King of the Hill ended its 12-year run this past weekend.
I always found it remarkable that Mike Judge had such depth to him. I mean, this is the guy who created Beavis and Butthead; how then did he create such a masterpiece as King of the Hill? KotH was always a smart show, superior in my mind to even the Simpsons at its heyday. Hank was someone you could disagree with and yet still respect; one of the signature moments for me was the voting episode, where the liberal writers concocted a crisis for Hank in terms of President Bush’s handshake, and yet at the end it was clear that Hank was still going to do the right thing. The idea that Hank would ever vote for Gore was obviously not worth more than a throwaway question by Bill, “so, are you going to vote for the other guy?” For Hank, it was support Bush, or don’t vote, and even for a liberal viewer like me, that dilemma seemed genuine and completely understandable. Hank had a way of personifying conservatism at its best and most honorable – he was a saint, if flawed and unwilling, the last bastion of values in a world gone insane. I will really miss him, and am grateful he lives on in syndication on Cartoon Network and Hulu.
My friend Robert Mentzer has a fantastic tribute post to Hank Hill that is really worth a read.
And for the record, Mike Judge’s new project The Goode Family, which is essentially an attempt at portraying and satirizing liberals the way that King of the Hill did conservatives, seems devoid of a soul. It’s not that liberals can’t laugh at themselves, but something more basic about storytelling. Without a character like Hank to anchor it in humanity, it will never transcend politics. Mike Judge created Hank out of love, and Hank is someone we respected, and understood. He was never a caricature of conservatism, but perhaps its best advocate.