I knew Raul would beat me in timing and depth with a King of the Hill Pilot post. Such is our dynamic that I am fine with this. There’s no point in rehashing the episode but I do think we differ slightly in our views. I too was supremely impressed that the characters from the start were so well defined. So we’ve compared, let’s contrast.

I agree wholeheartedly that the KotH pilot was surprisingly well formed. I don’t think this episode would have been out of place in a later season. I agree with Raul that it seems the literally more crudely drawn as are the characters slightly less fleshed out. While the broad strokes of the characters are present, I am appreciative of the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of the characters as the show progressed.

First, there was a cold open. I don’t think they normally do this – I will keep track.

Hank
Hank was angrier than I think of him. Hank’s squareness is so complete even his hair has right angles. But I think of Hank as being exasperated more than actually angry. This is important because Hank is not reactionary. He really lost his cool a lot in this episode but it wasn’t totally out of character. One of the things I love about KotH is its subtlety. Hank is uptight, more of a traditionalist than a conservative, and easily horrified by anything that disrupts his routine. But he is not a jerk. So Hank’s outbursts were out of place to me here in tone, not content. Also I don’t think Hank would watch Seinfeld but the other guys would.

Bobby
Oh Bobby. I adore this kid. I think Bobby is pretty much Bobby here with one exception. I think the later Bobby would have not have swung the cardboard mailing tube at the Mega-Lo Mart like a baseball bat. Later Bobby would have improvised some odd comedy routine and used the tube as a prop, microphone or both. I was sure Bobby’s Bobby-ness would have to evolve over at least a season but I am happily proved wrong.

Everyone Else
I don’t want to diminish the importance of the other characters because the distinct personalities of Peggy, Dale, Bill, Connie, et al are critical to the success of the show. I will only say that everyone is recognizable and very, very close to their later selves. I do like the idea of watching the characters become more finely detailed.

Big Time Subtlety
One thing I think Mike Judge does better than maybe anyone else is respecting his characters and his audience. I read once that Mike Judge would have KotH writers visit Texas every year to get story ideas and also some Texas learnin’. Like the LA-transplant social worker, he knew his writers – and viewers – could too easily stereotype Arlen. Specificity is important in KotH and the truth really is better than assumed truth. I have heard him say often that stupid characters do not make a stupid show. Seeing the world through the lens of Hank and Bobby reveals not only the truths about their points of view but also ourselves, as Raul put so well. They are less cartoonish than most of the characters I see on live action sitcoms.

subtle shots
– The social worker removing his wrist wraps for his apparent carpal tunnel syndrome
– Ladybird as Hank on the mower
– Nancy Dribble and John Redcorn’s obvious love child Joseph. I don’t think this overtly referenced until several seasons later.

We all know what this means. They don’t have to spell it out, shine a spotlight on it and explain it again in obvious exposition. They are trusting their audience to get the joke all on their own. As a viewer, I appreciate being given some credit.

Final Notes
– Seinfeld. Greg Daniels wrote for Seinfeld. I wonder if this is just an in-joke.
– I wasn’t a fan of Beavis and Butthead either.
– I was reminded of an I Love Lucy episode in which Ricky tosses a book to Lucy and accidentally hits her, giving her a black eye. No one believes Lucy later that it was an accident, instead thinking Ricky’s Cuban temper has finally manifested itself in domestic violence. Comedy!

Raul – I will not force to watch all of them but I really need you to watch Episode 2 which has Peggy, 1996 substitute teacher of the year, taking over the sex ed class at Bobby’s school.