The List: Top 10 ‘King of the Hill’ Episodes

The best show about life in Texas premiered 25 years ago this week. In fact, Mike Judge’s King of the Hill has aged so well that I’d basically put this as my 1b show, next to The Simpsons as 1a. Consistently sharp in its satire with a killer jokes-per-minute ratio, it also features arguably the greatest TV character of all time in Bobby Hill. This list was tough to make, given how many tremendous episodes this show produced over its 13 seasons, but here are my 10 favorites.

10. “To Sirloin with Love” (Season 13, Episode 20)
Fox didn’t treat one of its crown jewels as well as it should have in its final season. Eighteen episodes aired on a somewhat normal schedule, then this series finale aired months later alongside another Bobby-centric episode (“The Boy Can’t Help It”). Then, four unaired episodes premiered in syndication in an entirely different decade (OK, just seven months later). Despite no major events, this was the absolute perfect series finale. Hank and Bobby grow closer than ever after the latter joins the local community college’s meat grading team, identifying optimal cuts of beef. Bobby had had plenty of hobbies in the past that Hank enjoyed too, but this was the one closest to his heart.

9. “Keeping Up with Our Joneses” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Like The Simpsons, the early seasons of King of the Hill featured a limited budget and crude animation, but had extremely thoughtful and sweet episodes. When Bobby’s caught smoking, Hank tries the tough-love approach of making him smoke until he’s sick. Unfortunately, it gets Bobby hooked and activates Hank and Peggy’s desire for nicotine. Before you know it, all three are fighting for a puff. Even early on, the show mined humor from letting the Hill parents spiral when they pride themselves on being put together. Luanne also gets a chance to shine, finding a creative way for her relatives to ward off their addictions.

8. “Reborn to Be Wild” (Season 8, Episode 2)
A personal favorite. Hank gets excited when Bobby takes an interest in church and youth group, but recoils he discovers when the pastor has long hair and tattoos, shredding at the skate park and on stage. This is an episode where Hank is both wrong and right. He’s wrong to claim this version of Christianity is any less authentic than the buttoned-up version he practices, but he’s right when he shares a tender moment with Bobby in the garage, explaining that he doesn’t want faith to be just another fad for his son. (This episode also features an absolutely perfect joke: a Christian ska band called the A-Men.)

7. “Hank and the Great Glass Elevator” (Season 5, Episode 11)
The show had plenty of great guest stars, from one-offs (Brad Pitt as Boomhauer’s awful brother) to long-running additions (Tom Petty as Luanne’s husband Lucky). But for me, it’s no contest who the best was. The late great Governor Ann Richards played herself, the victim of Hank’s ill-timed mooning. Bill takes the fall (“I don’t have as far to drop,” he explains) and the two strike up a warm relationship that catches the attention of his horrid ex-wife Lenore (guest star Ellen Barkin). As in life, Richards is funny and relatable, but takes no bullshit. It would have been great if she had stuck around.

6. “Hank’s Dirty Laundry” (Season 2, Episode 17)
This episode is really the essence of Hank. When he’s accused of late fees for failing to return an adult video he didn’t rent, he stages a boycott of Arlen Video, and even does research by watching a porn marathon (with tapes provided by an anonymous friend). Most people would just pay the fine and go about their day. But only Hank would turn it into a weeks-long ordeal simply to prove he was right.

5. “Hanky Panky” and “High Anxiety” (Season 4, Episodes 13-14)
This densely packed two-parter parodies Dallas‘ iconic “Who Shot JR?” cliffhanger, but with hilariously low stakes. Buck Strickland (the brilliant Stephen Root) and his wife Liz (guest star Kathleen Turner) separate, then Buck ditches his mistress Debbie (guest star Reese Witherspoon). Both ladies have the hots for Hank, but faithful to the end, he turns down their advances. But then Debbie turns up dead and they all become suspects. Hank has to be doubly careful, because he’s more worried about the police and Peggy finding out he was getting high (albeit accidentally) at the time.

4. “Flush with Power” (Season 4, Episode 22)
It was a tough call between this and “The Perils of Polling,” in which Hank second-guesses his support of George W. Bush after experiencing his weak handshake. But this one is a bit more evergreen, as Hank learns the Arlen City Council is just as corrupt as any government branch in Austin or D.C. Under the guise of environmentalism, the council requires all homes to use low-flow toilets to save water. But they just don’t, ahem, get the job done when it comes to flushing waste. And – surprise, surprise – a councilman has a stake in a toilet manufacturer. To put an end to this smelly business, Hank cleverly exploits the filibuster rules, forcing his fellow councilmembers to experience the horrors of the low-flow john at City Hall.

3. “Bobby Goes Nuts” (Season 6, Episode 1)
Hard to believe “That’s my purse! I don’t know you!” is likely the most well-known catchphrase from the show (if you don’t count expressions like “Yep” and “Bwaaahhhh!”), but that’s the simple power of Bobby going around kicking people in the testicles. It’s a tactic he learns at a self-defense class, but he abuses the power move, going on a kicking spree any time someone disagrees with him. It’s stupid, but it’s impossible to argue with how funny it is every single time.

2. “Returning Japanese” (Season 6, Episodes 21-22)
To be fair, there are a few elements of this two-part finale that haven’t aged well. That includes casting David Carradine as Hank’s half-Japanese brother Junichiro. But Cotton’s bad behavior – including threatening to hawk a loogie in the face of the Japanese emperor – can be attributed to being an almost entirely reprehensible character. Despite their reluctance, Hank and Junichiro bond because, well, they’re basically identical. Still, there’s room for them to grow. Hank learns patience from his half-brother and Junichiro learns to kick ass from his. But the reason I keep coming back to this episode is Bobby’s brief encounter with a local girl. They don’t speak each other’s language, but share a deep connection over games of Dance Dance Revolution.

  1. “And They Call It Bobby Love” (Season 3, Episode 2)
    Vegans, look away. The only episode of the show to win the Emmy for Best Animated Series, it features one of Bobby’s most pathetic and triumphant moments. When an older girl (guest star Sarah Michelle Gellar) gives Bobby his first kiss, he becomes overly attached and she dumps him, and reveals she wasn’t that into him in the first place. At his lowest, Bobby hikes up his pants and imitates a Jewish comedian. To cheer him up, Hank and Peggy take him to a steakhouse where he sees Marie again. To show her up, he takes on the 72 oz. steak challenge, mending his broken heart while clogging his arteries.
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