Six modern plots that would fare very well in a King of the Hill revival
Like most young people during the pandemic, I’ve been passing the time indoors by streaming content, old and new. But one TV show has been my white whale. There are no ways to stream King of the Hill in Canada; the show is not even available for transactional purchase on iTunes (I would spend, and I cannot emphasize this enough, hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to acquire the complete series digitally).
King of the Hill is, however, available on Hulu in the U.S. As a Fox property, there is potential for it to come to Disney+, however my hope remains dim. Nevertheless, the show remains one of the most uniquely lovable series that spawned from the late-90s ‘adult cartoon’ boom. It ran for more than a decade without a real sense of seasonal rot (there were some bad episodes, but ultimately, very few). Its first season, although short, was far stronger than first seasons of shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. It was more character-driven than the shows it was most commonly compared to, and it was especially unique for its will to make permanent changes to the cannon. Characters grew and changed physically, people changed jobs and a number of characters even died.
There are, currently, no concrete plans for a revival of King of the Hill, although its stars and creators have said they would be open to the idea. Some voice actors such as Johnny Hardwick have continued to perform or create content in their show characters as well. With a potential animation boom coming out of the pandemic, perhaps we can cross our fingers for an eventual KOTH revival. And, considering the series is centred around a character who struggles to cope with the modern world, here are a few plot ideas for this hypothetical revival.
A few notes to start:
- King of the Hill is not commonly known for having distinct subplots; those subplots that do occur are almost always either one-off jokes or limited offshoots of the main plot. Therefore, only some of these episodes have explicitly stated subplots.
- Brittany Murphy died shortly after the end of the show and was one of the core cast members. I believe that it would be realistic and most respectful for the show to simply retire the character of Luanne, but to write her out in a fashion that was respectful and not tragic (such as moving away with Lucky).
Bobby becomes obsessed with podcasts, particularly a comedy podcast hosted by his quirky comedy hero. Hank, at first disgusted by the habit, starts his own podcast about lawn care, the Sodcast. With the help of Bobby as a producer and marketer, he finds niche popularity among middle-aged men, although he refuses to start a Patreon. He’s invited to a Texas-based podcast festival. But meeting Bobby’s podcast hero and realizing he’s not everything Bobby thinks he is, and also dealing with disappointing his own fans, lead Hank and Bobby to realize how easy it is to craft a persona on the internet.
Side plot: Dale informs Hank that he’s been podcasting for years and makes a modest living off of Patreon. Bill and Boomhauer decide to prank him by pretending to be guests who are government whistleblowers. Dale doesn’t recognize Boomhauer’s voice, somehow, but at the podcast festival (which he’s not formally invited to, but he sets up a booth nonetheless) he recognizes Bill’s voice.
Why it fits: King of the Hill often has fun with Hank getting into a new hobby to bond with Bobby and getting way too dorky about it. This also fits in with the theme of Hank adjusting poorly to 21st century trends but realizing gradually that they’re not all that bad.
Possible guest stars: It’d be pretty hilarious to hear Hank Hill call the Pod Save guys a “bunch of jackasses,” but there are few setups more perfect than Hank thinking that Virgil Texas sounds like a “good, all-American name” only to meet the real Virgil Texas.
“Peggy Gets Cancelled”
Peggy is brought in to teach American history for two weeks. John Redcorn points out that her curriculum is colonialist, so she brings him in as a guest speaker. He gives a compelling lesson on native history (Peggy ignorantly believes a single lesson should suffice). He offhandedly points out examples of cultural appropriation in some of the kids’ dress and hobbies. Bobby and Peggy then become hysterical over cultural appropriation, shedding everything from Peggy’s Frito Pie to Bobby’s hoodie. Hank, annoyed, points out that Peggy shouldn’t be teaching Spanish. Conflicted but eager to prove a point, she rejects a teaching job. In the end, John Redcorn and Connie help Bobby, Peggy and Hank see that cultural appropriation is complicated and everyone has different ideas of it, but the more important thing than punishing yourself is to actually learn. Redcorn scolds Peggy and Bobby for making his oppression about them. Eventually, he starts an after-school appreciation and education society.
Side plot: With Peggy removing herself from the languages department, Tom Landry Middle is forced to find a new Spanish substitute. Their only available option is Octavio.
Why it fits: Hank isn’t the only Hill who has difficulty adjusting to the 21st century. Peggy dislikes being confronted with the reality that she’s not as contemporary or thoughtful as she thinks she is. Bobby deals is reactionary and a bit of a bandwagon jumper. It also works because KOTH is no stranger to plots that conclude with “Hank was more correct, but not the most correct.” Hank should learn a lesson as well.
“Bill’s Bingeworthy Beautification”
In the most ambitious crossover in KOTH history, the Fab Five of Queer Eye announce that they’re filming a season in Texas. Bobby, who loves Queer Eye, tries to nominate Hank, but when he puts together the nomination video, the Fab Five become interested in Bill instead. Hank tries to warn the Fab Five that it’s a mistake. The Fab Five arrive in Arlen, capturing the town’s excitement, before unveiling the new, confident Bill. The problem is, although Bill’s self-esteem seems high, Hank knows Bill is ready to crumble. Bill becomes clingy with the Fab Five and wonders why they’re not coming back to visit, even when they film a second episode in Arlen. He eventually breaks down and goes back to his old ways. But when the episode airs and he learns how much his neighbours love and care about him, he realizes they’re the ones who actually make him strong, not his neighbours.
Side plot: Hank keeps trying to become a member of Bobby Berk’s crew, but he finds him too slow and too much of a perfectionist. Bobby Hill becomes infatuated with Antoni while Minh, Nancy and Peggy try to make Jonathan and Tan their gay BFFs. And, Karamo is utterly fascinated by Dale, even forgetting to film his segments with Bill because he’s so taken in by Dale’s lifestyle.
Why it fits: KOTH has never shied away from celebrity-centric episodes and tends to get them on in contexts that make sense (the country music festival, for example). And, once a season or so, they have fun with a “newcomers turn Rainey Street upside down” episode. Bill is also a great lead for a character-driven episode. Finally, one thing KOTH is unique for is its will to make permanent changes to cannon. If Bobby Berk were to, say, replace Bill’s furniture, it’s not out-of-character for the show to permanently change the appearance of Bill’s home (Bill’s interior is also rarely shown).
Bonus: The idea of hearing all the Arlenites try to say “yas” in their distinct voices would be pretty cute.
The Hills go for their annual family checkup. Peggy is bracing for Hank and Bobby to be diagnosed issues related to their weight, but it’s her who is told she has high blood pressure. Peggy refuses to believe it at first, considering her low-stress lifestyle, her low alcohol consumption and being in good shape. But the doctor informs her that it’s likely genetic, and a hurtful phone call with her mother reaffirms it. Peggy cuts out almost all salt and takes time off work. She becomes so depressed she starts to turn down activities like softball. Eventually, she takes a yoga class with Minh and Nancy, and is initially embarrassed because of how bad she’s doing. She learns of a local, 65-year-old “yoga legend” named Mary who’s done three classes a week for 20 years. At Peggy’s next class, she meets Mary and realizes that Mary is just as inflexible and limited as Peggy, but she does well because she doesn’t compare herself to others. It eventually clicks for Peggy that a lifetime of trying to be the best at everything is actually driving her health concerns.
Side plot: Hank and Bobby try to get on board with Peggy’s healthy eating vows and go to a farmer’s market. Bobby develops a taste for unique — but expensive — produce like cotton candy grapes and watermelon radishes.
Why it fits: One thing KOTH loves is to take characters down a peg while still handling them with affection. Peggy is insufferable, but she also had a difficult childhood with a mother who put her down constantly. Peggy learning to accept her limitations, both health-wise and ability-wise, is one that treats her with dignity while still poking light fun at her.
Hank Hill line of the episode: “Do I look like I know what kohlrabi is?”
Minh invites Peggy and Nancy over for a fancy spa day. The spa day, however, turns out to be a skincare demo for a multi-level marketing scheme Minh is a part of. Peggy is suspicious, but Nancy is persuaded. Minh convinces her to use her airtime on the news to push the products. Laoma has no interest, but Bill ends up involved as well and carrying the products at the base. Eventually, the Hills how much the MLM has spread in the neighbourhood and that everyone’s debts are piling up. Hank even learns that Mrs. Strickland is in on it. The Hills (with help from Octavio and Dale, annoyed that Nancy’s supply is crowding up his basement) unite to deprogram the participants, ward off harassment from their former upline and sooth angry people on the downline. Eventually, the Hills realize that they can’t actually bring the whole MLM down, but when Minh successfully stops her former upline recruiter from preying on a desperate beauty academy student, she feels a sense of purpose again.
Why it fits: The show has dealt with MLMs before, but this was before the age of social media-driven MLMs, and didn’t explore what happens when neighbourhoods become infiltrated by MLMs (it happens, and it’s nuts). This gives an opportunity for standard “Hank is a fish out of water” plotting while also offering commentary on the bleak, mundane existence of the housewives of Arlen.
Potential guest star: An established/revered actress to voice an intimidating MLM recruiter would play very well; someone like a Sandra Oh or Octavia Spencer could be extremely entertaining.
“Hank if You Support Teachers”
The teachers at Tom Landry Middle School go on strike to protest the conditions in the classroom, low pay and their increasing class size. Hank is against the strike. Peggy tries to cross the picket line and is called a scab. She later starts a day camp for some of Bobby’s classmates. Hank becomes irate at even 10 kids being in his garage. He’s forced to buy supplies, and becomes annoyed that Peggy is too busy with lesson plans and grading to make dinner. He confronts the teachers about how the strike has inconvenienced him, and realizes this is what the teachers deal with year-round. He talks with Moss about ending the strike, and Moss informs them that to give into the demands, there would have to be a property tax hike. Heimlich County announces a referendum on the property tax hike in order to potentially end the strike. Torn between his hatred of taxes and his newfound respect for teachers, Hank gives an impassioned speech at a town meeting in favour of educators. The town narrowly votes in favour, and although Hank is happy to have his garage back, he misses the neighbourhood kids, revealing that he now understands the attachment teachers form to their students.
Side plot: Dale eventually pulls Joseph out of Peggy’s day camp, using him as an “unpaid intern” for Dale’s Dead Bug.
Why it fits: Hank Hill is ultimately a conservative but that often conflicts with his conscience. The episode is a chance to explore the logic (or lack thereof) behind his anti-union sentiments — Hank Hill defaults to blindly trusting authority, even when it screws him. Occasionally, in order to prevent him from becoming static, there must be an episode in which he comes to the realization that he’s being taken advantage of and has a change of heart.