It makes a certain kind of sense that Mike Judge's enduring homage to the peculiar knuckleheadedness of Southern life would slouch its way toward the end of a 13-year run with little attention and less planning.
But while others swoon over Judge's new film Extract or wax nostalgic about his first success,Beavis and Butt-Head, I'll always see King of the Hill as the writer-producer's finest achievement - an animated comedy that sneaks up on you, like the queasy feeling you get after scarfing down the 15-pound sirloin at a Texas steakhouse.
Fox will air the last two King of the Hill episodes at 8 tonight, capping the second-longest running animated series ever with an episode that barely feels like a finale - centered on the son of patriarch and propane salesman Hank Hill, pudgy Bobby Hill. (The network has actually canceled the series twice before.)
Which is cool. Because we get to remember Hank and his clan in their natural element, fretting over Bobby's unusually close friendship with three pretty girls, his infatuation with unicorns and a tendency to play with troll dolls.
Here are the four things I always loved about King of the Hill.
It made fun of Southerners but didn't make them look like total idiots.
For sure, characters like the mumblemouthed Boomhauer aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. But the Texas folk filling King of the Hill seem more eccentric than stupid - mostly - and fortified with their own twisted sense of values, which often winds up making a certain kind of sense.
It showed a cartoon doesn't have to be hip to be cool.
Centered on a bunch of middle-aged, middle-income people in the South, King of the Hill was almost anti-Hollywood. But somehow, Judge scored hip stars such as Kathy Najimy and Tom Petty for his cast, and guest shots from Johnny Depp, Sally Field and Brad Pitt, among many others.
It gave Mike Judge a great platform.
The mind behind Beavis and Butt-Head and Office Space deserved a bigger playground for his low-key observations on the inanities of middle-class southern life. But the harsh reviews for his latest film Extract might indicate his brand of brilliance is better suited to the small screen.
It cloned The Simpsons without copying them.
One of my knocks on Family Guy is that it always feels like a stupider, crasser version of The Simpsons. But King of Hill avoided that trap by molding itself into a more realistic echo of true middle-class life, with Hank worrying over his son's lack of machismo while balancing a life of Boggle tournaments, lawn mower expos and challenges selling propane and propane accessories.
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"Research shows people are against pornography. That's why it's a $60 billion business."
Jay Leno,downplaying research that shows he's the most popular TV personality.
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The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, 9 tonight, MTV: With an Eminem appearance actually announced this time - let's hope Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno doesn't have a backstage pass - fans will spend much of the evening trying to guess which moment is going to be immortalized in feverish text messages and YouTube snippets over the week to come. Considering tart-tongued Brit comic Russell Brand is again hosting with appearances by Megan Fox, Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Lopez, Jack Black and Andy Samberg, rest assured there will plenty of Twitter fodder to come.
Lincoln Heights, 8 p.m. Monday, ABC Family: Other series may get the magazine covers and TV Guide write-ups, but ABC Family is quietly cranking out the only drama on TV centered on a black family - and getting it very right. Underrated character actor Russell Hornsby, above, plays a cop trying to raise his family in one of Los Angeles' worst neighborhoods; in this week's episode, the family may have to move into a ritzy suburban home after their house was destroyed in an earthquake. Why this is a crisis - Is the family selling out by leaving their friends and neighbors behind to cope with the aftermath? - highlights why this addictive series is so special.
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Don't overlook the syndicates
In all the hype about new network TV debuts this month, it's easy to forget the other kind of series coming back to new episodes this week: syndicated shows. Usually scheduled for daytime and late night, these shows are sold individually in each market; a formula that helped turn Oprah owner Oprah Winfrey into a billionaire. Here's the best of what's coming this week:
Oprah, returns at 4 p.m. Monday on WFLA-Ch. 8: She actually had two new shows last week as sneak previews, but her season officially starts Monday with a mid-comeback Whitney Houston.
Dr. Oz, debuts at 9 a.m. (with reruns at 1:05 a.m.) Monday on WFTS-Ch. 28: Winfrey extends her dominance of daytime past Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray to give physician Dr. Oz his own TV showcase. First topic, of course: The anatomy of sex.
Estrella TV, debuts Monday on WMOR-Ch. 32's third digital TV channel: Tampa independent WMOR offers the 24-hour Spanish-language channel Estrella on its third digital channel, accessible to those with DTV-ready televisions, digital-to-analog converter boxes or digital cable.
Judge Jeanine Pirro, at 1 and 1:30 p.m., debuted Sept. 7 on WTTA-Ch. 38: The Fox News legal analyst and failed New York attorney general candidate landed in a court show.
n The Office, debuts on WMOR at 7 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 : WMOR calls its airing of reruns of the NBC sitcom the biggest addition to its lineup in 15 years.