WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
This third season set of Mike Judge's very funny King of the Hill is at once very gratifying and a bit disappointing. The show itself is a lot of fun (as long as you "get" its humor), and at this point, it's really starting to come into its own as the kookily edgy adult cartoon it is today. Its humor is further maturing, and its characters are deepening further, exploring new areas of humor and even sitcom emotion. It's finding its "sweet spot" more often and with more accuracy than it did in its first two seasons. I definitely find it to be a more successful overall season that Season 2. All that being said, this third season set is a real letdown when it comes to its DVD package. Bereft of any supplements whatsoever, King of the Hill: The Complete Third Season is a surprising barebones release, considering the fun and informative extras on the previous releases.
A quick email message to one of the show's producers brings the reasoning to light: Judge and his team found it difficult to find the time to create worthwhile extras this time, for the simple reason that the still-going-strong series takes a lot of time to produce. Rather than hold up the third-season release, the team decided to let this one go barebones, and hope to concentrate on extras on a forthcoming season set. That's fine with me. I'm just glad the sets are still coming.
And after all, the show itself is what it's all about. Right?
King of the Hill is about a proud good ol' boy Texan named Hank Hill (Mike Judge), whose business is the sale of "propane and propane accessories." He's married to the uptight but loving Peggy (Kathy Najimy), caring mother and substitute Spanish teacher. Rounding out the Hill household is their lone offspring, the awkwardly prepubescent Bobby (Pamela Segall), and as counterpoint to Hank's repressed view of sexuality, there's also Hank's attractive but dunderheaded niece Luanne (Brittany Murphy). Outside drinking beer in the driveway are Hank's longtime buddies Dale Gribbel (Johnny Hardwick), a William Burroughs-voiced conspiracy theorist; Bill Dauterive (Stephen Root), a balding failure but a likeable fellow; and the mumbling Boomhauer (also Judge), prone to uncertain sexual innuendo.
Season 3 offers more King of the Hill's trademark buffoonery, most of the time hitting on target with a sly, drawling Texas humor and occasionally just going for stereotype-wallowing stupidity. Either way, these continue to be fun characters to laugh at and with. I was pleased to see that the series, in this third season, returned to a primary focus on the main characters, rather than devoting a lot of episodes to ancillary characters that just aren't very funny, as the second season sometimes did. Highlights include Peggy's dawning realization about Didi's affair with John Redcorn, further explorations of Hank's narrow urethra, Hank and the boys becoming Three Stooges-inspired volunteer firefighters (gotta love that funeral sequence, and the varying points of view of a disaster), Bobby's "Amazing Jesus" routine, Hank's intimate encounter with a dolphin, and, oh yeah, the appearance of his colon in a local art show. Watch for odd recurring characters—namely, Chuck Mangione as himself, Dale's alternate identity, and Peggy's Fat Albert impersonation.
For the first time, the episodes are presented on double-sided discs, rather than labeled one-siders. The episodes appear as follows. The episodes appear in order of airdate—apparently at the expense of production order. (One humorous byproduct of this choice is that Luanne, rendered bald by the season's first episode, experiences a remarkable magic-hair act throughout these early episodes, going from short, growing-back stubble to a full head of hair to a short bob, and back again.)
Death of a Propane Salesman (9/15/98)—In this wrap-up of the second season's cliffhanger, Hank survives the propane explosion but has a newfound fear of propane.
And They Call It Bobby Love (9/22/98)—Bobby falls for a 14-year-old classmate, and Hank and the boys fall for an alleyway couch.
Peggy's Headache (10/6/98)—Peggy is the last in the neighborhood to discover that Dale's wife Didi is having an affair with John Redcorn.
Pregnant Paws (10/13/98)—Hank decides to breed Ladybird, but it turns out to be a challenge. And Dale becomes an official Bounty Hunter.
Next of Shin (11/3/98)—Hank struggles with the implications of his narrow urethra, then learns that his dad and stepmom are expecting.
Peggy Pageant Fever (11/10/98)—In hopes of winning a brand-new truck, Peggy decides to enter the Mrs. Heimlich County beauty pageant.
Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men (11/17/98)—Hank and the boys attend a lawnmower focus group, and Peggy becomes obsessed with the mall's after-Thanksgiving sale.
Good Hill Hunting (12/1/98)—Bobby experiences the rite-of-passage ritual of "killing an animal."
Pretty, Pretty Dresses (12/15/98)—It's Christmas time, and Bill is suicidal over his long-ago breakup with Lenore. Then there's silly cross-dressing involved.
A Firefighting We Will Go (1/12/99)—The boys play Four Stooges as they become volunteer firefighters and end up infighting more than firefighting.
To Spank, With Love (1/19/99)—Peggy is fired from her teaching position because of spanking a student, and Cotton helps her get it back.
Three Coaches and a Bobby (1/26/99)—Hank convinces his old high-school football coach to return to the field and coach Bobby's team.
De-Kahnstructing Henry (2/2/99)—Gloater Kahn loses his cushy job and freaks out, so Hank helps out the wife and kid.
The Wedding of Bobby Hill (2/9/99)—Thanks to a practical joke and some shirked responsibilities, Bobby is forced to marry Luanne.
Sleight of Hank (2/16/99)—Hank responds badly to a cheesy magic act and is then consumed by figuring out a disappearing-Peggy trick.
Jon Vitti Presents: 'Return to La Grunta' (2/23/99)—Luanne gives Hank the gift of a close dolphin encounter, and it's much closer than Hank bargained for.
Escape From Party Island (3/16/99)—Hank takes his mom and her senior group to Miniature Island, where, unbeknownst to all of them, Spring Break is ready to take place.
Love Hurts…and So Does Art (3/23/99)—Hank's colon is a surprise element of a local art show, and Bobby develops gout when he should be taking Connie to the dance.
Hank's Cowboy Movie (4/6/99)—Hank tries to yank the Dallas Cowboys training camp away from Wichita Falls and establish it in Arlen.
Dog Dale Afternoon (4/13/99)—Paranoid Dale is tricked into believing that Lee Harvey Oswald stole his riding lawnmower.
Revenge of the Lutefisk (4/20/99)—Bobby accidentally burns down the church and finds himself the subject of the reverend's sermon.
Death and Texas (4/27/99)—A former student of Peggy's is now on Death Row, and Peggy decides to visit him.
Wings of the Dope (5/4/99)—Luanne gets a visit from Buckley's angel (he died in the propane explosion at the end of Season 2).
Take Me Out of the Ball Game (5/11/99)—Hank and Peggy come to blows over coaching little-league baseball.
As Old as the Hills (5/18/99)—The Hills enjoy their 20th anniversary and decide to skydive.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Fox presents King of the Hill: The Complete Third Season in an accurate, colorful transfer of the TV show's original 1.33:1 full-frame presentation. This transfer is similar to those of the first two season sets. King of the Hill has always had a shifty, low-rent look, but that's part of its charm. You'll notice shifts in brightness, variances in the color palette, and wobbly line work. But there's a sure-handedness to the practiced amateur look. It's all somehow appropriate to the personality of the show.
As long as you forgive the shifty nature of the source material, this is a fine presentation. Detail is terrific, and linework is clean and accurate. Aliasing, a problem in the first two seasons, seems to be less of a problem this time on my large monitor. Colors are vivid and rich, and black levels—though sometimes inconsistent—generally stay deep. I noticed only the most minor instances of edge halos.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Surround track gets the job done, but I got the feeling that it's not quite as accurate as the audio presentations of the previous releases. Dialog is mostly clear, and the front soundstage is nicely open. This time around, unfortunately, I noticed alarming instances of cranked sound levels, resulting in a somewhat harsh high end and minor distortion in some of the dialog. Listen to the main theme: It has a certain unpleasantness, whereas the previous releases sounded a bit more natural.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
What a disappointment in this department! The previous two King of the Hill season sets have included all manner of supplements, including in-character commentaries, crew commentaries, director introductions, deleted and extended scenes, animation studies, and other cool stuff. With this third season, we get the first essentially barebones release. That's right, all you get are the episodes, and sure, that's all well and good, but…but…man, my expectations were so high…
So, nothing to see here, move along…
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
King of the Hill remains a top-of-the-heap show—if you have the right mindset. Cast and crew have really found their groove, delivering a consistently funny show. Despite the quality of the show itself, the DVD set is a surprising disappointment as far as extras are concerned—there are none! Video quality is fine, but audio quality seems a bit off.