Behind the Scenes of King of the Hill

This page is intended to provide some inside information on the series King of the Hill.

Of course, I don't have much inside information; what I do have is a bunch of newspaper articles where the KotH cast and crew have talked about the show. What I've tried to do in this page is select some interesting quotes from people who work on the show, quotes that give an insight into how the show has developed or how the show is viewed by the people who work on it. I will try to add more information as time goes on.

If I've gotten stuff wrong, or if you want to add some information, please email me and let me know.

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NEW! I've added a detailed 1998 article on the writing and production of a KotH episode ("The Unbearable Blindness of Laying"). You can find it at this link.


Part 1: The Development and Production of the Show

"It is going to be set in Texas, about a guy who's, I guess, a younger version of Tom Anderson [from Beavis and Butt-Head]."
-- Mike Judge, 1996

"[Hank] is a very different character. He is the hero and he is not anywhere near as clueless as Tom Anderson. In `Beavis and Butt-head,' everyone is portrayed negatively in a big way. This is a little different."
-- Mike Judge, 1997

The only shot this show has is if it doesn't feel like `The Simpsons' and look like `Beavis and Butt-head.'"
-- Greg Daniels

"When Greg Daniels came onto the project after I'd done the first draft of the pilot, I said 'Help me out with this. I can't figure this character [Peggy] out.' And he started asking me questions, playing psychologist. He said, 'OK, describe your mother.' My mom was actually a Spanish teacher in high school and a substitute for most of the time I was growing up. Then my grandmother, she had a degree in Spanish, but she's from Montana, and she was always writing. And so we just kind of started talking, and so a lot of that stuff made it into the show."
-- Mike Judge

"Thank god I work on King of the Hill, because everybody on the show is pretty well grounded in reality. Out in L.A. everybody's ego-driven; all they talk about is show biz. It's great working with Mike and Greg because they aren't your typical ego-driven, maniacal, grotesque Hollywood monsters."
-- Johnny Hardwick

"We ran into this guy at the frozen-yogurt stand, and he had this weird, paranoid theory that the chemical companies were stopping his invention for a mechanical device to kill fire ants from making it to the market. We took a video camera back there, and we taped him. And he had all the plans for his inventions. It was hooked up by a car battery, you put it in the ground with moist soil, and the ants would come to it. And then you'd electrocute them, and, you know, it was just crazy. He was talking about how the ant society had changed because at one point it was a one-queen matriarchy that was stable and with all the chemicals it's turned into a multiqueen society, which is very aggressive, and we were just like 'Yeah, yeah, yeah - keep talking!'" [This inspired the first-season episode "King of the Ant Hill"]
-- Greg Daniels

"We knew that Luanne went to a beauty academy, so we went to a beauty academy in Austin. And that's where we saw those plastic heads. They were all in the beauty academy along the rows. And they're really expensive, and they take incredible care of them. And the guys at the beauty academy just told us all these stories about the plastic heads. So that turned into an episode ["Plastic White Female"]."
-- Greg Daniels


Part 2: The Viewpoint and Style of the Show

It was [Greg] Daniels who had the writers read "The Death of Common Sense" to get inside the heart and mind of Hank Hill. The book, written by Georgetown law professor Philip K. Howard and a bestseller in the mid-'90s, argued that a regulatory-happy government was crowding out good old-fashioned common sense with laws that inspired lunacy. This, standing in front of his fence with his beer and his friends and his otherwise unperturbed freedom, is the thinking of Hank Hill.
-- Los Angeles Times

"The emotional core of the show is a pretty traditional dad and his son, who might fit a lot of stereotypical sissy definitions, and his father's attempt to harden him up. And realizing that, most of the emotion that we get out of the show or a lot of it is when he [Hank] realizes he's gone too far."
-- Greg Daniels

"This is kind of a populist show, looking on the bright side of good, common sense that's in your average American family. It's a bit more conservative than most families on TV, without saying that it's right-wing."
-- Greg Daniels

"It's not a political show, but it has a lot of sympathy for unhip regular people."
-- Mike Judge

"It doesn't have to be set in Texas. It could be in Queens, or Indiana. It's more of a class of people, a kind of personality. If you get past the accents, New Yorkers and Texans have a lot in common, especially a sense of themselves as something special. They also have in common a hatred of California."
-- Greg Daniels

"We all go down there [to Austin]. We rent vans, and we drive into Home Depot and go out with our reporter's notebooks and look around, and they always think that it's another chain that's coming to try and find out what their inventory is. So we've been kicked out of a bunch of places like that. It's a big eye-opener for most of the writers who aren't from Texas because - if they've never been to Texas, especially - you tend to think that it's all like a desert and that people have spurs on all the time. That would be the biggest error in trying to write realistic Texas."
-- Greg Daniels

"Yeah, sometimes it gets a little sappy for me, but I'm tired of hearing about dysfunctional families in sitcoms. That's been done to death, and that's probably what everybody expected from me. But that's not what I wanted to do."
-- Mike Judge

For most of the country, it's a really cool, smart show about people they know. For New York and L.A., it's like an anthropological study."
-- Glenn Berger

"Unlike most Hollywood entertainment, we're not making fun of middle America; we're making fun of the coasts with middle America."
-- Greg Daniels

"A lot of the series is bringing the characters into conflict with irritating Northeastern liberals, and that's where I come in."
-- Greg Daniels

"I'm often the one that kills [one-liners]. To me, the reason a lot of sitcoms go bad is they kind of deteriorate into every character becoming a smart-aleck, because I think that's just easier to write than to come up with situations where the comedy comes out of the characters and observational kind of things. Normal people in everyday life aren't constantly saying smart-aleck comebacks that it took a Harvard lampoon guy three hours to come up with, you know? It just breaks the reality of it and I just don't like that. I lose interest in shows where some 14-year-old hot-looking underwear model girl says, 'Yeah, last time you brushed your teeth there were five more communist countries in the world.' I just don't care about those kind of characters."
-- Mike Judge


Part 3: The Characters

HANK HILL

"Andy Griffith is back, and he's pissed."
-- Greg Daniels & Mike Judge

"That's what's fun, is to have the world be wrong and Hank be right. Even though he's not king of the world, he's maybe king of his block."
-- Mike Judge

"[Hank is] a little bit nostalgic for simpler times in America. He keeps bumping up against the most irritating aspects of the 1990s, and it just makes him want to kick somebody's ass."
-- Greg Daniels

"It's actually a voice I've been doing since I was a kid because I have known, like, 20 different guys who talked like that. I was in Explorers--it's like Boy Scouts--and one of the advisors talked like that. I had forgotten about this, but it's a little bit like my grandfather on my mom's side."
-- Mike Judge

PEGGY HILL

"I'm a feminist. I'm pretty sure Peggy wouldn't call herself that, but she's got moments of great clarity and strength and resolve and independence. And I think some of that sprinkled off from me."
-- Kathy Najimy

"She has this confidence that is totally unsubstantiated, but the fact that she has it is so refreshing. Whether she's speaking Spanish poorly, she speaks it with confidence; whether she's substitute teaching ineffectively, she still has confidence; whether she's coming up with a scheme that's not going to work...it's just refreshing to have a character that is so confident without being annoying."
-- Kathy Najimy

"What I like about her is she's not the typical boring housewife. She's just this silly ego-inflated person."
-- Kathy Najimy

BOBBY HILL

"I was trying to capture the kind of kid who is capable of sitting on the couch expressionless for hours and hours."
-- Mike Judge

"I actually saw a kid and went home and drew him. I don't even know who he was. I was buying a TV set in Circuit City. I was looking at this kid and he was kind of standing there, staring off into space. Kids are pretty chubby nowadays because of all the fast-food places. I grew up eating fast food but now everything is double beef and double cheese. So there are a lot of these chubby boys with long, baggy shorts."
-- Mike Judge

"The kind of boy who wears a T-shirt at the public swimming pool."
-- stage direction, pilot script

LUANNE PLATTER

"For the audition, Luanne was a mix of Juliette Lewis in Kalifornia and Jessica Lange in Blue Sky."
-- Brittany Murphy

DALE GRIBBLE

"I ended up kind of basing his attitude on if he thought he was Jack Nicholson but he wasn't, or if he just thought he was the coolest guy around, like Matthew McConaughey's character in Dazed and Confused."
-- Johnny Hardwick

"I think he's naive, not stupid. He's just kind of in his own world. But he's a good father, supports his family and does all that stuff he's supposed to do. Maybe that's what drove him over the edge."
-- Johnny Hardwick

"He's a paranoid conspiracy buff who's completely ignorant of the fact that his wife is having an affair. He's in denial about that, and believing in conspiracies is part of his whole denial thing."
-- Mike Judge

BILL DAUTERIVE

BOOMHAUER

"It's also based on a guy who called to complain about 'Beavis & Butt-head' who left a voice message that I listened to many times. For some reason he thought the name of the show was 'Porky's Butthole.' He was saying, 'And I've been calling you-all about a month now about you-all every time that damn "Porky's frigging old Butthole" come on. You-all been jiving them damn commercials on, on and on everything like you-all do last time, you know?'"
-- Mike Judge

"If he'd grown up in Southern California, he probably would have been a surfer for life, and he's one of those guys everybody likes. He doesn't say much but girls like him and guys like him. He's kind of a good-looking guy, kind of mysterious."
-- Mike Judge

COTTON HILL

"Hank's own father, who was a World War II hero, is the most masculine and stereotypical person that I could think of, and the reason I invented him was to put Hank in the center and have to deal with all these different issues of masculinity."
-- Greg Daniels


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