Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 27, 2004)
Time for more adventures with the Hill family! The progression of King of the Hill DVDs moves along with the Season Three. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which shows them in the order produced. This occasionally differs from the broadcast chronology, so I include airdate information as well. The synopses come from the DVD’s liner notes; they seem quite terse, but they do the job.
Death of a Propane Salesman (first aired 9/15/98): “A horrified Hank (voiced by Mike Judge) discovers that the Mega Lo Mart explosion has altered his feelings about propane while a now bald Luanne (Brittany Murphy) laments the loss of her hair.”
Hill was never the funniest of the modern animated series, but it may earn the title of the most subtle one. Case in point: to illustrate that something’s wrong with Hank, we see him drink his beer out of a cup. Only a show like Hill could get away with something so minor as a telling gag, and moments like that - plus the amusing sight of Luanne as a radical activist - make “Death” a great launch to the season.
And They Call It Bobby Love (first aired 9/22/98): “While Bobby (Pamela Segall) falls in love with a classmate, Hank and the boys develop similar feelings for an old couch discarded at their drinking spot in the alley.”
That Bobby’s an emotionally volatile kid, and those traits come to the forefront here. Again, the show makes some of its funniest points through minor moments, such as when Marie calls Bobby and Hank assumes it’s either a wrong number or a prank - why would a girl call Bobby? We also see Peggy in a hilariously smug mode as she lowers herself to compete with Bobby in matters of the heart. Add to that the terrific couch subplot and this is a solid show.
Peggy’s Headache (first aired 10/6/98): “Peggy’s (Kathy Najimy) delight at being hired to write a column for a local paper is overwhelmed by the fact that Dale’s wife (Ashley Gardner) is having an affair and Peggy must keep it a secret.”
My friend Kevin loves the Peggy character, but I can’t stand that smug moron. At least this makes it amusing when the self-styled genius establishes her idiocy, such as the fact she’s the only person in Arlen other than Dale (Johnny Hardwick) who doesn’t know John Redcorn (Jonathan Joss) and Nancy are having an affair. Still, it’s tough to take a full Peggy-centric episode since she’s so annoying.
Pregnant Paws (first aired 10/13/98): “While Hank is busy trying to breed his dog, Dale decides to add a little excitement to his life by enrolling in a four-hour bounty hunter training course.”
I harp on how annoying Peggy is, but in truth, virtually all of the characters can get on your nerves. In a comedic way, of course, as their exaggerated quirks provoke laughs. Unusually, Peggy’s right during this show, as Hank’s behavior demonstrates his skewed priorities.
Next of Shin (first aired 11/3/98): “As Hank struggles to raise his sperm count so he and Peggy can ‘become pregnant’, Hank’s father (Toby Huss) shows up with the news that his new wife, Didi (Gardner) is expecting.”
Another agree to disagree with my friend Kevin: he can’t stand Hank’s dad Cotton, but I think he’s the show’s funniest character. Of course, a little Cotton goes a long way, as he’d get tiresome if he showed up more frequently. That problem doesn’t arise here, as Cotton adds his usual spark.
Peggy Pageant Fever (first aired 11/10/98): “Peggy undergoes a complete makeover in hopes of winning the ‘Mrs. Heimlich County’ beauty pageant and bringing home the grade prize: a 5.4 liter V-8 pickup truck.”
Normally I’d be fine with the way this episode ends, but since it spares Peggy the abject humiliation of a contest loss, it comes as a disappointment. Still, at least it knocks Peggy down a notch, and it’s fun to see a vindictive Luanne.
Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men (first aired 11/17/98): “Hank is outraged when he attends a lawnmower focus group and discovers that the new model of his favorite mower has been turned into an upgraded ‘yuppified’ version.”
Okay, maybe I can’t get sick of Cotton quickly. Granted, he plays a smaller than usual role here, but he brings his usual nasty energy to the show. The best part stems from the clever jury room set-up in which Hank tries to win over all the mower supporters.
Good Hill Hunting (first aired 12/1/98): “Hank takes Bobby to a private hunting reserve so his son can experience his ‘killing an animal’ rite of passage into manhood.”
Doesn’t it seem out of character for Bobby to worry about killing a deer? Doesn’t it seem out of character for Bobby to want to kill a deer? Oddly, this episode avoids mocking the inane concept that killing an animal makes someone a man and seems more concerned with hunting the “right” way. This all feels weird for this series and it results in a weak and troubling episode.
Pretty, Pretty Dresses (first aired 12/15/98): “Hank finds himself donning some gay apparel on Christmas Eve in order to help the similarly dressed and despondent Bill (Stephen Root).”
One of the darker episodes, “Dresses” focuses on the less jolly side of the holidays. This doesn’t exactly make the show a laugh riot, but it’s an interesting take on the subject, especially as Bill goes more and more nuts.
A Firefighting We Will Go (first aired 1/12/99): “Hank, Dale, Bill and Boomhauer (Judge) are ecstatic to become volunteer firefighters, although they may be better at starting fires than putting them out.”
After a couple of subdued shows, Hill pulls out all the wacky stops for “Firefighting”. Remember how I called this a “subtle” series earlier? Ignore that statement, at least for one episode. “Firefighting” turns Hill into a Three Stooges short with its nutty antics. And it works, especially since it shows much more cleverness than the actual Stooges ever did. The best moments come from the guys’ Rashomon style discussion of earlier events. In Boomhauer’s version, the others talk like him but he speaks perfectly clearly. Oddly, in Bill’s, he makes himself fatter and balder than he really is.
To Spank, With Love (first aired 1/19/99): “’Paddlin’ Peggy’ gets fired from her job as substitute teacher after she spanks an unruly student who embarrasses and frustrates her in front of the class.”
I didn’t like the hunting episode because it wasn’t subtle; it provided an oddly one-sided look at its subject. Usually Hill gives us a more three-dimensional take on things, and that occurs with “Spank”. The show demonstrates both sides of the spanking issue and makes Peggy look bad to boot. That makes it a good show.
Reason why we should get episodes in production order, not broadcast order: Luanne’s hair jumps around in length from show to show. If we’d gotten the programs in production order, her hair would grow back normally, whereas the variations seen here look weird.
Three Coaches and a Bobby (first aired 1/26/99): “Much to Bobby’s chagrin, Hank convinces his old football coach to return to Arlen High and whip the present Cougar football team into shape.”
What does it say about Hank that he cares so much about the outcome of a junior football game that he doesn’t want Bobby to play if it might affect the result? He remains likable despite - and sometimes because of - those flaws. The best parts of “Coaches” come from a great Will Ferrell cameo that nicely mocks soccer. It does create an unusual circumstance in which I almost rooted for Peggy, though.
De-Kahnstructing Henry (first aired 2/2/99): “Proud of his new promotion, Kahn (Huss) takes Hank on a secret tour of his workplace and reveals secrets that Hank unfortunately just can’t keep.”
Like Cotton, Kahn works best in smaller doses. That makes the occasional episodes that focus on him work well, and “Henry” mostly follows suit. It’s a little more serious than I’d like, but its usually entertaining.
The Wedding of Bobby Hill (first aired 2/9/99): “Angry that Luanne cost him his job house-sitting Boomhauer’s house, Bobby replaces her birth control pills with candy.”
“Wedding” benefits from one of the series’ better guest vocal performances, as Matthew McConaughey turns in some fine work. Bobby and Luanne’s ever-escalating series of attempts to get back at each other also offer some entertainment in this good program.
Sleight of Hank (first aired 2/16/99): “Hank is furious after Peggy assists the Astounding Herrera with a magic trick then refuses to tell him how the trick was performed.”
A confounded Hank is a funny Hank. “Sleight” broadens beyond just the magic trick question with a Bobby subplot, but it largely focuses on Hank’s annoyance. That presents plenty of opportunities for laughs and the show works well.
Jon Vitti Presents: “Return to La Grunta” (first aired 2/23/99): “Hank’s suggestion that Luanne take a job at the La Grunta Hotel results in both of them being hit on: Luanne from an over-friendly golfer, Hank from an aroused dolphin.”
An ashamed Hank is a funny Hank. The episode follows fairly predictable lines but manages many good situations. It tosses out a little too many attempts at social relevance when Luanne gets groped, but it remains an effective program.
Escape from Party Island (first aired 3/16/99): “While Hank is busy driving his mother (Beth Grant) and her friends to a miniatures museum in Port Aransas, Bill is busy ‘putting the moves’ on Peggy.”
“Escape” pokes fun at the quirks of old women in an entertaining manner. Add to that the placement of the eternally repressed Hank in the wild setting of spring break and you get a good show.
Love Hurts… And So Does Art (first aired 3/23/99): “An x-ray of Hank’s beef-filled colon is turned into high art even as a nervous Bobby stuffs his stomach with chopped liver sandwiches and herring crepe.”
It’s episodes like “Hurts” that make the one in which Bobby wanted to hunt make even less sense. How could a kid who loves the Show Biz Deli connect with hunting? This creates amusement, and the spoof of modern art also allows the show to work.
Hank’s Cowboy Movie (first aired 4/6/99): “After Hank and Bobby visit the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Wichita Falls, Hank decides to make a video that will convince the team to move their camp to Arlen.”
A nice parody of homemade moviemaking, “Cowboy” tosses out good laughs but remains true to the series. It would’ve been easy for the show to go too broad, but it sticks with the characters as developed. That purity benefits the program.
Dog Dale Afternoon (first aired 4/13/99): “Dale’s paranoia drives him over the edge after he’s tricked into believing his new state-of-the-art mower was stolen by Lee Harvey Oswald.”
It doesn’t take much to push Dale over the edge, a subject that “Dog” explores nicely. He’s another character who fares best in smaller doses, but he carries the occasional Dale-centric show well, and “Dog” functions as a strong piece.
Revenge of the Lutefisk (first aired 4/20/99): “Bobby finds himself the subject of the new reverend’s (Mary Tyler Moore) sermon after he secret eats all of her lutefisk casserole, then accidentally burns down the church.”
Another fun guest spot benefits “Revenge”. Mary Tyler Moore tosses out a nice take on Minnesotans and helps make the show fun. Some moralizing occurs, but not enough to mar a good program.
Death and Texas (first aired 4/27/99): “A letter from an alleged former student now on Death Row inspires Peggy to pay him a visit, unaware he has illegal ulterior motives.”
Given my dislike of Peggy, it’s good to see her brought down to earth. That definitely happens here, as she comes across like a total moron. That’s fun to watch and creates a good - if hard to believe - episode.
Wings of the Dope (first aired 5/4/99): “An encounter with Buckley’s (David Herman) angel on the trampoline in Kahn’s backyard convinces Luanne to give up beauty school and attend Arlen Community College.”
“Wings” occasionally scores points in its skewering of religious mania. However, it seems a little preachy in other ways. It never really gets going, as it feels mostly like an excuse to change Luanne’s story arc.
Take Me Out of the Ball Game (first aired 5/11/99): “Tempers flare when Hank, the Strickland Bobtails’ head coach, and Peggy, the team’s pitcher, can’t agree on how to play the game.”
Hill goes into “battle of the sexes” mode with this good episode. Hank seems a little over the top in his nastiness toward Peggy, but it creates some fun tension anyway. Bobby’s attempts to become the best cookie-baker also work.
As Old As the Hills, Part One (first aired 5/18/99): “The Hills’ 20th anniversary may be their last after Peggy, who tearfully fears the couple is now officially old, talks Hank into going skydiving.”
The three-fold storylines make this one of the faster moving episodes of Hill. Unfortunately, the ending seems regurgitated from last season’s cliffhanger. Another year, another apparent death of a major character. I’d think they could finish the season in a more inventive way.