King of the Hill was known to some in the 2000s as either "the Mike Judge cartoon that wasn’t Beavis and Butt-Head," "the cartoon with the dry sense of humor that didn’t seem to know it was a cartoon," "the cartoon that came on after football" (when NFL games didn’t preempt episodes entirely), and/or "that show that seems to find Chuck Mangione amusing." But when it made its debut in 1997, it was a genuine hit.
After being in the spotlight for its first few seasons, King of the Hill managed to settle into the TV background and become a Sunday night staple, maintaining a large enough loyal audience to stay on the air for an impressive 13 seasons and 259 episodes. The show starring a propane salesman became one of the longest running animated series of all time not titled The Simpsons. Ten seasons into its run, Time proclaimed it one of the 100 greatest television shows ever. Here’s some knowledge about the Hills and the rest of the Arlen, Texas folk.
1. THE THEME SONG IS TITLED "YAHOOS AND TRIANGLES."
The manager for the Arizona band The Refreshments encouraged the group to submit some music to Mike Judge, who was looking for a theme song for his new show in 1997. Their decision to hand in an instrumental track they performed during their soundchecks paid off for the band.
2. FOX WANTED MIKE JUDGE TO SPECIFICALLY MAKE AN ANIMATED COMPANION SHOW FOR THE SIMPSONS.
Because Judge's overall production deal with the network meant that he would get paid whether Fox liked his show idea or not, he decided to come up with a pilot script that he would “actually want to watch.” In the show’s second season, King of the Hill actually had more viewers than its lead-in: The Simpsons.
3. ARLEN, TEXAS IS BASED ON AN ACTUAL TEXAS TOWN.
Specifically, it's based on the Dallas suburb of Richardson. Judge grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but was familiar with the neighboring state. He currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.
4. THE CO-CREATOR OF PARKS AND RECREATION CAME UP WITH THE LUANNE AND COTTON CHARACTERS.
Fox hired Greg Daniels—who at that point had written for Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Seinfeld's classic “The Parking Space” episode—to rewrite the King of the Hill pilot. After Judge gave him a tour of the kinds of Texas neighborhoods he thought Hank might live in (as well as some propane shops), Daniels added Hank’s father Cotton, niece Luanne, and Bobby's best friend Joseph, and made neighbor Dale (Joseph's father) a conspiracy nut.
5. HANK HILL HIMSELF PITCHED THE SHOW TO THE PRESIDENT OF FOX.
Instead of taking nine months to animate the pilot script, or just animate a scene from it, Judge and Daniels had their protagonist pitch his family to the network in a pencil test. It worked.
6. THE KEY TO HANK WAS A BOOK WRITTEN BY A GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR.
In order to best understand Hank Hill, Greg Daniels had the writers of the show read 1995’s The Death of Common Sense, a bestselling book in which Philip K. Howard argues that law and bureaucracy are making individuals abandon their common sense and live and communicate with each other in fear.
7. THE GROWN-UP VOICE OF KEVIN ARNOLD WAS ORIGINALLY OFFERED THE PART OF DALE GRIBBLE.
Because Daniel Stern wanted too much money, producers went with Texas-born comedian Johnny Hardwick instead. Hardwick was able to channel Dale after listening to a recording of William S. Burroughs.
8. MINH SOUPHANOUSINPHONE AND HER DAUGHTER, CONNIE, WERE VOICED BY THE SAME WOMAN.
Lauren Tom, who was the voice of Amy on Futurama and played Julie on Friends, even managed to switch back and forth between her two characters when necessary, which was a talent she shares with Judge (the voice of Hank and Boomhauer among others). Stephen Root (who voiced Bill Dauterive and Buck Strickland) was not as lucky.
9. LUANNE PLATTER WAS NAMED AFTER AN ACTUAL COMBO PLATTER.
At Luby’s, a Texas-based chain of cafeterias, one can enjoy a “Lu Ann Platter”—an entree, a roll, and a side. The Luby’s stand-in on King of the Hill was “Luly’s”.
10. A LIVE-ACTION SPINOFF ABOUT MONSIGNOR MARTINEZ DIRECTED BY JUDGE WAS FILMED, BUT IT NEVER SAW THE LIGHT OF DAY.
In 2001, Fox ordered a spinoff about the main character of the Mexican soap opera within the King of the Hill universe. Because the network suddenly decided that they didn’t want to air a show in which a priest shoots people (according to an actor who was in the pilot), it wasn’t picked up. An amazing official description of the show proclaimed that it was about “a macho, renegade priest who joins forces with a young stock broker and ex-nun to destroy the drug dealer that murdered his favorite altar boy.”
11. IN 1998, FOX TRICKED FANS INTO BELIEVING THAT THE SHOW WAS MOVING FROM ARLEN TO LOS ANGELES.
After the season two finale “Propane Boom,” Fox launched a promo campaign that promised to see the Hills move to Hollywood, and even released a press statement saying they were in “discussions” with Judge and Daniels to change the setting of the series. The network claimed that they received “hundreds and hundreds” of emails and phone calls from “concerned” fans falling for the ruse. In fact, it was all Fox’s way of promoting the show’s move from Sunday to Tuesday night, which lasted one season before the big ratings decline necessitated a permanent return to its original “home” on the calendar.
12. LUCKY WAS WRITTEN TO LOOK LIKE “TOM PETTY WITHOUT THE SUCCESS” BEFORE TOM PETTY WAS CAST.
Once John Altschuler wrote Lucky and described him in that kind-of-flattering way, the producers decided that they had to at least try and get Petty to audition. Fortunately for them, King of the Hill was one of the musician's favorite shows. Petty once described Lucky as a “philosophical idiot.”
13. AN INCOMPREHENSIBLE VOICEMAIL INSPIRED THE VOICE OF BOOMHAUER.
A man upset about Beavis and Butt-Head left Judge a voice message that he had to replay multiple times in order to understand what was being said.
14. BOOMHAUER WAS A TEXAS RANGER.
15. THERE WERE TWO SERIES FINALES.
Fox had effectively canceled the show during its tenth season, and “Lucky’s Wedding Suit” was written and produced as a proper series finale, concluding with Lucky and Luanne’s wedding. After the staff moved out of their offices, the network changed their minds, giving King of the Hill another three seasons.