Hot take: This is the worst episode of King of the Hill. It has the worst writing, the fewest jokes, the silliest premise, the most wasted guest star, and what makes it all just a little worse: it’s (loosely) a Christmas episode.
I sometimes feel like there are all these Christmas episodes of all my favorite shows, and sure, there are, but it isn’t like The Simpsons, where you get a Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode every year like clockwork. Christmas episodes are fewer and farther between. It is an abysmal shame for a show as great as King of the Hill, in a format to which Christmas episodes lend themselves so easily, to waste one of them on a script as bad as this.
When I think back on King of the Hill, its latter years are a weird, faded, muddled mess in my memory. I can recall the episodes when I see them, and even at their worst, they’re a better way to spend time than many worse shows’ best episodes. But sometimes, I wind up on IMDb and see that they were released in 2004. And 2005. 2006. 2007, too. And somehow, when I was 20 years old, getting high and drinking beer for the first time, there were episodes of King of the Hill. And when I think of King of the Hill in those years, and think of myself at those times, the show feels so old. How can they have been making episodes in 2004? I wonder. They were bad, they must have been. I was bad. The country was bad. Everything was bad.
And this episode is bad. Season 9 is bad. Perhaps the worst in the series, by my recollection. Somehow, the show did get steadily better until its finale. And then, its other finale.
If my memory is accurate, the show didn’t have another holiday-seasoned (I won’t lie and say ‘themed’) episode between this one and its end. That’s a terrible shame. The opportunity of this episode is wasted not just by all the humor and plot sense left on the table; it’s also a waste in the sense that it robs us of a precious rare holiday episode we might have had if it were better, or wholly different.
Also, Marion Ross is, like Anjelica Huston, a perfect angel and candidate for America’s Mother. She didn’t deserve this to be her sole appearance on King of the Hill.
Near the end of the episode, Peggy looks at Hank—Hank here being the audience surrogate—and cocks her mouth in a latter-year, ‘over it’ kind of way, and shrugs. Perhaps that was the writers, or a writer, trying to ask us to forgive them. They knew this made no sense. They knew no one was having a good time. They knew it was going to resolve soon enough, and we just had to ride it out for two or three more minutes.
This episode feels like it was written by an AI which had been fed a number of King of the Hill episodes and Christmas specials as reference material. Something resembling a joke happens when Hank picks up a gift for Bill, and asks rhetorically if “this could be that ear and nose trimmer Bill’s been needin’?” That is a legitimate joke setup or even a 6/10 passable joke. But then, Bill says, “I hope it’s hungry.” That’s the AI breaking down.
Did an intern write this?
It doesn’t matter now. Nothing matters. Shows which are national pop cultural treasures running too long and having episode writing farmed out or phoned in doesn’t matter.
You know what matters? Christmas. For some examples of much better animated sitcom Christmas romps, check out The Simpsons‘ episode ‘Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire’, Aggretsuko‘s ‘We Wish You a Metal Christmas’, Bojack Horseman‘s ‘Sabrina’s Christmas Wish’ and King of the Hill’s own ‘Hillennium’, ‘Pretty, Pretty Dresses’ and ‘Twas the Nut Before Christmas’.
This episode gets a 2/10 and I’m calling it Unwatchable.