal is in danger from the puppet-phobic Dale,
who is planning an assassination. I always enjoy episodes about Hank and Bobby's
father-son dynamic, and this is one of the best. The most ironic thing is how
easy it is for Bobby to learn all the sports facts that impress his dad, and how
easily Hank overlooks his son's talents. When Hank decides to make a new Chip,
he cluelessly tells a forlorn Bobby, "I'll be at my work bench cobbling
together something I can be proud of."
Special Guest Voice: Tom
• "Ho Yeah!"
Hank and Peggy let a new Strickland
employee crash in their den. Unbeknownst to them, she is a prostitute and Hank
stumbles into a role as her clueless pimp. When her old pimp from Oklahoma City
comes to collect his cut, a startled Hank finds himself in a riotous turf war.
This episode is near-perfect and by far the funniest of the season. There is
nothing quite like seeing Hank proudly wearing what he does not realize is a
ridiculous "pimp hat."
Special Guest Voices: Bigg Snoop Dogg,
• "The Exterminator"
Forced to quit the pest
extermination biz for medical reasons, Dale discovers he has a knack for a
different kind of exterminating—firing people at his new corporate job.
This is kind of a weak episode considering that the usually-hilarious Dale is
the central character.
Special Guest Voice: Lisa Kudrow
• "Luanne, Virgin 2.0" (Mislabeled in the packaging as
"Luanne, Version 2.0")
Hank and Peggy convince Luanne to take a
re-virginizing course at their local church. But the newly purified Luanne
follows the letter of the "wait until you're married" law rather than
its spirit when she decides to marry a boy she just met so that they can have
sex. And in a sad twist, Hank is on her side because he is mad at Peggy, who has
just revealed that she slept with one other man before him. This episode is a
great showcase for both judgmental Peggy's fallibility and for Luanne's strange,
sweet brand of logic. There is something so obviously wrong but still quite
adorable about Luanne emerging from the virgin-baptizing waters in a see-through
robe with her breasts jiggling screaming, "I'm a virgin! I'm a
Special Guest Voice: Owen Wilson
• "Hank's Choice"
A fantastic episode exploring
what Hank truly loves and just how strange his boy really is. Bobby becomes
strongly allergic to Hank's dog, Ladybird, so Hank builds her a top-of-the-line
doghouse. Ladybird doesn't think it is good enough for her and shuns it, but
there is another member of the family who decides it would be "a great
starter home." Watching Bobby thriving in a dog house—much like
watching him thriving in a retirement community—is a rare treat that
should not be missed.
• "It's Not Easy Being Green"
Arlen wants to dig
a new landfill at the quarry where a young Hank, Bill, and Dale accidentally
totaled Boomhauer's hot rod. If the dig happens, the evidence will be drudged
up, so Hank joins Bobby and a bunch of environmentalists to stop the project. He
pretends to protest the landfill to save the earth, rather than his own ass.
It's always fun to see the guys as teenagers, but this level of selfishness,
cowardice, and betrayal seems a little out of character for Hank—not Dale,
Special Guest Voice: Paul Giamatti
• "The Trouble with Gribbles"
Nancy worries that
she's getting too old and wrinkled to be the weather girl, so Dale decides to
step in with a lawsuit against a big cigarette company. The problem is that to
win he has to get Nancy to testify convincingly that his second-hand smoke has
made her ugly, so he has to first convince her that she is ugly. This one
is a real gut-buster and also a revelation of the sensitive side of Dale—a
side that I once thought was about as plausible as his conspiracy theories. It
demonizes and then humanizes him in a way that is totally appropriate to his
Special Guest Voices: Phil Hendrie, Robert Stack
• "Hank's Back Story"
While training to compete
in a big lawnmower race, Hank throws his back out. Much to his horror, he
discovers that the real cause of his pain is a medical condition called
Diminished Gluteal Syndrome; in other words, he has no ass. This is a
Hank-as-fish-out-of-water episode with a somewhat unbelievable plot. The mower
race is plenty of fun, though.
• "Kidney Boy and Hamster Girl: A Love Story"
Bobby fakes a medical condition to win the trust and pity of high schoolers, but
when he tries to pull the same trick for Connie, his plan backfires. This is the
second episode of the season to reveal some of Bobby's dark side. While I do
appreciate the character development, this season finale didn't otherwise stand
Special Guest Voices: No Doubt
There's no denying that these are high-quality episodes. This is a pretty
even season of a very even show. And there are some absolutely hilarious
moments, including my five favorite:
• Hank confronts Peggy about eating charcoal burgers. Panicked,
she responds, "I didn't know what it was! Luanne asked me to hold it for
her. I thought it was drugs!"
• Dale hires Octavio to kill Chip the Dummy, but then decides to
fire him. He begins writing the termination letter, reading his composition in
his trademark monotone drawl: "Dear Octavio, This is the hardest letter
I've ever had to write…"
• Joseph runs away from Bobby's party in terror after humiliating
himself. He stumbles on the Hills' driveway and looks up to see Hank and Peggy
in the garage rising from their homemade coffins where they have been lying
around eating pizza and drinking beer.
• When Dale sues the tobacco company, he represents himself.
Taking the witness stand, he cross-examines himself. This great sequence
climaxes when lawyer-Dale bellows, "Are you a homosexual?!?" and
horrified witness-Dale screams, "NO!!!"
• Accidental-pimp Hank is trying to lose the real Oklahoma City
pimp, Alabaster, in a car chase. He finally realizes how to do it: he slows way
down at a green light and then speeds through the yellow. Alabaster will have to
stop for the red light! Or will he?
All of these are perfect examples of what is so great about King of the
Hill: it manages to draw out some truly gut-busting laughs while maintaining
a much more subdued, realistic tone than counterparts like The Simpsons
and Family Guy. It may never acheive the laugh-a-minute hilarity of TV's
most beloved yellow-skinned cartoon family, but it does establish a style and
humor of its own.
Another aspect the show manages well is celebrity guest voices. Another
great prime-time, animated family (which I promise to stop mentioning after
this) would have stars like Owen Wilson and Paul Giamatti on the show as
themselves. Frankly, this approach usually stinks, as proven by the parade of
(as they put it) "humor-killing celebrity guest stars" in some of the
worse seasons of The Simpsons. But on King of the Hill, Wilson
plays a dorky, horny, fellow virgin who proposes to Luanne, and Giamatti voices
a hippie-dippie environmentalist. Both of these, and many other guest spots this
season, come out just right.
But there are several aspects of this box set that, like Hank says about
Bobby, "ain't right." The extras disappeared from these sets with the
third season release, and they unfortunately have not reappeared for this one.
There is nary a deleted scene nor commentary track to be found amongst these
episodes. The packaging, too, is a little irksome with its double-sided discs.
Though I have always been a fan of this set's style of giving each disc its own
thin case instead of the giant-case-with-many-folds approach. The audio does
sound great, and the animation and colors look excellent in this transfer. I did
notice a strange defect, though it didn't bother me much: tiny, rounded, black
corners framed some of the shots but not others.