Mike Judge Holds Three King Of The Hill Episodes In Particularly High Regard

Despite being a classic American animated sitcom, "King of the Hill" often goes unsung, its humble ambition obscuring the depth of its wit. The show produced 13 seasons of warm, funny television with a handful of familiar formulas, but it also had the guts to forgo formulas and produce outstanding episodes.

In a way, its low-key eccentricity was one of its biggest virtues. The more you knew Hank Hill (Mike Judge) and his community of family, friends, and co-workers in Arlen, Texas (which was based on a real town), the richer the show became. Seeing the guys drink Alamo beer in their neighborhood alley for the show's theme song every episode gave the show a real sense of life, where you get to know characters not just through gags but through observation.

That sense of life meant the show could be much drier than contemporaries like "Family Guy" or "The Simpsons" but just as funny. An episode like the one where Hank and his friends are market-testing a new, high-end lawnmower becomes hilarious just from knowing the characters. "Insurance is a safety net woven from the trust between the policyholder and the guarantor" is one of Hank's funniest lines.

For co-creator Mike Judge, that was essential to the show's sense of humor. As he told IGN in 2006, "my strength is just more observational stuff, so I ... push it in that direction." In that same interview, he brings up his three favorite episodes, which epitomize some of the show's best qualities.

Junkie business

Mike Judge had a simple formula for developing a good "King of the Hill" script. In essence, the formula involved pitting the old-fashioned, traditionalist Hank against any newfangled social idea that might threaten his perspective. He's a somewhat absurd character, holding onto an esoteric, contradictory set of masculine values, and a lot of humor could be mined from challenging him. He would learn from his experience. Or he would end the episode with his beliefs vindicated.

Judge claimed season 2's "Junkie Business" as a favorite to IGN – that episode puts Hank through the wringer by forcing him into an impossible position. When Hank is tasked with hiring a new employee for his workplace Strickland Propane, he has a hard time determining what he wants. He refuses to hire a highly competent female applicant who can't talk sports with him and ends up hiring the easygoing Leon (Brent Forrester).

Leon turns out to be a drug addict struggling with recovery. Hank's failure to hire the right person for the job because she was a woman leaves him with a worker who is incredibly unreliable, showing up late and drooling while working with customers. Hank can't fire him either – the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 forbids him, forcing him back against a wall until he can find a loophole.

The ways the episode handles Leon borders on cruel, and the show's caricatures of liberal bureaucrats tend to lack the nuance and humor of most of its supporting cast. But the comedy of Hank's exasperation (and hypocrisy) is always good.

Ho yeah!

Another of Mike Judge's favorite "King of the Hill" episodes is the season 5 episode "Ho Yeah!" which also deals, coincidentally, with a female Strickland Propane hire. In this case, she accidentally turns Hank into her pimp, leading to one of the show's wildest and most memorable episodes. It turned everything sweet and familiar about the show on its head. 

Tammi (Renée Zellweger) is the latest young woman to be hired and consequently objectified, by Hank's boss Buck (Stephen Root). She quickly befriends the Hills, giving Hank cash for putting her up in their den and making over his wife Peggy (Kathy Najimy). Tammi begins seeing many of the guys around town; Hank, in his naivete, says "there's nothing wrong with having lots of suitors."

When Hank, donning a feathered white cowboy hat given to him by Tammi, angrily demands one of those "suitors" gives money back to Tammi, word spreads that he's her new pimp. He hadn't even realized Tammi was a sex worker. Everything culminates in a car chase with Hank and Tammi's old pimp, Alabaster Jones (Snoop Dogg), the "main mack of Oklahoma City." Hank, Peggy, and Tammi come out of the conflict unscathed, after Hank scared off Alabaster by calling himself "the mack daddy of Heimlich County."

While the episode is more outlandish than Mike Judge's other favorites, it's loaded with great moments and gets a lot of comedy out of putting square Hank in a ridiculous situation. It's sweet too – the b-plot of Peggy helping Tammi get her GED makes for a genuinely touching arc.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Mike Judge also told IGN he liked season 5's "It's Not Easy Being Green" "a lot." It's a classic episode for a number of reasons, but the biggest may be how it fuses Hank's discomfort with modern progressives with a great story of how his friends deal with something from their past resurfacing. Literally.

The premise of the episode is that Arlen is planning to drain a local quarry and put a landfill in its place. While Hank would normally be unbothered by any environmental concerns, he has a personal stake in preventing the draining – when they were younger, he, Dale (Johnny Hardwick), and Bill (Stephen Root) took out their friend Boomhauer's (Mike Judge) Mustang for a joyride, accidentally landing it in the quarry. Even though 20 years have passed, they must stop the landfill from being built. That means they have to team up with local environmentalists.

Naturally, Hank has difficulties stomaching it, which is always funny. Environmentalists like Hank's son Bobby (Pamela Adlon) are vying to save an endangered species of algae. But their activism fails, forcing Hank and his friends to play dirty, entering the quarry in the dead of night to find Boomhauer's Mustang.

The episode climaxes with the great combination of observational satire and character-driven humor that it had perfected. Even if Mike Judge still sees "Beavis and Butthead" as his magnum opus, episodes like these prove his career's had many gems.