Previous ‘Sports On TV’ columns (for ‘Saved By The Bell’ and ‘Full House’) have been fun to write but a pain to suffer through for research, because seriously, have you tried watching an 8th season episode of ‘Full House’ in 2012? Those columns sorta celebrate the badness of sports on TV, and how they get shoehorned in when people run out of love triangles and job jokes don’t have anything to write about.
So it’s with great pride that I present the third ‘Sports On TV’ effort, celebrating the 25 best sports moments from one of the best and most under-appreciated animated comedies ever made, FOX’s ‘King Of The Hill’. If you haven’t seen it before or just flip past it when you’re looking for ‘Squidbillies’ episodes on Adult Swim, the show’s entire 13-season run is available on Netflix streaming and is one of the best ways to spend 130-ish hours. What made the sports on ‘King Of The Hill’ great is that they aren’t accessories to the action … they’re focal points, important or not, just like in real life.
I’m lucky to have some great guest columnists this week, so I hope you enjoy the list. And yeah, there are at least 40 other moments we could’ve included here, so consider this part 1 of an eventual 50 Greatest Sports Moments Of ‘King Of The Hill’. We’ll loop back around when I realize Golden Girls didn’t have 20 sports moments on it.
Episode: “Pilot” (season 1, episode 1)
What Happens: Bobby gets an infield hit during a Little League game, but gets distracted on first base by his Dad’s instructions (“STOP LOOKING AT ME, BOY! WATCH THE BALL!”) and gets drilled in the face with the ball. An old woman at Mega Lo Mart spots Bobby’s black eye and reports Hank to social services, pitting ‘King Of The Hill’s protagonist against the only character-type Mike Judge loves more than “middle-aged, put-upon conservative”: the overly-sensitive, by-the-books wimp who thinks he’s doing something helpful but is just ruining everyone’s lives.
Key line:“Bobby, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, and you can’t get on base without taking a swing!” “The pitcher could walk me, couldn’t he?” “Don’t play lawyer-ball, son.”
‘King Of The Hill’s’ 13-season run begins with Hank listening to the ersatz Jerky Boys (“it’s all toilet sounds!”) and it’s all uphill from there. By the end of the show, even the background characters and people Hank works with are three-dimensional, so it’s fun to revisit the first few episodes when Bobby was a kinda-stupid, awkward and overwhelmingly normal 1997 13-year old and not so much a dancing comedy dynamo. Hank is more directly just a younger Mr. Anderson from ‘Beavis & Butthead’ and we’re all about 10 years away from Enrique ripping off his shirt in the name of Jesus Christ. It was a simpler time.
I love that Hank’s most identifiable trait is there from the very beginning — he’s a thoughtful, well-meaning guy trapped in the body of a conservative man in a world where “conservative man” never means “well-meaning”. He gets easily frustrated at almost everything that happens, because nothing ever goes the way it should, and even more so because his idea of “the way it should go” is nobody else’s.
Season 1 Bobby is about as dumb as it gets. Like, Kelly Bundy dumb. Two episodes later he’s bludgeoning a Whooping Crane because he thinks it’s a “snipe”. Too bad Wematanye wasn’t around to save his face from that ball.
Episode: “Three Coaches And A Bobby” (season 3, episode 12)
What Happens: Unhappy with how the current football coach is running the team, Hank and his friends lure their old coach (and current shoe salesman) Coach Sauers back to the squad to toughen up the boys and teach them to play the game the right way. Turns out Sour Coach Sauers is legitimately f**king insane, and his combination of abuse, tough love and DRIVING A CAR AROUND ON THE FIELD TO TRY AND MURDER THEM drives the kids to the soccer team. Eventually Hank wises up to the situation, knocks out his old coach with a cooler and takes command of the team.
Key line:“Tie game! Everyone’s a winner!”
I love everything about Tom Landry Middle School’s soccer team. I love that they practice by jumping up and down on trampolines as slowly as possible, I love that they’re coached by the voice of Will Ferrell (in 1999, before Will Ferrell was really a thing), I love that they’re called “The Wind”. I also love that it takes a deranged old man trying to run over students in his car to get Hank to even momentarily value a child’s happiness over football glory.
I also really enjoy that the soccer players make the decision to save the day at the end, but that even heroic Bobby is too ****** to get put into the game. That’s true honesty from an animated sitcom. I don’t care how noble I acted at 13, if someone put me into a football game they’d lose that one and the next six out of shame.
And while we’re talking about this episode, if you don’t laugh at how funny Hank Hill thinks “sour Coach Sauers” is, your sense of humor is broken.
Episode: “Take Me Out Of The Ballgame” (season 3, episode 24)
What Happens: When the dastardly THATHERTON of Thatherton Fuels hires the wife of former Texas Rangers third baseman Kurt Bevaqua to stack his company softball team with ringers, Hank puts high school softball ace Peggy Hill on the mound for Strickland Propane. Peggy is great at exactly three things (pitching, Boggle, Musings), but Hank overcompensates as coach and ruins her game.
Key line:“Everybody wants to be a superstar now. Nobody wants to be a team player. You know, when the Coach wanted Mickey Mantle to take the pitch, and he wasn’t too hung over to see the sign, he took the pitch, I tell you what.”
Hank eventually realizes what he’s doing and subs himself out of the game, moving the soon-to-be-dead Debbie to first base and letting Peggy have complete control of her mojo. Peggy squares off against Kurt Bevaqua (who is almost as random a guest star as f**king Chuck Mangione) and gives up a deep fly ball to center, but Dale scales the wall and snags it with his hat to save the game. Of course, Bevaqua should’ve been awarded a triple because you can’t do that in softball and the lady with the ridiculous implants should’ve gotten the Gatorade bath for driving him in, but whatever.
Another notable sports moment from the episode is Boomhauer as home plate umpire, because Boomhauer is the favorite ‘King Of The Hill’ character for people who’ve seen the show but haven’t really watched it.
Episode: “A Beer Can Named Desire” (season 4, episode 6)
What Happens: Hank wins a contest to throw a football through a hole in a giant beer can at a Dallas Cowboys game. He can throw it himself to win $1,000,000 or let Dandy Don Meredith throw it to win $100,000. Hank thinks about throwing it himself, welding a giant beer can to practice, but ultimately has Meredith do it. Meredith misses, and a furious Hank tackles him. Meredith reveals that he practiced with his coat on and didn’t want to mess with his routine, and Hank gets over his anger.
Key line:“He didn’t even take his coat off!”
The B story here is a visit to Bill’s wealthy Cajun family, where they step into an alternate universe where Bill isn’t a pathetic loser and there’s a Tennessee Williams Reenactment Society in full bloom. Seriously, he can instantly speak Cajun, hambone, and 3 women throw themselves at him. Tragically, one is his cousin, but he doesn’t really let that stop him. Bobby very nearly comes down with the vapors, but Hank removes him from the proximity of an effeminate man just in time.
Luann is actually the one who drank the winning beer, but she was finishing a beer Hank bought and started, and she’s nineteen and a half, so Hank points out that the beer was rightfully his and that if she claims the prize she’ll go to jail. Given everything else about Hank, it’s entirely possible that he legitimately believes that Luann would be arrested for claiming the prize. It’s really very nice of him to look out for her like that.
Episode: “Cheer Factor” (season 8, episode 13)
What Happens: Peggy asks the question I’ve been asking since I spent four miserable years watching my high school’s ugly cheerleaders do coochie-pop routines at pep rallies: “Why are the cheerleaders just dancing around independent of the game going on behind them and not, I don’t know, leading cheers?” Peggy’s quest to improve the cheerleading squad leads her to fast fame when she discovers how much people love seeing opposing team mascots assaulted, then even faster shame when she forgets that some high school mascots are ethnic groups and beats up a drunk leprechaun in front of some Irish people.
Key line:“No hats in the lunchroom, Dooley. Take it off.” “I’ll die in these horns.”
Everyone on the show had more than one or two stock storylines (even John Redcorn eventually got a band), but the main characters all had “go-to” stories, and Peggy’s were:
1. Peggy is too naive and gets excited for something, only to find out she’s being manipulated, and 2. Peggy has no humility and takes something too seriously, only to be undone by her own hubris
Both stories usually involve someone underestimating her, with Peggy being alternately indignant/emotionally destroyed by it. ‘Cheer Factor’ is a combination of the two, with former cheerleading coach Jo Rita (an example of KOTH’s most tested antagonist — a person of moderate success who lords it over everyone else) underestimating Peggy’s ideas, then manipulating her into doing something prejudiced. Regardless, Peggy gets a moment where she explains proper stabbing motions to a group of teenage girls, and that’s all right with me.
I think Bobby’s entire mascot career was built around being injured. More on that later.
Episode: “Life in the Fast Lane, Bobby’s Saga” (season 2, episode 21)
What Happens: Bobby gets a job at the Arlen Speedway and impresses his father by becoming the “go-to guy”, something Hank Hill would absolutely care about. Unfortunately for Bobby, being the “go-to guy” means he’s the whipping boy of track concessions boss Jimmy Wichard, a mentally-fried sociopath who makes him dress up like a hot dog, cheats him out of money and orders him to cross the track while the race is happening. Eventually Hank catches on and (literally) kicks Jimmy’s ass.
Key line:“I like Jeff Gordon. He’s handsome!”
This is another episode where the entire thing could be a great TV sports moment, but the money moment is a cameo from Dale Earnhardt Sr., maybe the best in the show’s history if you don’t count Randy Travis being a song-stealing dickhole. Earlier in the episode, Hank takes Bobby to see the official NASCAR pace car, but Bobby gets distracted by how soft and pretty the ropes around it are. Hank gets Hank about it.
Fast forward 15 minutes to Hank, Dale and Boomhauer admiring the pace car during the race. Dale Earnhardt approaches them and Boomhauer tries to talk to him about racing. In one of the great ‘King Of The Hill’ payoffs, Dale’s only lines are: “Man, this rope sure is soft and pretty. I noticed it when we unloaded my car.” And he WANDERS AWAY. Dale gives a thumbs up, and that’s the scene.
Note to the current writing team of ‘The Simpsons’: sometimes a guy like Dale Earnhardt Sr. can have fun doing a cameo on your show without it being all, “HEY HOMER, I’M DALE EARNHARDT SR., I NEED YOU TO DRIVE MY CAR DURING THE RACE AND BECOME A CHAMPION”.
Episode: “Bobby On Track” (season 9, episode 14)
What Happens: Bobby bails on a Fun Run before he even crosses the starting line, so Hank (mortified at the idea of letting down some Fun Run sponsors) makes Bobby do the full 5K at the school track. The track coach shows up and wants Bobby on his team, but it turns out he just wants him around because his complete and utter ********** motivates the others. Joseph suggests getting off the team by throwing a javelin into the crowd, because puberty Joseph is awesome.
Key line:“Yep. Bobby’s gonna be wearing sweat pants for the right reasons.”
For the record, Bobby Hill trying to toss his fat over a hurdle to clear it and getting it stuck in his gym shorts is the exact opposite of Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke.
Anyway, Bobby doesn’t use Joseph’s javelin idea and competes in the final leg of a relay race to prove he isn’t a joke. He wins the race for Tom Landry, but barely, and after all the other racers had tripped over each other and fallen down. Bobby gets to be an inspiration the RIGHT way, and earns a proud “go ahead and throw up everywhere” from his Dad. Only ‘King Of The Hill’ could turn a fat kid about to throw up on his teammates because everyone else f**ked up and he had to run a little into an emotional moment.
Episode: “Care-Takin’ Care of Business” (season 9, episode 9)
What Happens: Arlen’s football team is trying to make it to the championship game. The boosters want to hire the elderly groundskeeper and hire one from SMU, but Hank and the gang want to make sure the groundskeeper retains his pension, so they maintain the football field in secret.
Key line:“Hang in there, guys, and we’ll have championship seat cushions to cherish for the rest of our lives.”
While Hank and the others play up that the elderly groundskeeper, Schmitty, is the ‘Wizard of Sod,’ it gives Schmitty a massive ego. He finally tells the gang to go blow and that he’s the king. The highlight is him giving everyone around a table finger-guns and mouth-clicks for far, far longer than is necessary.
A great running gag in this episode are the high school football slogans directed towards the weekly rivals, and how much pleasure they give to the adults. ‘Kill Killem,’ says Bobby to cheer up his dad. Kahnnie answers the phone by saying ‘Death to Denton,’ etc. I don’t think even ‘Friday Night Lights’ ever got ‘Texas high school football’ as well as King of the Hill did. (I’ve never seen ‘Friday Night Lights’. That’s the one where Dawson says “AH DON’T WANT. YER LAHF.” right?)
Episode: “What Makes Bobby Run” (season 5, episode 7)
What Happens: Bobby becomes the school mascot (the “Landry Longhorn”) without realizing the mascot’s greatest tradition is being on the wrong end of a traditional halftime beatdown from the opposing school’s band. He chickens out (and probably spends the night in Denny’s), but eventually redeems himself by kidnapping Belton’s mascot Mr. Crackers the Armadillo and holding him aloft a la Simba in The Lion King en route to the inevitable.
Key line:“Don’t let them tease you too much. Remember, you’re the mascot, not the placekicker.”
People in fictional Texas sure love watching mascots get beaten up, don’t they?
Things on ‘King Of The Hill’ never work out the way you want them to. If you don’t do the right thing right away, you’re deemed a coward and an awful person until you come around to doing it. If you DO the right thing right away, you’re a square who needs to get with the times until you come around to doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. At least they don’t live in one of those ‘Breaking Bad’ worlds where everyone’s miserable and does the wrong thing all the time.
And again, it’s worth pointing out that Bobby ended up playing or participating in every sport available at Tom Landry and got his own splash page in the back of the yearbook as the Landry Longhorn. Kid did pretty well for himself.
Episode: “The Fat and the Furious” (season 7, episode 2)
What Happens: Bill digs in to a plate of hot dogs at a backyard cookout and goes through them in seconds. Upon learning that the Hot Dog Eating Championship is held by someone who is not American, Hank encourages Bill to win the Mustard Yellow belt back as matter of Patriotism. Dale is disgusted with the whole thing, having made his bones on the playground as a bug-eating freak. By way of “This isn’t a skill, anyone can do it, watch!” Dale is revealed to be even better at eating than Bill, but Dale refuses to participate. Bill tries to re-light Lady Liberty’s torch by mowing through a plate of hot dogs, but 31 dogs into things he notices the jeers of the crowd and calls it quits.
Key line:“Breathe and swallow, Bill! Come on, you’re eating for America!”
To my mind the most interesting thing about this episode is that the Hot Dog Eating Championship of the world has been relocated from Coney Island and the media capital of the country to a county fair in central Texas. Those had to be some really heated debates, and the guy who convinced them that McMaynerbury could draw more fans than the five boroughs must have made a hell of an argument. Kid Rock guest stars as himself, and Pam Anderson guest stars as a lady who is really, really, really into fat guys who can eat a lot. The most believable thing about the episode is either that Hank believes America’s greatness needs to be reflected in the reigning Hot Dog Champion being American, or that Kid Rock is a huge competative eating fan.
This is one of the most typically sitcom style episodes of the show, to the point where the Hot Dog Championship is won by a guy from Laos, so that Kahn can show up and go crazy over his horse in the race. It’s a fairly remarkable string of events to happen in the middle of Texas, but I guess it goes to show you what’s possible if you really believe that America is capable of great things.
What Happens: Hank and Bobby take a trip to watch the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp in Wichita Falls, and Bobby remarks that he likes Wichita Falls more than Arlen. Hank gets distraught at the idea of Bobby leaving his hometown (Hollywood and Las Vegas are fine, just not Wichita Falls), so he decides to make a video to convince the Cowboys to practice in Arlen. Because fun, menial tasks are the most stressful things ever to a ‘King Of The Hill’ character, the shoot ends up infested with rats and monkeys putting their fingers up Nancy Gribble’s nose.
Key line:“Now he’s down on his hometown. All his dreams from now on will be about leaving and then some high school guidance counselor is going to tell him to follow his dreams. Then how will he end up? A fruit pie salesman with a whoopee cushion living in Wichita Falls.”
Hank tries to make the video by himself and ends up just filming himself screaming football puns from far away, which is honestly probably the best way to get Jerry Jones’ attention. Peggy’s reedited version features touching footage from the people of Arlen’s lives, like the birth of Joseph, Bobby falling off the stage at a Christmas play and Hank making a big grill out of two separate grills (and using CHARCOAL, which I’ll pretend I didn’t see).
The Cowboys reject the video and send them a little rubber football as a thank you, so Hank and Bobby talk it out, realize they’ve got a lot of time left with each other and play catch in the yard. Man, I need to make sure these Sports On TV entries are for ********* like ‘Full House’ from now on, there are only so many ways to write “this show is awesome and everything they do makes me well up and miss my family”. Even the Lynyrd Skynyrd-backed money assault montages.
Episode: “New Cowboy On The Block” (season 8, episode 3)
What Happens: Former (fictional) Dallas Cowboys backup lineman from the 1976 to 79 seasons “Big” Willie Lane moves into the neighborhood and wows everyone with his semi-celebrity and Super Bowl Championship ring. Turns out he’s a jerk, though, and nobody will believe Hank until Willie punches him in the face and leaves the indentation of a Super Bowl ring in his cheek.
Key line:“My son is getting a clinic from a Dallas Cowboy. I’ve always said you had a lot of untapped bulk.” “I’m gonna do a push-up!”
For the longest time I’ve wanted a #64 Willie Lane Cowboys jersey because of this episode.
Everyone on the block has a different reason to hate Big Willie (Kahn: “One good thing about other hillbillies, at least they all pass out by nine o’clock. This guy needs to shut up or get stronger moonshine.”), but my favorite is Hank telling Bobby to listen to all of Willie’s pointers about football, then having to watch Bobby punch Joseph in the nose to stop a run and flex over his broken body yelling BIG WILLIE LANEEEEE.
This entire thing is pretty much how I imagine my life would be if Ben Roethlisberger moved in next door.
Episode: “Suite Smell Of Excess” (season 12, episode 1)
What Happens: Hank tries to nurture Bobby’s growing interest in football by taking him to a college football game, but Dale gets bogus tickets from Octavio (advertising “TEXAS VS. NEBRASKY”) and the guys end up in the nosebleeds. Enticed by the VIP section, Bobby sneaks into a luxury box, where Hank ends up being mistaken for a former Nebraska player and makes an impromptu play-call over the phone that gives the Cornhuskers the victory.
Key line:“We’re so high up because of those damn luxury boxes! They’re ruining football! And possibly baseball too but it’s hard to tell.”
“Remember that day you discovered cake could be made out of ice cream? This will be better.” As an Austinite who drives by the actual “Alamo Field” (Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium) every day, this episode is near and dear to my heart. This one and “Lady and Gentrification”, where hipsters move in. That’s even more of an Austin episode than the one with bridge bats.
Hank’s mortification when he realizes he could be killed trying to exit the stadium and his experience buying tickets from a scalper (“Thanks for bringing me those tickets I forgot, old friend! I’m glad I was able to replay you the money I owed you for an unrelated matter.”) are both epic. Also great: Peggy flipping out about the game result and Luanne not being able to function around a high-definition TV because she thinks it’s a window keeping a kitty from playing with her.
Extra points for Bill trying to save his 12-dollar bucket of popcorn from a flock of birds and being attacked by them to the complete indifference of everyone else.
Episode: “Bills Were Made To Be Broken” (Season 4, Episode 3)
What Happens: Bill is the holder of Arlen High’s Single Season Touchdown record, having scored them all by way of a move called “The Billdozer,” where he takes the handoff and inches forward after the entire opposing team piles on. Stud running back Ricky Suggs is set to break Bill’s record, and everyone is more or less OK with this, but when Suggs breaks his leg and they give in the record with a phony touchdown, Hank is appalled, and figures out that because Bill entered the military he still has red shirt eligability. Bill returns to play for Arlen high, scoring a touchdown while crippling himself, leaving he and Ricky as the co-holders of the record.
Key line:“That’s when they called for…The Billdozer.”
As far as football strategy goes, The Billdozer is pretty questionable. In the historical footage as soon as Bill gets the ball his teammates disappear and he’s gang-tackled by the opposition. I assume they’re just standing there watching him inch forward. By the time Bill plays again, football has evolved to include such things as “the spread offense” and “blocking.” The referees apply an extraordinarily liberal definition of forward motion, preferring to let a grown man finish strain against a half dozen men in prime shape
Hank is deeply offended by what went down, going so far as to suggest an asterisk reading ‘This record was attained by means of fraud and bad sportsmanship.’ I might favor editing historical records if people got to be that descriptive about things. Barry Bonds’ home run record read “This record was attained by rendering babies hella shook and by hitting each and every one of those home runs.” That’s almost as smooth as the milkshakes at the Arroyo Diner, mm-mmm. Uptown good eating.
Episode: “Bobby Slam” (season 2, episode 10)
What Happens: Bobby is excited to join the wrestling team, because wrestling is the “best sport ever” (it involves no running). Connie Souphanousinphone also wants to join the team, but the coach says wrestling’s a “boy sport”. After a threat of lawsuit (wrestling would set Connie apart on her college applications, say the Super Phones), Connie’s allowed to practice with the boys, but at a price — positions on the team will now be based on ability, and Connie will have to wrestle Bobby for his spot.
Key line:“This is through the school, right? Not some guy in a van with a camcorder?”
Nothing gets to me like a good Connie and Bobby episode. This one ends spectacularly, with the kids deciding to “work” the tryout match, hitting each other with ridiculous pro wrestling moves (like Bobby’s “Bane Breaker”, pictured above) and entertaining the crowd. They realize a spot on the wrestling team isn’t that important, especially since Bobby ends up on a sports team of SOME kind every two f**king weeks anyway. For a weird kid who was supposed to be fat and into Jewish comedy and Destiny’s Child, he sure did end up playing a lot of sports. Wrestling, football, soccer, track and field … hell, he was on the gardening team, performed as a rodeo clown on multiple occasions and competed in the Regional Meat Evaluation Tournament. Bobby was the Max Fischer of his school, wasn’t he?
It’s worth noting that for a show set in rural Texas and full of NASCAR, hunting and fishing episodes, there wasn’t a lot of pro wrestling. I guess it makes sense, though, I can’t picture Hank growing up cheering for the Fabulous Freebirds OR the Von Erich family.
Episode: “You Gotta Believe (In Moderation)” (season 10, episode 7)
What Happens: Tom Landry Middle School’s baseball team has been cut from the budget, so to raise some money Hank’s undefeated softball team challenges a traveling Harlem Globetrotters style softball outfit, the Ace of Diamonds and his Jewels. The Ace clowns around, pitching from the outfield, from stilts, presumably making light of other people’s appearances and/or bodies, that sort of thing, all while backed up by just a catcher and a first baseman. Hank exploits this, having his team repeatedly bunt down the third base line. After they score a run the Ace is furious and they spend the entire game teeing off or mowing down the Zephers. They win 63-1 and refuse to donate their winnings to the baseball team. Hank has to track Ace down in the next town, where they threaten to harrass him (and interfere with his adulterous pursuits) until he gives up the giant check.
Key line:“All you have to do is *believe to achieve.*”
This episode is more or less 22 minutes of Krusty the Clown’s “I thought the Generals were due!” joke, improved on by the fact that Hank genuinely though the Jewels were waiting for someone to challenge them. He also thought bunting was an effective offensive strategy, which it is not. Hank should have told his teammates to hit home runs, as there is no situation in which bunting the ball is a better option than hitting a home run. The Ace lives in a mobile home surrounded by his own bobbleheads, which is probably a pretty effective test of romance. If someone is willing to be intimate with you while surrounded by hundreds of miniature yous, heads bobbing in eager approval, they’re probably up for anything else you can think of.
There are a lot of episodes where Hank’s attempts to do the right thing are screwed up by the world at large, but this is one of the few that’s his fault. He really, really thought the Generals were due! This is reflected in how things play out, as Ace makes him beg for the check in a baby voice. Hank admits he weally scwed up and is vewwy, vewwy sowwy. It takes a lot for a man to admit he’s vewwy, vewwy sowwy, so when Ace still doesn’t give him the check it’s just cold.
(Editor’s Note: If anybody out there’s got a CafePress store or whatever that sells Arlen Zephyrs hats and jerseys, let me know so I can give you all my money.)
Episode: “Now Who’s The Dummy” (season 5, episode 12)
What Happens: Bobby inherits a ventriloquist dummy named “Chip Block”, an All-American who makes the worst imaginable jokes about sports (“Hey Slugger! Ah, that was my brother’s name. They made him into a baseball bat. He was from Louisville! Heh heh heh heh!”). Hank rejects Chip at first, but grows to like him more than Bobby because SPORTS. Dale is terrified of prop dummies, so he puts Chip through the wood chipper.
Key line:“How do you do that Bobby?” “He’s using show business!”
Chip’s death allows Bobby to finally ease those sports jokes and references into his OWN act to get his dad to like him, but Hank just focuses on building Chip II … until one of the best (and most bizarre) ‘King Of The Hill’ endings ever, when we find out Chip II looks just like Bobby and would rather watch ‘Iron Chef’ than the Rangers/Yankees game.
The characters on this show have such deep psychological profiles by the fifth season you can follow them to their logical conclusions and still be surprised. Has there ever been another dad on television who maintained his dislike for everything his son does and is into, but is so desperate to be proud of him that he forgets everything he’s burned into his brain to meet the kid halfway? I’d include Ed O’Neill’s character from ‘Modern Family’ in that club if ‘Modern Family’ had had more than one episode in the last three years.
What Happens: Bobby tries calf-roping, but once he realizes there are rodeo clowns, he becomes fixted on that instead.
Key line:“You see, a circus clown is a carny who’s too stupid to flip a ride switch on and off. Now, you take a circus clown, roll him on the barn floor and kick him in the head a couple hundred times and what have you got?”
As a kid whose dad was a cowboy, there was a short period in my childhood where I thought that rodeo clowns were the coolest f***ing thing ever. As a kid who entered his sixth grade talent show performing a “stand-up routine” that was just parts cobbled together from my favorite MTV Stand-Up comedians, Bobby Hill basically IS me.
I love that everyone (even the rodeo clowns) acknowledges that Bobby understands comedy extremely well, but his go-to routine is just going, “Vhut are ya TALKIN abowd? Vhut are ya TALKIN abowd?” in a broad Jewish accent. He also thinks that doing this will distract a horse from angrily trampling a man.
Episode: “My Own Private Rodeo” (season 6, episode 18)
What Happens: Dale (and everyone else) finds out that his estranged father is actually a gay rodeo star. And also is gay.
Key line:“What are you doing here? Are you gay?” “WHAT?! No. I sell propane.”
Again, as a child of the rodeo, I enjoy not only the subtle admissions that there is a huge overlap between what gay dudes like and what homophobic rednecks like. I also know for a fact that “put clothes on an animal” is a huge part of all rodeos, gay and straight alike, so Dale’s dad putting panties on a goat would be seen as totally straight behavior at a normal rodeo.
The rodeo is just a small part of the overall episode, of course, but it’s still definitely given attention as being an actual thing. There are more sports-centric episodes and more sports moments in ‘King of the Hill’ than in any other sitcom I can think of, which includes sitcoms that were ostensibly about sports. Way more than ‘Coach’. A million times more than ‘Sports Night’. Probably more than ‘Arli$$’, but no one has ever seen an episode of ‘Arli$$’, so we’ll never know.
Episode: “Hank Gets The Willies” (season 1, episode 4)
What Happens: Bobby accidentally hits Hank’s idol, country music legend Willie Nelson, in the head with a thrown golf club. This more or less completely ruins Hank’s magical dream about meeting Willie Nelson, golfing with him and having a jam session. Bobby makes things right by getting Willie to sign Hank’s guitar and getting the neighborhood invited to a party, wherein Boomhauer talks about being born again with Bob Dylan and Dennis Hopper offers to beat up Hank and drive Peggy to Mexico.
Key line:“Hank, Bobby’s been telling me all about you. I hear you’re a guitar player and that you’ve got a narrow urethra.”
Four episodes in and ‘King Of The Hill’ has already gotten the hang of special guest stars — you don’t make a big deal out of them, you have them eat watermelon and get a seed stuck on their chin. Or you hit them in the eye with a golf club. Or you have them get sick eating a poisoned Apple Brown Betty. Something like that.
There are a ton of golf-centric ‘King Of The Hill’ episodes, but since this was the first, we chose to include it in part 1. Plus, the idea of Willie Nelson being a golf course-dwelling hobo who can’t tell the difference between a kid who assaulted him and a kid who rakes his yard is pretty perfect. You’ve got to wonder why Hank would idolize a guy like Willie, but Red Headed Stranger is a great goddamn album, so whatever. Who’s he supposed to idolize, Conway Twitty? Not in those jackets.
Episode: “How To Fire A Rifle Without Really Trying” (season 2, episode 1)
What Happens: Bobby discovers an aptitude for shooting at the Texas State Fair (“He must’ve KILLED a thousand ducks!”) and gets into a father/son shooting competition, but Hank can’t keep a gun steady because his father was a shin-less, abusive monster who insulted him from the day Hank was born until the day he died. Hank tanks in the funshoot, but is surprised to find out how happy Bobby is coming in second place “in a real father-son tournament”. Bobby had fun and wants to do it again next year, because Hank is a thousand times better a father than Cotton.
Key line:“I never get to bond with Bobby on account of he’s not good at much.”
A classic. Cotton Hill is one of the best characters in TV history but also one of the most awful fathers ever, and it’s a testament to ‘King Of The Hill’s writers that Hank is such a perfect blend of Cotton and Bobby. Obsessed with AMERICA and doing the right thing, but too soft in the middle to make someone’s life miserable over it. Scared to be bold, but determined to be it anyway.
Bobby: “Can I keep my new gun in my room?” Hank: “Sure.” Bobby: “Can I keep the bullets in my pocket?” Hank: “If you want.” Bobby: “Can I put a gun rack on my bike.” Hank: “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for you to ask me that?”
Don’t even get me started on the episode where Bobby has to kill a deer to become a man. THE TEARS.
What Happens: When Bill is diagnosed with diabetes, he prematurely buys a wheelchair and gets extremely active with a group of rugby-playing wheelchair jocks, inadvertently curing himself in the process.
Key line:“Surely you’ve noticed recent changes in your body. Blurred vision? Frequent urination? Tingling in the hands and feet?” “I just thought I was in love!”
The first episode of ‘King of the Hill’s’ 13th and final season is a pretty great example of how the show not only never ran out of content, but never dipped in quality. This episode is really interesting from a standpoint of investigating both disability and ableism, but I suppose you’re here for the jokes.
This episode is Bill at his most Bill-like. When a jerk doctor recommends he buy a wheelchair while he still has good insurance, Bill makes Hank physically drag him around and the guys remodel his whole house out of sympathy. When Bill accidentally cures himself of diabetes (“They’ll probably write a whole pamphlet about you!” says Hank), he tries to give himself diabetes again by eating a full bag of raw sugar.
This episode ends with Bill taking his doctor into a private room and assaulting him while Hank guards the door. I … don’t know what I’m supposed to take away from that.
Episode: “Peggy Makes the Big Leagues” (season 5, episode 5)
What Happens: Multiple-time Substitute Teacher Of The Year Peggy Hill comes under fire when she refuses to give star football player “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” David Kalaiki-Alii a free pass on a Geometry test. That is officially the most fun name to say ever. “Flyin’ Hawaiian” David Kalaiki-Alii. It’s even fun to type.
Key line:“I wanted so much to be like ‘Welcome Back Kotter’. Now, I’m like the real Gabe Kaplan: I am a loser.”
“Flyin’ Hawaiian” David Kalaiki-Alii is Brendan Fraser’s best professional role in his career, if only for his book report:
“What I Love Most About Propane,” by David Kalaiki-Alii. Strickland Propene does not have a vending machine. It smells, and I thank God every day I get home that I didn’t get exploded. The end.
One of the most true depictions of Texas life (and more broadly, high school life) in ‘King Of The Hill’ is the overvaluation of sports at the expense of everything else. I remember not being able to take a foreign language in 12th grade because our school had just bought new uniforms and couldn’t afford to pay teachers, so everyone I knew got pregnant or bailed. The people on the football team had a GREAT time, though, until those pregnant people got to the end of those pregnancies.
Anyway, one more time: “Flyin’ Hawaiian” David Kalaiki-Alii
Episode: “Boxing Luanne” (season 7, episode 11)
What Happens: Luanne gets roped into foxy boxing competitions by Buck Strickland and mistakes them for athletic, on-the-level bouts. To prove herself as a real fighter, Luanne challenges Frieda Foreman, pro boxer and daughter of two-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion George. Luanne gets the **** beaten out of her, but earns the respect of some random jackasses who thought she was a bimbo until she let somebody punch her in the face.
Key line:“She is not gonna show tonight. She asked herself, what would Jesus do if he were a lady boxer? The answer: Not show.”
There aren’t a lot of Luanne moments on this list (probably because the second best Luanne sports moment is a Manger Baby going “sports, gurgle gurgle”) and her search for self-worth and respect in the world of local fox-boxing is one of the purest in our first 25, but this episode becomes legendary based almost entirely on when Hank runs into George Forman and throws shade at him for dumbing down the grilling process:
George Forman: “How would you feel about carrying my grill in your shop?” Hank: “Oh, sorry. We have a strict policy about that. No novelty grills.” George Foreman: “Novelty grill?” Hank: “Yeah, no offense, but your grill is kind of like an iron.” George Foreman: “You’re calling my grill an iron? I’ve been hit below the belt before, but nothing like this!”
You don’t win the Blue Flame of Valor for kissing George Foreman’s ass.
Episode: “Torch Song Hillogy” (season 6, episode 7)
What Happens: There’s no reason for Hank to give a **** about something as relatively exotic as the Winter Olympics, apart than this: he’s supposed to. Through a set of circumstances that, because this is King of the Hill, involve a) Bobby getting shafted and b) Peggy being indignant, Hank ends up being the one to carry the Olympic torch through Arlen. After Dale lights his cigarette on the torch, Hank gets on his way.
Key line:“I wonder who’s gonna be nominated to carry the torch through Arlen. I think it oughta be that boy down at the Waffle House. His Jesus T-shirts are an inspiration, and he buses those tables better than most two-armed folks.” “No, he doesn’t.”
Once the gravity of the situation sinks in, Hank completely breaks character and turns into this big, grinning, waving, stunting, backwards-running mark for the Olympics, and for America. Whenever this has happened throughout the run of the show, other people have inevitably let him down. He turns the corner, leaving the view of anyone who could possibly disappoint him … and then he disappoints himself, slipping on a wet spot and extinguishing the sacred Olympic flame in a puddle.
A panicked Hank simply re-lights the flame with the cigarette lighter carried by anyone who works in the propane and propane accessories industry and keeps on his way. Whether the flame is the true Olympic flame is the exact sort of trivial ********* that everyone in this show cares about, and at the end, Hank re-extinguishes the torch out of guilt. And then Dale provides utility for what seems like the first time ever: he’s been chain-lighting his cigarettes with the same bit of Olympic flame, so he runs the final 50 feet to keep the flame alive.
The Winter Olympics is 75 percent “things that would make Hank mildly apprehensive if Bobby expressed enthusiasm about them,” but I bet Hank watched the 2002 Games anyway. Because he was an American, and because he was supposed to.
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