King Of The Hill's Writers Weren't Very Interested In Giving The Characters Chances To Grow

In a previous article, I made the plea for "King of the Hill" to help us make sense of all the modern-day madness. If only Hank and the gang from Arlen, Texas, could return to the present day for more antics. Ask and we shall receive, as the long-rumored "King of the Hill" reboot is finally official!

When Mike Judge and Greg Daniels came up with the concept for "King of the Hill," Bill Clinton was president and the internet was in its infancy. My how things changed. But even during the show's initial 13-year run, we experienced the fall of the World Trade Center, the rise of social media, tsunamis, hurricanes, and all kinds of social upheavals in between. Through it all, the characters from "King of the Hill" stayed the same. It was their consistency that made the show so darn appealing. And it was no accident. The show's writers never had an interest in giving the characters a chance to grow. Series creator Mike Judge thinks that's a good thing.

Arlen, Texas won't change and won't age

The formula for "King of the Hill" is surprisingly simple and observational in nature: Put the conservative, practical Hank Hill in any number of awkward or ridiculous situations and watch him react. It is a formula that the show was able to rinse and repeat successfully for more than a decade because no one on the show ever evolved.

As Mike Judge explained before the show's 200th episode in 2012, that was done by design. The decision to keep the everyone the same age and avoid character arcs was made early in the show's development, even though it came with some pushback from Fox. Judge revealed:

"Overall I think part of the strength of the show is that it doesn't change a whole lot. At one point there was a note from an executive, who's not there anymore, that we need more life-changing episodes, and they were trying to apply that theory that works on some shows about just constantly shocking the audience and having crazy things happen. I think you do that too much and then you don't have anything left. I think part of the strength of the show is that we haven't changed that much."

Judge was definitely on to something. As "King of the Hill" aged, the fact that the characters didn't and were incapable of change often became part of the humor.

The show finds the humor in stagnant characters

The characters' inability to grow on "King of the Hill" is one of the reasons the show is so great. It creates a wealth of hilarious situations for the residents of Arlen to find themselves in. Being resistant to change is one thing, but the inability to ever learn from your mistakes becomes funny over time.

A trait of Peggy Hill is that she doesn't know her shortcomings and is constantly in over her head. It allowed the show's writers to make her the focus of the season 10 episode, "Bystand Me." In it, Peggy gets a job at the Arlen Bystander newspaper writing household tips despite, you know, not knowing any household tips. She quickly runs out of ideas and turns to frenemy neighbor, Minh, exchanging crossword answers for tips from Minh's mother-in-law. That back-and-forth leads to Peggy unwittingly giving readers the recipe for mustard gas.

Even Hank's stubbornness is sometimes the impetus for an episode. In "The Petriot Act" Hank adopts a soldier's pet, thinking it's a dog. When a sick cat arrives, Hank sacrifices his family vacation to stubbornly help the cat. He thinks he's doing the right thing when he's clearly being taken advantage of. Despite years of his inflexibility causing him trouble, by season 9 he still hasn't learned a thing.

When you pop into Arlen, Texas, you know exactly what to expect. That's what makes the show such a comforting watch. It's a testament to Mike Judge and the series writers that despite never changing, Hank Hill and everyone in his orbit continue to be funny, so much so that they're coming back with a new season. I can't wait to see what's changed ... or what hasn't changed.