Bless the Harts King of the Hill

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are returning to TV animation with the Fox series Bless the Harts. Created and run by Emily Spivey, the Harts are a southern family. Spivey becomes the first female animation showrunner on Fox, with Lord and Miller producing. With the show in production for a straight to series order, the cast gave a table read for the Television Critics Association. Afterwards, the producers and cast answered questions about the upcoming Fox Sunday night series.

The Hillverse

The long-running King of the Hill was Mike Judge’s take on a southern family in Texas. Spivey decided her North Carolinian Harts should be shared universe.This will be confirmed by a certain store at which they shop.

“I talked to Mike Judge about using Mega Lo Mart,” Spivey said. “He was so sweet he said yes. I really feel Bless the Harts and King of the Hill exist in the same world.”

With King of the Hill frequently in talks for revivals, the success of Bless the Harts could keep the Hills in the conversation too.

The Harts are inspired by Spivey’s family and other families she observed in North Carolina. The fictional family includes parents Betty (Maya Rudolph) and Wayne Hart (Ike Barinholtz), daughter Violet (Jillian Bell) and son Randy (Drew Tarver).

“This is my hometown and people I grew up with,” Spivey said. “Everybody on this panel knows that everything I write secretly takes place in North Carolina. This has been a passion for me forever.”

One story in the pilot has Wayne Hart’s plan to raise ostriches go comically wrong.

“I grew up with a guy who tried to have an ostrich farm,” Spivey said. “All the ostriches hated him. These are just all my people I grew up with in a mill town called High Point, NC.”

Yet, the Harts aren’t the butts of all the jokes. “I really want to be laughing with the people, not at them,” Spivey said. “Wayne gets a little clowny but he redeems himself.”

The Animation Will Feel Hand Drawn

We didn’t get to see any animation from Bless the Harts yet. We saw a still of the Hart family, but asked the producers for more detail on the animation style.

“I wanted to keep in the spirit of King of the Hill which is loose and naturalistic and folksy,” Spivey said.

Here’s where animation mogul Phil Lord jumped in. “We didn’t want it to feel machined,” Lord said. “It’s almost like Violet could’ve drawn it in her notebook so you always feel the hand of the artist doing it. It feels like it’s outsider art.”

The Title Can Be Sincere or Critical

Anyone who’s met southerners has probably been told, “bless your heart” with either scorn or sincerity. The title of the show can go both ways too.

“It’s such a wonderful catch-all phrase,” Spivey said. “It can be phony baloney if somebody comes in with a real ugly new hairdo or a dress that’s not working. Bless her heart, you know. It also can mean compassion so I like the double meaning.”

Lord added, “People say that to Wayne a lot.”

Violet is the sarcastic modern teenager in the family so she gets a lot of the funny lines.

“Violet’s more like my best friend David, on the dry side,” Spivey said. “I felt like an outsider looking in, but with a lot of love as opposed to disdain.”

It’s for Kids and Adults

Bless the Harts will fit into Fox’s Sunday night lineup with The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy. So it is definitely for adults, but could be more family appropriate than Family Guy.

“There’s a long tradition of this art form appealing from 8 to 80,” Lord said. “I think what The Simpsons did starting on The Tracey Ullman Show was really groundbreaking. I was in elementary school when I saw that for the first time and it blew my mind. It sent me to animation festivals and Spike And Mike. It’s not that kids shows don’t exist anymore. I will say the talent and intelligence in family programming has also gotten elevated. If you look all across the TV diaspora, the work that people are doing across the medium is mind-blowing.”

A parent herself, Rudolph enjoys Fox animation shows with her kids, so sees no problem with families watching Bless the Harts.

“I don’t know that it isn’t for them either because it’s a family that loves each other,” Rudolph said. “Maybe not [ostriches] biting Wayne’s dick and balls, but to bring up The Simpsons which is a good example of 8 to 80, my kids love a good Simpsons episode. I think it’s more about what your family is watching but to speak to what Phil was saying, the level of intelligence and quality that’s going on in animation really does speak to both sides of the spectrum in terms of age.”

Spivey said she hopes to capture all ages with the show. “I really wanted to make this show multigenerational,” Spivey said. “We have the grandma, the mom and Violent to experience woman at all phases in their lies.”

We’re obviously going to watch it because Lord and Miller are involved. Spivey too worked on Last Man on Earth, Parks and Recreation and King of the Hill. Plus the cast is full of comedians we love, so we’re eager to see a full episode.

Bless the Harts premieres next season on Fox.

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