Acquisition: Donated by and through efforts of Jim Dauterive
Access: Open for Research
Processed by: Katie Salzmann, 2007
In 1995, Mike Judge wrote a pilot episode for an animated series centered on Hank Hill, a common sense, all-American propane salesman in Arlen, Texas. Hank was loosely based on a neighbor character in Judge’s hit MTV series, Beavis and Butt-head. Fox Broadcasting Company brought in Simpsons writer Greg Daniels to collaborate with Judge on the pilot, and the series debuted January 2, 1997, with Judge and Daniels as co-creators.
The show remains true to Judge’s original concept and depicts the suburban Hills and their neighbors on Rainey Lane. The patriarch of the Hill family is Hank, a salesman of propane and propane accessories with a narrow urethra and an obsession with his lawn and the Dallas Cowboys. Hank is married to Peggy, a substitute Spanish middle school teacher with an inflated sense of her own intelligence. She writes “musings” for the Arlen Bystander and is a champion Boggle player. Hank and Peggy’s only son is Bobby, an overweight, under-achieving eight-grader with the dream of becoming a prop comic. Many storylines deal with Hank’s concern for Bobby, and an early catch-phrase from the show is “the boy ain’t right.” Despite not understanding Bobby, Hank clearly loves his son and struggles to be a better father than his own, WWII veteran Cotton, who “killed fifty men” and lost both his shins in the war. Also living with the Hills is Peggy’s niece Luanne, a slightly dim-witted beauty-school dropout who is able to find her voice through a Christian puppet show.
Hank’s best friends are also his neighbors: Bill, Boomhauer, and Dale. The four were on the Arlen football team together in high school (with Dale as towel boy). Now adults and living on the same block, Bill Dauterive is an unhappily divorced barber for the United States Army and Boomhauer is an unintelligible ladies’ man (voiced by Judge). Dale Gribble is a conspiracy-theory plagued bug exterminator unable to recognize that his wife, weather reporter Nancy, is having an affair with Native American masseuse, John Redcorn. Dale’s son Joseph, who looks remarkably like Redcorn, is Bobby’s best friend.
The show maintains Judge’s signature simple animation style and sense of realism. Unique for an animation series, the show depicts the Hills’ every-day life, exploring themes ranging from parent-child relationships, to friendship and loyalty, to justice, and patriotism. Although Arlen is a fictional Texas town, the locale, characters, and culture are easily recognizable, thanks in part to annual research trips that the writers would make to Texas. The characters and storylines of King of the Hill clearly resonate with viewers. During the tenth season in 2005, the show was slated to be cancelled, but high ratings for the remainder of the season gave it a second life. Fox renewed it for seasons eleven and twelve, making it the second longest-running animated televisions series after the Simpsons.
The King of the Hill archives came to the Southwestern Writers Collection through the efforts of writer and Executive Producer, Jim Dauterive. Jim joined the writing staff of King of the Hill in its first season, and he began donating his own writing archives to the Collections in 1999. In addition to documenting his earlier career in advertising and his various screenwriting projects, much of his collection documents his role as writer on King of the Hill. In 2005, Jim was instrumental in arranging for over ten seasons of the show’s production materials to make its way to the Southwestern Writers Collection.
Scope and Contents Note
The King of the Hill Archives documents the writing and production history of the Emmy-award winning Fox television show. The records date from 1995 to 2007, and are arranged into seven series: Episodes, Production Materials, Marketing and Publicity, Photographs, Audio/Visual Materials, Artifacts, and Books.
Series 1, Episodes (boxes 1-108), forms the bulk of the collection and is arranged chronologically by season and then according to airdate. The amount of material for each episode varies, but typical documents include numerous drafts of the script, outlines, and notes. Episodes written by donor Jim Dauterive are more fully represented with additional research materials, multiple writer’s drafts, note cards, and storyboards. Of note in this series is material documenting the pilot episode (box 1), written by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels. Also included is a photocopy of the original pilot written by Judge.
For the first eight episodes, there are corresponding production notebooks that were originally housed in three-inch binders. The contents of these binders remain in the original order but are separated into several folders. These binders originated from Executive Producer and co-creator, Greg Daniels’ office at Fox. Arranged in reverse-chronological order, they show evidence of the production history of each episode, from story pitch to final broadcast. In addition to drafts of each script, they typically include additional notes, memos, Broadcast and Standards communications, casting lists, and sometimes storyboards. As with the other Episode materials, the contents vary by episode, and a complete listing of what is in each binder can be found in the container list.
There are only a handful of production notebooks for seasons nine and ten, and none for season eleven, which is still in production [as of March 2007]. The episode list for season eleven is incomplete, and materials include only outlines and writer’s drafts. The exception to this is “Lucky’s Wedding Suit,” for which there are numerous drafts, notes, and storyboards (boxes 106-108). This episode was written by Dauterive and was originally scheduled to air as the series finale. When the series was renewed, it became the finale for season eleven instead. Season eleven materials include outlines and drafts for some episodes that have not yet been aired. Following the unaired episodes from season eleven is a binder of “New Story Ideas,” housed in three folders (box 108). It includes pitches, outlines, and notes of stories listed according to working title. Some of these were eventually fully developed and aired under different titles.
Series 2, Production Materials (boxes 109-110), is divided into three sub-series: Pre-Production Records, Animation and Design, and Staffing. Of note in the Pre-Production Records (box 109) is a binder of logos, main title ideas, and promotions. It includes numerous rejected logo designs; notes and outlines for what would later become the scenes depicted in the opening credits of the show; and scripts and ideas for promotional spots to introduce viewers to the Hill family and their neighbors in Arlen. Also included in this sub-series is the show’s “Bible,” written by Jim Dauterive. It provides descriptions of each character and serves as evidence of the early vision of them in the series.
Animation and Design materials (boxes 109-110) include a design/directing pack, design sketches, and a special effects manual. The final Production sub-series, Staffing (box 110), includes the sign that was on the casting door in the Century City offices. Additional casting information can be found in the production binders for each episode. Also included in this sub-series is a collection of script covers decorated by various members of the writing and production staff on the show. The covers originally hung on a bulletin board in the offices.
Series 3, Marketing and Publicity (boxes 111-115), includes marketing guidelines; a publicity and promotions binder of stills, interviews, and other promotions; additional published articles and reviews; awards; and promotional items including a 1999 calendar, the design for the John Force/King of the Hill racecar, and the layout design materials for The Boy Ain’t Right book by Hank Hill.
Series 4, Photographs (box 116), includes color and black and white stills of the Hill family and other characters. There are also cast/staff photographs, comprising snapshots taken during writers’ research trips to Texas and the Playboy mansion. Also included are three in-studio photos of Mike Judge with Willie Nelson. Additional photographs can be found in Series 6, Artifacts.
Series 5, Audio/Visual Materials (box 117) includes VHS cuts of various episodes written by Jim Dauterive. Also included are compact discs of music from the show, George W. Bush sound clips, and promotional materials. Of note is a VHS cassette of staff “Office Olympics.”
Series 6, Artifacts, Posters, and Framed Items (box 118 and oversized) includes 11” x 14” portraits of each principal character. All but the Peggy portrait originally hung on the walls of the Century City offices. Also included are framed photographs of characters and staff members, posters, character cut-outs, and whiteboards. Three of the whiteboards list episodes by season and originally hung in the writers’ room. The large “Making of King of the Hill” whiteboard was originally in the hallway of the offices and served as an overview for visitors of the process of creating each episode of the show. “Life sized” character cut-outs include one of Bobby, three of Hank, and one of Dale.
Series 7, Books, are published materials that the writers used as reference sources. Of note are The Death of Common Sense, which served as the basis for Hank’s philosophy, and The Book of Virtues, one of several books used as inspiration for Peggy’s “musings” and dialogue. All of these books have been transferred to the SWWC Book Collection. They are cataloged and available for use onsite.