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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
From Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge and former The Simpsons writer/producer Greg Daniels comes the down-home hit that proves everything really is bigger in Texas-including the laughs! So pull up a chair and join Hank Hill, his family and his neighbors for a beer-drinking, BBQ-ing good time with the hilarious first season of King of the Hill.

Creator:
Greg Daniels, Mike Judge
Cast:
Mike Judge, Kathy Najimy, Pamela Segall, Brittany Murphy, Johnny Hardwick, Stephen Root
Writing Credits:
Various

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 299 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 7/1/2003

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Full-Length Audio Commentary On Two Episodes
• Special Introduction by Hank
• Deleted Scenes
• “Making Of” Featurette

DVD Two:
• Full-Length Audio Commentary On Three Episodes
• Special Introduction by Bobby
• Deleted Scenes
• “Meet the Hills” Interactive Gallery
• “The Do’s and Don’ts” Animation Guide

DVD Three:
• Full-Length Audio Commentary On Three Episodes
• Special Introduction by Bobby
• Deleted Scenes
• TV Promotional Spots
• Music Video
• Easter Egg


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RELATED REVIEWS


King of the Hill: The Complete First Season (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2003)

It’s official: my memory sucks. I could have sworn that King of the Hill first hit the air in early 1998. I was certain of that because I was positive that it debuted after I already liked Beavis and Butt-Head. I know that I got into the latter show in the fall of 1997, and I knew that Hill bowed in the winter, so logically, Hill came on in January of 1998.

Or maybe not! The liner notes for King of the Hill: The Complete First Season state that the show first aired in early 1997. No way, said I! Way! said the research: every other source indicated that the series indeed debuted in January 1997. So much for my memory.

One reason I felt so sure that Hill initially appeared after I developed my affection for Beavis was because I recall the former disappointed me. I thought I had high expectations for the program and it didn’t initially live up to them. Without my prior fondness for Beavis, it didn’t make sense that I’d expect so much from Hill.

Whatever the case may have been, I didn’t initially care a lot for Hill, though the series grew on me over time. I’ve not seen most of these early episodes in quite some time, so I felt interested to see how I’d react to the programs so many years after their initial appearances. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which shows them in the order produced. This often differs radically from the broadcast chronology, so I include airdate information as well. The synopses come from the DVD’s liner notes; they seem quite terse, but they do the job.

Disc One:

Pilot (first aired January 12, 1997): “When a baseball hits Bobby (Pamela Segall) in the eye during a Little League game, the resulting ‘shiner’ causes a social worker to suspect Hank (Mike Judge) of child abuse.”

While early episodes of The Simpsons showed character behavior that seemed very different from what we’d seen in later years, not as many variations appeared during the “Pilot”. However, it was clear that the characters needed a little while to evolve. Hank gets too angry and Bobby seems too provocative. Some of the voices sound a little off as well.

The show also comes across as vaguely out of line with the later episodes as well. The characters and situations appear slightly cartoonier than we’d find them in the future. Ironically, at times it seems like the episode tries too hard to establish the characters in a certain way; it feels like the producers want to fully flesh out the universe in one fell swoop. This leaves the “Pilot” as an intriguing but mediocre show.

Square Peg (first aired January 19, 1997): “Peggy (Kathy Najimi) is mortified and tongue-tied when she finds out she’s been chosen to teach the high school’s Sex Ed class.”

Like “Pilot”, “Peg” tries too hard to be a “message” show as it criticizes the close-minded aspects of small-town life. After the broad humor of Butt-Head, it seems like Judge backed off too far and attempted to become overly subtle with the comedy, which makes the show a bit flat at times. However, “Peg” shows a little progress from the fairly dull “Pilot” in that it includes a few fairly funny moments, such as the depiction of Hank’s childhood sex education.

The Order of the Straight Arrow (first aired February 2, 1997): “Disaster ensues when Hank, Boomhauer (Judge), Bill (Stephen Root) and Dale (Johnny Hardwick) take Bobby’s scout troop on a wilderness outing in order to ‘make men out of them’.”

After the slight progress of “Peg”, “Arrow” feels like a bit of a regression. The show lacks the dullness of the “Pilot” but it takes the easy way with some of its gags and never becomes engaging. I can’t call it a bad episode, but it’s not very entertaining.

Luanne’s Saga (first aired February 16, 1997): “Hank’s promise to find Luanne (Brittany Murphy) a new boyfriend in 48 hours backfires when she hooks up with Boomhauer at Ugly’s Saloon.”

After three straight bland shows, “Saga” gives us a generally fine episode. It never really soars, but it starts to demonstrate the series’ potential. From Luanne’s hysterical crying jags to Hank’s vision of what Luanne likes in guys to Hank’s simple solution of how to make a woman happy, there’s a fair amount of fun material on display.

Footnote: “Saga” presents the series’ initial celebrity cameo, as Chuck Mangione makes his first of many appearances here.

Hank’s Got the Willies (first aired February 9, 1997): “Hank’s decision to teach Bobby how to play golf comes to a crashing halt when Bobby hits Hank’s idol, Willie Nelson, on the head with his golf club.”

And here’s our second celebrity cameo! Some shows tack on guests with no real purpose, but Nelson feels like a natural fit, as one can easily imagine that Hank would think highly of him. The show gets a little gimmicky at times, but Nelson does a nice job and adds to it. The episode’s not as solid as “Saga” but it offers some good moments, such as a silly but funny chat between Boomhauer and Bob Dylan. (Not the real Dylan, of course, though the actual Dennis Hopper shows up a little later.)

Disc Two:

Westie Side Story (first aired March 2, 1997): “Hank’s attempt to be neighborly with the new Laotian family next door is sorely tested after he’s convinced they served him barbecued hamburgers made of dog meat.”

Homer has Flanders, and Hank has Khan (Toby Huss). Like many King episodes, this one tries to impart a moral about tolerance and acceptance for other cultures, and that makes it a little heavy-handed at times. Nonetheless, Khan and family quickly emerge as amusing and interesting characters, and they give “Westie” enough spice to help it become a generally positive program.

Hank’s Unmentionable Problem (first aired February 23, 1997): “Hank’s on-going irregularity problem causes great concern for Peggy and, much to Hank’s embarrassment, everyone else in town.”

With “Problem”, it looks like Hill is starting to get into a groove. Like those before it, the show doesn’t seem terrific, but it also avoids the general flatness of some of DVD One’s programs. Happily, it keeps away from the figurative bathroom humor that could have marred it, and it favors the amusing humiliation suffered by Hank. It’s almost touching to see how he copes with his issue, but it’s also funny to watch the ever-private Hank deal with such public embarrassment.

Trivia: “Problem” subtly introduces Peggy’s interest in Boggle, a seed that will soon bear fruit.

Shins of the Father (first aired March 23, 1997): “Hank and Peggy disagree over whether Hank’s sexist father Cotton (Huss) can stay with them – especially after Bobby slaps his mother on her rear-end and tells her to get his dinner.”

We saw Cotton only in flashbacks during a few prior shows; “Shins” formally introduces him to the show. Arguably the least politically correct character ever to grace a good series, Cotton has always been one of my favorite personalities on Hill, and he starts off well here. How can you not love a character who declares Angie Dickinson’s birthday to be a holiday?

Peggy the Boggle Champ (first aired April 13, 1997): “Hank’s promise to coach Peggy and the Texas State Boggle Championship is jeopardized when his buddies try to lure him away to the Ninth Annual Dallas Mower Expo.”

Here’s where those Boggle seeds from “Problem” take root! A very good episode, “Boggle” works well from start to finish. All the elements related to the game and the expo are funny, and the subplot with Bobby and Luanne at home also offers quite a few laughs.

Disc Three:

Keeping Up With Our Joneses (first aired April 27, 1997): “Hank’s outrageous plan to make Bobby never want to smoke again results in the whole family becoming addicted to cigarettes.”

At times, “Joneses” becomes a little too much of an anti-smoking diatribe. However, it tosses in plenty of amusing moments to balance these, especially when the Hills are at each other’s throats when they try to quit. It’s also nice to see Luanne play a stronger role as she attempts to force them to kick the habit.

Plastic White Female (first aired May 11, 1997): “Peggy is horrified when she discovers Bobby playing Spin the Bottle with one of Luanne’s plastic beautician school heads.”

The first episode to really focus on Bobby, “Plastic” starts to let us know just how odd the boy is. However, it does this in a clever and fulfilling way; yeah, the situations broaden past those we’d likely see in real life, but it never becomes overly cartoony. “Plastic” is a pretty solid program.

The Company Man (first aired December 7, 1997): “Against his better judgment, Hank dresses as a ‘real Texan’ in order to persuade a ‘Yankee’ client to open a business account with Strickland Propane.”

Though Hank’s client Holloway sometimes seems too moronic to make sense as a powerful businessman, “Man” still provides a very entertaining show. We get some nice exposition about Hank’s career at Strickland and learn of his scheming foe Thatherton (Burt Reynolds). It also comes to its conclusion in a surprising way that gives us a happy ending, but not necessarily the predictable one.

Trivia notes: with both Reynolds and Stockard Channing on board, I think that “Man” offers the series’ first guest voices who don’t simply play themselves. In addition, “Company” was the only episode from the production of Season One that actually didn’t hit the air until well into Season Two. It was first broadcast seven months after the final other Season One show ran and didn’t appear until almost three months into Season Two!

King of the Ant Hill (first aired May 4, 1997): “After telling Dale to never spray insecticide on his lawn again, Hank’s expensive new lawn becomes mysteriously infested with fire ants.”

A solid end to the first season, “Ant” introduces a number of concepts. Most importantly, we see Dale’s business and its lack of success. (We also get very substantial indications of Peggy’s pretentiousness and her distinct aversion to Bill.) The parts where Bobby becomes a slave to a queen ant seem too absurd for Hill, but they’re minor misfires in a generally witty program.

Most Simpsons fans generally feel that it took the series a few years to “get good”, and I’d agree to a certain degree; while the first two years certainly include some great stuff, the show didn’t really hit its stride until later.

That doesn’t appear to be the case with King of the Hill. While most of the first handful of programs seemed somewhat dull and lackluster, the series developed surprisingly quickly. The end of Season One finds it still working through some growing pains, as the characters continue to broaden. Nonetheless, the series works really well for most of its first year, and this set includes a lot of solid material.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+ / Audio B- / Bonus B

King of the Hill appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. After the terrific visuals of the last Fox TV cartoon DVD set I saw with Futurama, the average picture quality seen for Hill was something of a disappointment.

However, I didn’t really fault the transfer, as most of the problems seemed to stem from source concerns. My main complaints emanated because of the general dirtiness of the shows. A fair number of marks and specks popped up throughout the episodes. While some of these might have reflected actual muck, I felt most of them looked like they resulted from bad clean-up animation.

I don’t expect Disney-quality animation from a TV show, but some of the work on Hill was awfully sloppy. For example, many shots of characters with glasses sometimes seem to “detach” below the frames; the lower halves of their faces present a life all of their own. I also saw flickering and jittering and some oddly erratic colors.

Again, I didn’t blame the transfer for these issues, but they did interfere with the presentation. Sharpness tended to be a bit erratic as well. Most of the time, the shows looked reasonably detailed and accurate. However, more than a few shots came across as moderately loose and fuzzy. Occasional examples of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I also noticed some light edge enhancement at times.

Colors were generally good, but they suffered from some small concerns in addition to the erratic tones that I mentioned earlier. Most of the hues seemed pretty solid and vivid. At times, the colors came across as a bit runny or messy, however. Black levels were acceptably dark but they lacked much depth, and low-light sequences appeared somewhat dull and dense. Despite these issues, I felt that King of the Hill still looked good enough for a “C+”. The visuals had their flaws but they also often seemed solid.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of King of the Hill also came across as pretty average. Overall, the soundfield remained rather subdued. General ambience demonstrated the biggest emphasis, as the audio gave us a nice feel for Hank’s neighborhood and other outdoor locations. The elements mixed together well, and a little good panning showed up at times too. Music offered solid stereo imaging, and the songs and score also cranked from the surrounds neatly at times. The theme song blasted effectively from all five speakers, and some other musical elements worked well in that manner too. Effects stayed pretty heavily oriented toward the front, though the rears added decent reinforcement when appropriate.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech appeared natural and crisp, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems with intelligibility. Effects remained modest throughout the series, but they always seemed accurate and concise. Music worked best of all, as the score and songs sounded lively and vibrant. Bass response generally seemed deep and taut. Other than the music, not a lot of low-end material appeared, but the track came across as reasonably full nonetheless. The audio for King of the Hill was too low-key to earn a grade above a “B-“, but it seemed satisfying anyway.

King of the Hill features a mix of extras spread across its three discs. Each one includes a few audio commentaries. In an interesting twist, some come from series personnel while others feature show characters. Series co-creator Greg Daniels chats about “Pilot” and “Hank’s Unmentionable Problem”, while director Klay Hall discusses “The Order of the Straight Arrow” and “The Company Man”. For the characters, we get commentaries from Peggy and Bobby Hill for “Shins of the Father” and “Plastic White Female”, while Bill Dauterive and Dale Gribble talk about “King of the Ant Hill” and “Westie Side Story”.

I liked this mix of “fact and fiction”. For his commentaries, Daniels let us know about the start of the series, various issues related to getting it off the ground, casting, and other production elements. His discussion of “Pilot” seems more compelling than “Problem”; Daniels notes that he loves the latter episode, so he too frequently just watches us and tells us how much he enjoys it. Hall sticks with more technical matters. He mostly chats about the nuts and bolts of making a program. For “Company”, he lets us know some of the problems they encountered with that show and why it didn’t air for so long. Neither speaker seems terrific, but both men offer a reasonable amount of useful material over the long haul.

You won’t actually learn anything from the character commentaries, but they’re a lot of fun nonetheless. There’s not much else to say about them, as they just have the characters talk about the shows and whatnot. The Peggy/Bobby track is the more entertaining of the two, as it includes a lot of laughs. The Dale/Bill one also seems fun, but not quite as much. In any case, I like both and think they’re a cool addition to the set.

Also spread across all three discs, we find many Deleted and Extended Scenes. These appear for every episode except “Plastic White Female”. The clips last between 13 seconds and four minutes, 45 seconds for a total of 18 minutes, 26 seconds of footage. Though a few feature animatics, most of them present finished animation.

Not each of these is a winner, but most are really quite good. I’d guess that most got the ax simply because of time considerations, since so many of them seem funny. The majority offer scene extensions, as only a few standalone clips appear. I’m glad they omitted the alternate ending for “The Company Man”; a more traditional and predictable conclusion, I like the one that comes with the final production much better. Overall, though, these deleted scenes are very entertaining.

On each disc, we get special introductions. Appropriately, the first comes from Hank, while Bobby shows up on DVD Two. Finally, Dale leads us into Disc Three. They make some amusing comments about the program and then appear in the menu animation. In a nice touch, Dale and Bobby pester you if you don’t make a choice right away; the more low-key Hank just mows his lawn and leaves you alone. These intros and whatnot are a nice addition to the disc.

Now we move to disc-specific extras. On DVD One, we find The Making of King of the Hill, a 23-minute and 55-second documentary that gives us a solid examination of the series. It mixes some show clips, archival materials and behind the scenes glimpses, and interviews. We hear from co-creator/voice actor Mike Judge, co-creator Greg Daniels, director Klay Hall, supervising director Wes Archer, character designer Paul Scarlata, storyboard artist Allen Jacobsen, background layout artist Ian Wilcox, animatics artist Erik Petraitis, and actors Johnny Hardwick, Pamela S. Adlon, Kathy Najimi, Brittany Murphy, Stephen Root, and Toby Huss.

A tight and informative program, “Making” starts at the beginning and tells us about the series’ origins. From there it traces the casting and early production, and it demonstrates how the participants create the episodes. We learn about the animation at different stages and get a good feel for the process. The interviews relate a lot of nice notes about the series, and some of the behind the scenes bits are great; I especially like the table reads. We even see snippets from Judge’s first attempts at animated shorts. I expected fluff from “Making” but instead I found a lively piece chock full of good information.

Next we go to DVD Two and the pieces that specifically appear there. Meet the Hills gives us short text bios of the following characters: Hank, Peggy, Bobby, Luanne, Dale, Bill, Boomhauer, and Cotton. We also find “first drawings” of the Hill family and Hank, Bill, Boomhauer and Dale as a group as well as one of Bobby on his own. Lastly, this area presents “rough sketches” of each character plus modeling sheets with their “expressions”. All this stuff’s good, but it’s especially fun to read the notes that go along with the sample material.

Speaking of instructions for artists, we get more of these in the The Do’s and Don’ts. This area shows more than 60 directions for the show’s visual look. They encompass character design as well as props, locations, and sets. It’s a very cool examination of the topic, especially since I doubt most of us imagined they put quite so much thought into so many aspects of the art.

Lastly we go to DVD Three. We find a music video for “Get In Line” from Barenaked Ladies. A combination of live-action and animation, this clip seems moderately entertaining, though I’m not a fan of the band’s wacky rock. Promos presents 13 TV ads. Some are just standard show clips, but many include unique animation, and that makes them fun to watch.

If all that’s not enough, we get at least one Easter egg as well. On DVD Three, highlight the map of Arlen on Dale’s wall from the main menu and hit “enter”. This leads to a credit roll of all the people who worked on the show’s first season. Hank introduces and narrates this initially entertaining piece, though he runs out of things to say halfway and just slurps his beer for the second half of the alphabet.

King of the Hill never achieved the notoriety of Beavis and Butt-Head, Mike Judge’s most successful animated show, and it also never approached the popularity of Fox’s biggest cartoon, The Simpsons. Nonetheless, it created its own little niche as a quietly quirky and clever piece, and one can see most of its strengths during this set of the first 13 episodes. Some growing pains occur here, but the majority of the programs seem quite good. Picture and sound quality are acceptable but unexceptional. Not a ton of extras appear, but the materials we get are informative and entertaining, and they help round out the package well. A consistently solid animated show, King of the Hill remains amusing, and I definitely recommend this nice little set.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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