Here they are – the last three new episodes of King Of The Hill ever, on any channel. ABC didn’t make good on their bid to pick it up for further seasons, so if we are to get a taste of the Hill family of Arlen, Texas, it’s going to have to be via syndication from here on out. Right now it’s on Adult Swim, but who knows where it’ll be in five years?
It’s a shame to see it go, but it was a great 13-season run, and that many seasons in this day and age is almost entirely unheard of. For such a low-rated but well-loved slice of American satire, it’s a miracle it was still around in this decade’s final year, and nobody can take that away from us.
Here we go.
13.16 “Bad News Bill”
If you were a young boy growing up in this country, especially in the last three decades, you probably at one time or another played a league sport. (I’m not trying to limit all of you women out there who also played sports, but as a male I just simply know my youth better than yours.) It was a mixture of triumph, despair, skills, shame and a whole other mess of emotions for said children, often feeling the majority of these emotions for the first time ever in such a compacted space. It’s a positive thing for any young child to do no matter what their skill set, but it’s also some of the most intense days of their young lives. It can break a child if one is not careful, but more often it matures them and sets them up for the next stage in their life.
I played a variety of sports, from soccer (eight years) to basketball (six years), plus the little bits and pieces I did of other activities – a good deal of after-school tennis, racquetball, a smidgeon of ice hockey – but league baseball, more than anything, was a major portion of my young life. While I was much better at soccer and enjoyed the sport more, the seven years I spent playing baseball defined me, and that’s a tough thing to put on a child. Some of my greatest memories, both grand and shameful, come from these weekends at assorted parks in West Contra Costa County, and I relive them every now and again, thinking back on my few triumphs…and countless defeats.
And Bobby Hill, well, he is about to experience some of the horrors of the sport. We all know that Bobby is not your “average American boy,” which is fine, because I’m of the belief that people can be whatever the fuck they want to be. But in Hank Hill’s life, everything seems to fall under the heteronormative – to borrow an overused vocab word from an acquaintance – concepts of the American South. But Hank is beyond caring at this point, so when Bobby joins little league, Hank knows it won’t last. But lo, Bobby is coming home with a smile on his face. Why? Not because he’s any good. It’s because he has one of those coaches who is 100% positive reinforcement, and even if Bobby is a piss-poor ball-player, the coach cheers him on an equal ground with the better players on his team.
Unfortunately, Hank sees right through this, getting banned from the field for simply being an honest father, and realizes that Bobby is getting humiliated game-after-game, and that despite the coach’s best intentions, this is not going to end well for Bobby. Seeing that Bobby is hated by his teammates and the crowd, he does the only thing he can think of, which is to steal the baseball mid-play and run off, embarrassing himself in the process.
A torrent of memories came back during this episode, and the specifics are really neither here nor there, but I can’t say that too many shows really reach into my past as easily as this show tends to do year-after-year. And that’s a fact.
Not the greatest Bobby episode, and unfortunately the final two episodes of the season will barely involve Bobby at all, so this season we are left with no spectacular Bobby-centric episode. However, it left us with the sweet, unassuming and…different boy we’ve known for all these years, and I’m glad for that.
13.17 “Manger Baby Einstein”
And here we have our final Luanne episode, a hilarious, bizarre and telling episode that endears her character, as well as Lucky, to us once again, wondering why the hell Brittany Murphy has basically squandered her live-action film career. More than anyone on this show, I think Luanne can make me bust a gut laughing at even the smallest things.
This week, realizing that she can easily calm down her new child with the Manger Babies, her happy gang of hand puppets, she decides to attempt a career as a puppeteer for itty-bitty children. And when John Redcorn comes on as a producer – he has a production company and an assortment of AV items thanks to a past in making…other kinds of movies – she becomes an overnight star. This is especially thanks to the slim pickings of children entertainers in the Arlen area.
“The last clown didn’t wear enough make-up and too much of his inner pain came through.” – Mother
Soon her DVD is selling like hotcakes, and she is a local celebrity. But when she does a concert at an ampitheatre and realizes that she now has less than a dozen fans, she realizes that the pop culture attention span of infants is even less than those raised in the MTV Generation. And so, with Redcorn’s help, she throws out some of her puppets, including her beloved octopus Gurgle Gurgle (hearing Luanne say his name is comedy enough), and gets some edgier puppets and an edgier show. Included in this new gang is a Bratz doll.
“Does this one make my hand a slut?” – Luanne
But by the end, Luanne has noticed, just like everybody else in her life, that while entertaining all of these other toddlers, she is forgetting to take care of her own family, and so she hangs up the new puppets, finds Gurgle Gurgle in the mouth of a showdog at a local Chuck E Cheese rip-off, and reverts back to the mother she always wanted to be.
“I’m like an asteroid drifting through space, without a puppeteering career.” – Luanne
The theme is a bit of a tough one for people to swallow, I assume, but it’s done in the most uplifting, pragmatic way possible. As Hank lectures Luanne for ignoring her family, he tells her that she doesn’t need a career, because no matter what, she is a mother. But instead of this being a blow to feminism, it simply lets us know that mothers should not be looked down upon as anything less than the hard-working women they are, and that if they are happy with that position in their lives, then that’s their prerogative.
I also just really loved how freaked out Lucky was when his baby started rolling around on the ground and rung up Hank.
“Lucky, it’s normal for babies to do weird things. Babies are weird.” – Hank
3.18 “Uh-Oh Canada”
And lo, the final episode of King Of The Hill. And how was it? Pretty goddamn great. An ensemble piece to the end, we follow Hank, Dale, Bill and Boomhauer one final time, and this time it’s to protect the good ol’ US of A.
And why is this? Well, Boomhauer is doing a summer-long house-exchange with a family in Canada, and while the Arlen gang isn’t keen to have a Canuck in their midst, Boomhauer seems to have a blast up in Canada, growing a beard and becoming a rugged chick magnet.
“Boomhauer, don’t you dare come back a hockey fan.” – Hank
But down in Texas, a storm is brewing. While the Canadian family isn’t terribly offensive or even much of a nuisance, the father is a bit uppity and can’t help but exposing many of America’s [rightfully maligned] problems, from healthcare to politics and beyond. And while Hank is a polite Southern man, it’s not wise to insult his homeland, and thus a battle forms between the two neighboring countries. Some of the snaps? Hank claiming that nobody can trust a nation that is disbanding its navy. Or my favorite:
Canadian: Tell me who our prime minister is.
But when the Canadian father is sent to jail, Hank and the gang realize the error of their ways and spring him out just in time for Boomhauer to come back, now with a Canadian girlfriend, speaking French and acting a changed man. (Bonus points for Boomhauer speaking perfect French Canadian without even the slightest mumble or stutter.)
There are, I hear, another six episodes out there in the ether, as yet unaired by Fox, and I hope that we can see those in some form or another, either over the summer on network, on Adult Swim or just on DVD. But if not, this was a great episode to go out on, one of American pride that nevertheless exposes some of this country’s problems, such as unjust xenophobia, unchecked pride and a touch of ignorance. This show always did it both ways, and that, along with its great big heart, is what made the show a delight into its teenage years.