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Ten Things You Never Knew About ‘King of the Hill’
King of the Hill remains one of the most popular cartoons ever aired on primetime television. However, during its run, it was somewhat overshadowed by fellow FOX series The Simpsons. Still, series creator Mike Judge’s Texas-themed sitcom enjoyed 13 great seasons as one of America’s greatest television shows before wrapping in 2009.
In the years since, old fans have religiously re-watched episodes as new fans continue to fall in love with the series via reruns. Comedy Central’s Adult Swim carried the show’s resurgent popularity through the 2010s with late-night repeats. Later, Hulu picked up the series for streaming. Younger audiences immediately connected with the relatable world of Hank Hill’s family and friends. By the 2020s, viewers were clamoring for a reboot. The world wanted to know how the years have treated Arlen’s residents.
In July 2022, Judge seemed to concede to the demand, telling fans at San Diego Comic-Con that the series “has a very good chance of coming back.” That may come to pass—but do you know how the show came together in the first place? Here are ten unexpected facts that all true King of the Hill fans should know!
10 Hank’s Very Familiar Inspiration
Judge came to King of the Hill after a popular run with Beavis and Butthead. As any fan of those two Gen-X degenerates knows, the troublesome teens loved to antagonize their neighbor, Tom Anderson. And as any Judge fan knows all too well, Anderson’s voice, mannerisms, and sense of decency were all very much inherited by Hank in the FOX series.
In fact, Hank’s Tom Anderson inspiration nearly went so far as to be familial. In early meetings with network execs, Judge pitched Hank as being Tom’s son. “I was kind of thinking we’d tie it into Beavis and Butthead as a sort of spin-off or something,” Judge said in an interview years later, “but Fox said no.” Still, bits and pieces of Tom Anderson live on in Arlen!
9 There Was A Real-Life Boomhauer
Hank’s three pals are mainstays in the show. Dale’s conspiracies, Bill’s misfortune, and Boomhauer’s mumblings made the alley what it was. Of the three fellas, Boomhauer’s backstory is the least developed. Viewers have to wait until the series finale to learn his first name (Jeff) and his occupation (Texas Ranger). But did you know Rainey Street’s sworn bachelor was inspired by a real-life voicemail?
Before King of the Hill, Judge rose to fame with Beavis and Butthead, which flourished on MTV through the 1990s. Not everybody was impressed with that snarky show, though. One upset viewer found Judge’s phone number and called to complain about the cartoon. The “deranged hillbilly” critic left a long voicemail, whining about the MTV show.
Whether he was drunk, angry, or something else, the man’s twang was unintelligible. Judge had to replay the tape over and over to figure out what he was saying. But the incoherent, rambling rant proved to be a stroke of inspiration. When it came time to create King of the Hill, he incorporated the speaking style into Boomhauer’s character. Dang ol’ yep, man.
8 Lucky’s Lucky Break
Luanne Platter’s sexy figure catches the attention of almost every man on the show, from her deadbeat (dead) ex-boyfriend Buckley to Hank’s boss Buck Strickland. But Hank’s niece finally settles down with Lucky Kleinschmidt, a lovable loser who astounds Hank with quasi-deep stupidity. Originally, writer John Altschuler envisioned Lucky as being like “Tom Petty without the success.” The animators came through, drawing him as a rock-and-roll fan with long blond hair and a snaggle tooth.
Inspired by the creative burst, Judge’s team swung for the fences and tried to get Petty himself to voice the role. Luckily (pun intended), the writer’s room quickly learned King of the Hill happened to be one of the rock star’s favorite television shows. Petty stepped into the recording booth and perfectly fit the role of Lucky. The rock musician loved voicing the hard-rocking loser and once described Lucky as a “philosophical idiot.”
7 The Death Of Common Sense
Judge grew up in Albuquerque, but he was familiar with Texas before creating the show. In fact, Arlen was inspired by the Dallas suburbs of Garland and Richardson. When Judge started laying out the show, he took co-creator Greg Daniels around those neighborhoods to inspire ideas for the series. As the pair hired writers to staff the show, Daniels took the research a step further.
The Los Angeles-based writers had little knowledge about small-town Texas, so Daniels ordered them to read The Death of Common Sense. The 1995 bestseller by Georgetown University Law School professor Philip K. Howard argues bureaucracy has made Americans abandon common sense in favor of caution and distrust. The book’s message clearly stuck with the show’s writers. In countless episodes, Hank’s no-nonsense common sense and practical wisdom butts heads with the poor policies of bureaucratic buffoons throughout Arlen.
6 Arlen Beats Springfield
Judge’s MTV success with Beavis and Butthead earned him a sweet gig with FOX. The network wanted the full focus of the exec’s creative energies. So they inked him to a lucrative production deal that gave them rights to his TV pitches. The network hoped to create a companion show for its incredibly popular animated series The Simpsons. Using that bit of financial security to his advantage, Judge thought about creating a show he would personally want to watch.
Slowly but surely, Arlen came together. Judge even pitched the show to the network with a pencil test that directly addressed FOX’s president and other network execs. The big-wigs loved the original pitch idea, and they were touched by the all-American Hill family. Viewers were too. Early episodes of King of the Hill had higher ratings than FOX’s first animated hit and virtually everything else on the network.
5 Taking a Chance on a Theme Song
As King of the Hill started to come together before its premiere, Judge and Daniels went on the hunt for a theme song. The manager of the Arizona-based band The Refreshments heard the call and encouraged his clients to submit a track. The group took their shot with an unknown instrumental piece they had casually been performing at soundchecks before shows. The risky choice paid off. Judge and Daniels picked the song out from among hundreds of entries. It became the show’s memorable intro music.
Years later, the hard-driving track still resonates with viewers. The Refreshments tried to capitalize on the popularity later in 1997 by releasing an “ambitious and largely misunderstood” album. The record didn’t sell, and their label dropped them before a follow-up could come together. Unable to handle the stress of an indie gig, the group broke up in 1998. Their instrumental theme song lived on, though, airing every week on FOX for another 12 years past the band’s breakup.
4 The Tasty Luanne Platter
Judge and Daniels loved to make real-life references to Texas themes, topics, and places throughout the show. Hank’s beloved dog, Lady Bird, is named after Lady Bird Johnson, the Texas-born former First Lady of the United States. In the show, the hound is even supposed to have descended from the dog that tracked down MLK assassin James Earl Ray—a true bloodhound with southern roots.
But the most bald-faced nod to the Lone Star state sets upon Peggy’s niece Luanne Platter. She’s famously named after the “Lu Ann Platter”—an entree, a side, and a roll—available at Texas cafeteria-style food mainstay Luby’s. The restaurant chain has its own tongue-in-cheek reference on the show, too: The Hills often eat at Luly’s. The real-life Luby’s loved the meta-reference, and in 2010, they dressed a model as Luanne and had her visit some of their Lone Star locations.
3 Vaya Con Dios!
In 2000, Judge and Daniels came together to develop a spin-off. There was just one quirk: it was a live-action spin-off from their animated series. On King of the Hill, Hank’s family could often be seen watching a catholic priest named Monsignor Martinez on a phony Arlen TV show. The pious priest was also a violent vigilante fond of saying “Vaya con Dios” to the men he killed on screen.
In the live-action spin-off, Judge and Daniels were prepping to showcase Martinez’s antics and adventures. FOX nearly bit on the pilot too. An old official show logline described the plot as “a macho, renegade priest who joins forces with a young stockbroker and ex-nun to destroy the drug dealer that murdered his favorite altar boy.” Sadly, the spin-off fell through, and the live-action show never made it to air. Vaya con Dios, Monsignor Martinez, wherever you are today.
2 King of the Hollywood Hills?
Hank’s strong dislike of California, specifically Hollywood, is very well-known. So fans were shocked following the end of the show’s second season when FOX launched a PR campaign claiming the Hill family was being pushed to move to… Los Angeles? The network sent press releases to media outlets claiming they were in “discussions” with Judge and Daniels to move the setting of the series.
Viewers flipped out and sent hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls to FOX, asking them to reconsider. Fortunately, the whole thing was a ruse. As it turned out, the network was moving King of the Hill from Sunday nights to Tuesdays—and not from Texas to California. The weeknight move didn’t work out anyways. After the show spent a low-rated season in the Tuesday night slot, Hank and the gang moved back to Sundays for the rest of the run. It would have been funny to see Hank sell propane in Beverly Hills, though.
1 Finale Fiasco
It was all supposed to end for King of the Hill after its tenth season finale. FOX opted to cancel the series after its ten-year run. Sad but determined to end things on their terms, Judge and Daniels planned accordingly. The final episode of the season, “Lucky’s Wedding Suit,” showed Lucky and Luanne walking down the aisle in a picture-perfect, family-friendly ending.
After the episode aired, FOX changed their minds. Network executives decided to bring Judge’s crew back for more. The writers had been booted from their offices after the initial cancellation, though, and had to move back in to restart their work. It all worked out in the end, though: The show ended up running another three full seasons, giving the world dozens more memorable episodes.