I’ve been watching an episode or two of King of the Hill prettymuch every day for the past couple of weeks, so it’s been on my mind a lot.
King of the Hill was a show that always prioritized character development over satire. We could laugh at the cast’s flaws and boneheaded decisions, but we could always relate to them on one level or another. We weren’t always meant to agree with the characters, but we were still meant to sympathize, and most of the time, the series pulled it off wonderfully.
And sometimes they just dropped the ball outright. Sometimes the message was just too deplorable to laugh at. Sometimes the characters tipped the delicate balance between “flawed” and “sympathetic”, resulting in them become assholes - and more than that, the episode would often take their side, refusing to allow them to learn their lesson.
So, for my own convenience and that of whoever might feel like marathonning the show, I present Casey’s Top 13 King of the Hill episodes to skip. I’ll offer brief explanations, in case you want something a little more substantial than “take my word for it.”
- - Luanne Virgin 2.0: Not as awful as the others here, but Hank getting on Peggy’s case because she had premarital sex when she was a teenager, long before she’d even met Hank was just weak. Him deciding to forgive her because he sees her in a clingy, water-soaked robe and gets horny was just an unsatisfying resolution to an unsatisfying conflict.
- - Pour some sugar on Kahn: You know how Hank’s father is a deplorable human being, but he’s so over-the-top and miserable that he’s still kind of funny? Well, Mihn’s father is just deplorable, without a shred of humor or irony, and who gets off at the end without anything resembling comeuppance. Fortunately, this is his only appearance in the series, so I can imagine he had a heart attack on the way home.
- - Hank and the Great Glass Elevator: Hank and Peggy find that they prefer burgers charcoal-grilled. This is wrong and immoral, and they have to put this aside and pretend to prefer propane-grilled in order to keep Hank from having a meltdown.
- - Husky Bobby: Hank “rescues” Bobby from being a plus-sized model just in time to avoid an egging, which is portrayed as being just and inevitable, because these boys committed the crime of being plus-sized models.
- - Reborn to be wild: If you don’t worship Jesus in the most formal, rigid, traditional manner, then you’re doing it wrong. Hank at least tries to justify his behavior at the end of this one, but it’s an incredibly weak one.
- - Three Coaches and Bobby: Football is the greatest sport and soccer is for sissies. If you’re into soccer, then you’re a limp-wristed loser. Another episode where Hank’s 1950’s worldview is validated rather than challenged.
- - Bobby get your Freak off: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; Bobby gets a new Hobby. Hank talks him out of it with gaslighting, emotional abuse and controlling behavior, which Bobby rebels against until he sees that the person who inspired his new hobby is a miserabl caricature.
- - Business is picking up: Yet another instance of Hank being a controlling, narrow-minded asshole to Bobby. Bobby gets a job that pays well, that he enjoys, that he could see going somewhere in life, and Hank sabotages it because he just won’t rest until Bobby’s an emotionally dead tank-wipe at Strictland Propane.
- - The Passion of Dautrieve: Bill is just not allowed to do anything that makes him happy. He is THE fuck-up, and any respite from that identity is fleeting.
- - Uh Oh Canada: America is great and canadians are assholes… that’s literally the episode’s entire thesis. You can’t even argue that the douchey canadian neighbors are an intentional subversion of the “polite canadian” stereotype because the episode continually frames them as “the canadians”, rather than individual characters. The series was usually pretty good about avoiding racism, but this was just agressively and unapologetically jingoistic.
- - Serpunt: Don’t even fucking get me started. If you have ANY affection at all for snakes, just… skip it.
- - The Petriot act: The only pet to have is a dog. All other pets are abominable. This one isn’t AS bad as Serpunt, but it’s bad for most of the same reasons - and this is coming from a dog person!
- - What makes Bobby Run: If you don’t submit to brutal hazing, you’re a disgrace, and deserve the ire of not only your peers but your teachers and family. If you skip ONE episode in the entire series, this is the one I would suggest, as it is fucking inexcusible.
Hopefully, this doesn’t turn anyone away from the show. King of the Hill was and still is an amazing series, with a lot to offer. It has great writing, great characters, and a strong sense of a community sticking together through the trials of life. It’s a very optimistic series, and though it can show the worst in humanity, it does so with an optimistic tone. The worst in humanity are still human beings, with motivations and desires.
Sadly though, when it dropped the ball, it dropped it HARD.