WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
In its second season, Mike Judge's King of the Hill took more steps toward finding its personality as the kookily edgy adult cartoon it is today. In some respects, the show matured into its humor, finding its "sweet spot" more often and with more accuracy than it did in its premiere season. In other respects, it was still on unsure footing, as this season has a few episodes that aren't as comprehensively successful as they really ought to be. Call those moments minor cases of sophomore slump. The humor is a bit more muted—at times even subtle!—but in place of the out-and-out humor of the first season is the feeling that King of the Hill is aiming more firmly for the above-25 demographic.
King of the Hill presents the adventures of Hank Hill (Mike Judge), a proud good ol' boy Texan 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 2 pays more attention to ancillary characters such as Hank's father and Luanne's mother—for better or for worse. Both characters are extremely unlikable.
The episodes on Discs 1 and 4 are as follows. The episodes appear in order of airdate.
How to Fire a Rifle Without Really Trying (9-21-97)—Hank discovers that Bobby has a talent for target shooting.
The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteburg (11/16/97)—Hank and his buddies challenge Green Day to paintball.
Snow Job (2/1/98)—Hank is disillusioned about his job.
The Final Shinsult (3-15-98)—Cotton and Dale steal General Santa Anna's artificial leg.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Fox presents King of the Hill: The Complete Second Season in a colorfully accurate transfer of the TV show's original 1.33:1 full-frame presentation. This transfer is extremely similar to that of the first season. In the first season, the animators gradually evolved the look of the show and the characters, and in any given episode, there were shifts in brightness, variances in the color palette, and experimental line work. Now, in the second season, the animators are a bit more sure-handed in their efforts, but the show retains it shifty look, seeming at once low-rent and 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, although this second effort seems a little bit more prone to aliasing, especially on my large monitor. Colors are vivid and rich, and black levels—though sometimes inconsistent, as in the first season—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 splendidly, offering clear dialog. The front soundstage is nicely open, and the theme song comes across powerfully, with deep bass.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Fox presents a collection of extras that are pretty interesting, and in a couple cases even hilarious. In general, I would have preferred serious commentaries over the in-character commentaries, which are getting somewhat old.
First up are Audio Commentaries over two of the disc's episodes. Cocreator Greg Daniels and Writer Paul Lieberstein share their thoughts over "How to Fire a Rifle Without Really Trying." This is a fun and illuminating discussion. The disc's second commentary has Peggy (Kathy Najimy), Bobby (Pamela Segall), and Luanne (Brittany Murphy) commenting over the episode "Husky Bobby." I found this track mildly amusing, but again, these in-character commentaries are wearing out their welcome. And notice how Bobby's voice is ratcheted into a higher, more annoying octave in the commentary. Is that how Bobby sounds in more-recent episodes? Yikes!
Next are very brief Director Intros over all the episodes except Texas City Twister.
You also get Deleted & Extended Scenes for all the episodes, and in some cases, these are quite funny. Mostly, they're scene extensions and don't add much to a particular scene, but they're funny just the same. Most of this material is finished animation, but some is pencil-sketched animatics with rough audio tracks, providing an interesting peek at the animation process.
Animation Evolution is a pretty nifty look at a scene from Texas City Twister. You can watch it in its animatic form, its final video form, or in a split-screen presentation that shows both. On top of that, you have several sound options: You can listen to the animatic soundtrack, the music and effects track, the final soundtrack, and with commentary by Greg Daniels. You can change these options on-the-fly with your remote.
The Character Commentary on this disc is over "The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteburg," and it stars Dale, Bill, and Cotton. I enjoyed this commentary the most of the character tracks. These participants have a nice quick humor.
We get more Director Intros, strange little pieces over all the disc's episodes except "The Son that Got Away."
Next is another selection of Deleted & Extended Scenes, and this is a bountiful selection of scenes over all the disc's episodes.
The Arlen School of Drawing is a terrific extra that provides an in-depth look at the drawing of several characters. This interactive feature lets you watch an animator draw them step-by-step.
The Character Commentary on this disc is from Dale, Bill, and Kahn over "Three Days of the Kahndo," and again, it's mildly amusing, but I quickly tired of the in-character gimmick.
More Director Intros continue the strangeness of this feature.
You also get Deleted & Extended Scenes for all the disc's episodes.
And finally on Disc 3, you get a wonderful feature in "The Boy Ain't Right," which amounts to excerpts from Hank Hill's first book. This is some funny stuff, and there's a lot to it—about 30 short chapters of Hank Hill humor. Nice feature!
First, you get more Deleted & Extended Scenes for all of the episodes, and you also get more Director Intros, for four of this disc's episodes.
Next up is another Character Commentary, this time over "Leanne's Saga." I would rather have had a commentary from the writers or the creator.
Music Inspired by the Hills presents two music videos—Manger Babies (performed by Luanne Platter) and Turtle Song (performed by Peggy Hill)—and three songs—"Contest Montage," by John O'Connor"; "Halloween Flashback," by Lance Rubin; "War Games 2," by Roger Neill; "Hello Mr. Hill," by Chuck Mangione; "Koth End Title," by Chuck D; "Traveling to Mexico," by John O'Connor; "Koth End Title (Roger Neill Version)," by Roger Neill; and Computer Spam Sequence," by Roger Neill.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
I recommend that you stay on top of the King of the Hill season sets. This set reveals that the show was still struggling to find its groove but also shows a marked improvement in the actors' grasp of their characters and in the writers' grasp of the HIll world. Still, the best of this series is yet to come, and you don't want to get caught behind. It's a terrific show, and Fox should be commended for its efforts on these sets.