Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 9, 2006)
Animated series King of the Hill rolls along with this DVD release of Season Five. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which shows them in the order aired. The synopses come from the DVD’s packaging.
The Perils of Polling (first aired 10/1/00): “Hank (voiced by Mike Judge) has second thoughts about voting on Election Day after shaking George W. Bush’s limp hand – and so he goes Christmas shopping with Dale (Johnny Hardwick) instead.”
Season Five kicks off with a bang here – at least for the show’s first half. From the diving pig to Luanne’s endorsement of the Communist party, there’s plenty of good material here. The episode goes downhill a little in its second half but it still fares well overall.
The Buck Stops Here (first aired 11/5/00): “Hank’s plan for his son (Pamela Segall) to learn responsibility backfires after Bobby starts working for Buck Strickland (Stephen Root) and begins picking up the older man’s bad habits.”
Buck is a lot like Cotton: tiresome if we see him too much, but hilarious in small doses. That factor makes “Stops” a winner. Buck is so absurdly un-PC that he’s a riot; this one episode provides a season’s worth of memorable catchphrases. The subplot in which Peggy and Minh battle to win a coffee mug is also a winner and helps make this a fine show.
I Don’t Want to Wait for Our Lives to Be Over, I Want to Know Right Now, Will It Be… Sorry, Do Do Doo Do Do, Do Do Doo Do Do, Do Do Doo Do Do, Doo.. (first aired 11/12/00): “As Hank builds coffins for his family, Bobby struggles with the fact that he’s still treated as a child even as Joseph (Breckin Meyer) laments how awkward adulthood is for him.”
If nothing else, “Want” boasts undoubtedly the longest title in the history of a TV show. That’s the most interesting thing about a somewhat tedious show, unfortunately. As always, Bobby’s shenanigans offer some amusement, but not enough to offset the teen melodrama related to Joseph.
Spin the Choice (first aired 11/19/00): “Peggy’s (Kathy Najimy) Thanksgiving dinner is interrupted when John Redcorn (Jonathan Joss) arrives uninvited, and Bobby gets sent to his room for spouting anti-Thanksgiving sentiments in front of the guests.”
Possibly the most impressionable character in the history of TV, Bobby goes off the deep end when he embraces the Indian cause. I’d have liked more of that and less of John Redcorn. Sometimes one-note tertiary characters work best when they lack depth, and I think Redcorn gets less interesting the more real he becomes. At least Peggy’s idiotic “Spin the Choice” game is funny.
Peggy Makes the Big Leagues (first aired 11/26/00): “The Booster Club sends a distraught Hank to talk to Peggy after she fails the football team’s star fullback and gets him suspended from the team.”
Since I dislike Peggy so much, I find it tough to enjoy an episode that casts her as both sympathetic and in the right. A phrase as cynical as “stupid is going to get you to college” endears the show to me, but otherwise it seems rather mediocre.
When Cotton Comes Marching Home (first aired 12/3/00): “As Peggy works on her float for the upcoming Veteran’s Day parade, Hank finds out his father (Toby Huss) is so broke that he lost his house in Houston.”
Not one of the better Cotton episodes, this one takes an unfortunate turn as it makes him too sympathetic. Cotton’s best as a blunt cartoon, and I really don’t want to feel bad for him. I do like Peggy’s “Futility of War” float, though.
What Makes Bobby Run? (first aired 12/10/00): “Desperate to achieve immortality in the school yearbook, Bobby decides to try out to be the next Landry Longhorn, the school football team's mascot.”
Haven’t we already seen this show? It sure feels like it, as “Run” comes across as a retread of other Bobby-centered episodes. It’s also an unusually mean-spirited program, and it makes Bobby look dumb; wouldn’t he know about a tradition as popular as the mascot beating?
’Twas the Nut Before Christmas (first aired 12/17/00): “Bill has so much fun setting up his house as ‘Santa’s Village’ during the holidays that he puts a Santa bounce house in his backyard after the holidays are over – much to Hank’s dismay.”
Always a sad character, Bill becomes even more pathetic here. The series just doesn’t give him a break. He finally finds a way to fit in – and even get a date – but he ruins it. The show may go a little too far, but it’s generally good.
Chasing Bobby (first aired 1/21/01): “Hank refuses to accept the fact that his prized truck, which has been giving him trouble, may only have another five or six hundred miles to go.”
Sweet and sad, it’s amusing and touching to see Hank’s attachment to his truck. It’s also amusing to watch such a stoic character break down and cry. The elements connected to Bobby are fairly unnecessary, but the show works fine as a whole.
Yankee Hankie (first aired 2/4/01): “While a distraught Hank tries to deal with the fact that he wasn’t born in Texas, Cotton and his buddies once again make plans to assassinate Fidel Castro.”
“Hankie” ends up as a missed opportunity. When it focuses on Hank’s identity crisis – complete with Seinfeld references to add even more of a New York flair – it works. Unfortunately, it goes down an odd path with Cotton’s assassination plot. I like the phrase “Kill, Topsy, kill!” but the rest of it’s lackluster.
Hank and the Great Glass Elevator (first aired 2/11/01): “Hank discovers that his family has been cooking with charcoal instead of propane, and Bill (Root) bumps into his ex-wife while on a date with former Texas governor Ann Richards.”
“Elevator” offers an episode where its “B” plot works better than the main thread. In the former, we see Peggy and Bobby face their shameful realization that they prefer meat cooked with charcoal. The show explores those elements well. The Bill story just seems odd and somewhat pointless, though at least we finally get to see Lenore.
Now Who’s the Dummy? (first aired 2/18/01): “After Bobby is given a ventriloquist’s dummy and comes up with his own clever routine, he’s disappointed to discover that people like the dummy more than they like him.”
The best Bobby episodes cast him as just a little odd, and that makes “Dummy” a pretty good show. It’s especially amusing to see Hank bond with Chip, and the program manages to give all of this a nice emotional spin at the end.
Ho Yeah! (first aired 2/25/01): “Unaware that a new employee at Strickland Propane is a prostitute, Peggy becomes her best friend and even offers her a place to stay – Hank’s den.”
Hank and Peggy may well be the most naďve people on the planet. It’s awfully amusing to see Hank turn into an inadvertent pimp, though, and I like the general subtlety with which it treats Tammy. Usually the series would make a character like her into nothing more than an opportunist, but we see Tammy’s good side as well.
The Exterminator (first aired 3/4/01): “When Dale is told he must give up his exterminator job or risk death due to overexposure to chemicals, he quickly finds his new area of expertise – firing people.”
Like Cotton, Dale is a great character – in small doses. The series knows better than to focus on him too often, and that allows episodes like this to work. The program actually makes Dale sympathetic as he suffers through a career crisis. His experiences at Stik-Tek provide laughs due to his ups and downs, and they also help make the piece ring true.
Luanne, Version 2.0 (first aired 3/11/01): “Concerned about Luanne’s (Brittany Murphy) over-active sex life, Hank takes her to a religious ceremony for a ‘soul do-over’ where she must promise not to have sex again until after she’s married.”
Is there any concept dumber than the “born-again virgin”? Probably not, and it smacks of desperation on the part of its proponents. Social criticism aside, “2.0” provides a solid show. We get a funny guest spot from Owen Wilson, and the complications related to Peggy’s past add some comedic intrigue.
Hank’s Choice (first aired 4/1/01): “When Bobby develops an allergy to dog dander, Hank reluctantly builds a deluxe doghouse for his beloved Ladybird, but the one who ends up living there isn’t the dog!”
Rarely do I identify with Hank as much as it comes to themes related to his dog. If forced to choose between my pooches and a child… hello, orphanage! That topic means that “Choice” presents many amusing moments, especially when Bobby moves into the dog house.
It’s Not Easy Being Green (first aired 4/8/01): “Hank, Dale and Bill protest the town’s proposed new landfill site when they realize that work at the site will uncover a 30-year-old secret they’ve kept from Boomhauer (Judge).”
We’ve gotten a good run of guest actors this year, and we can add Paul Giamatti to that list. He plays this show’s wimpy do-gooder perfectly and brings a nicely judgmental feel to his character. The thread about the big secret is also excellent, especially when we see the guys in a flashback to the Seventies. When the two plots intersect, the episode really takes flight.
The Trouble with Gribbles (first aired 4/22/01): “When Nancy (Ashley Gardner) tells Dale that his smoking has ruined her skin and jeopardized her career, Dale sues the tobacco company hoping to win enough money to buy his wife a face-lift.”
Only Dale could cause so many problems when he tries to do good. His love for Nancy is one of the series’ sweeter elements, so it’s funny to watch how it backfires here. Dale’s misguided notions make this an amusing episode.
Hank’s Back Story (first aired 5/6/01): “As Hank prepares to enter the 1st Annual Durndale County Lawn Mower Races, he discovers his excruciating back pain is caused by the fact that he has no butt.”
I like the fact that King of the Hill usually avoids overt wackiness. Unfortunately, it engages in a nutty thread with Hank’s fake butt. This leads to more sight gags than I’d like and less inspiration. I’d prefer a show that just focused on the races, as that territory would be more amusing than artificial asses.
Kidney Boy and Hamster Girl: A Love Story (first aired 5/13/01): “When a security guard mistakes Bobby for a high school student, Bobby plays along by explaining that his short stature is due to his failing kidneys.”
I never experienced Bobby’s thrill of making the jump from middle school to high school. We had grades seven through 12 all in the same building, so the change simply meant a move of a few hundred feet. Anyway, while I can’t relate personally, I like “Hamster” quite a lot. It’s fun to see Bobby fake his way through high school, and the show offers plenty of funny moments, especially when Bobby makes up reasons for him and Connie to be in high school. The program ends Season Five well.