The Big Man and the Holidays
The Best of Mike Judge’s Protracted War on Christmas
But, do you recall, the most amazing holiday story of all?
Oh, grow up. It’s not that one.
I’m talking about King of the Hill’s best holiday episodes. The FOX comedy ran for 259 episodes across thirteen seasons, and despite flagging towards the end of its run, remains my favourite animated show of all time. Keep your South Parks, Archers, and Simpsons’. Daddy’s a man of the King.
Season eight is undoubtedly my favourite season of the long-running cartoon. It features the introduction of Tom Petty’s loved and hated Lucky, who “slipped in pee-pee down at the Costco and got a $53,000 settlement,” in The Redneck on Rainey Street. But it’s that season’s holiday episode, which is the real standout for me.
Livin’ on Reds, Vitamin C and Propane is the holiday special of which I speak. It follows three separate plots as Bobby and Hank seek to deliver a load of antique furniture to his mother, Tilly Hill, in Arizona. Peggy and Luanne spend the episode writing a brand new Christmas carol about Bobby and Hank’s adventure while riffing on some classic Christmas specials. Dale, Bill, and Boomhauer break into the tractor-trailer in the evening, prior to Hank and Bobby’s departure.
Bobby and Hank stop at a truck stop to get something to eat. To save time, they attempt eat in the truckers’ section. Hank and Bobby discover the emaciated, dehydrated, and delirious neighbours at the truck stop when Dale shoots the lock out of the door in plain view of the dining area. Upon this, it is revealed that the truckers (played by a host of early 2000s country music luminaries) don’t look kindly on people like Hank – referring to him as a yuppie-type on vacation, rather than a real trucker.
As usual, Hank angrily fixed the group’s mistake. This causes him to lose sleep and incites the episode’s principle tension, in which the neighbours and Bobby strand the truck and a sleeping Hank on top of a mountain.
Meanwhile, back in Arlen, TX, we see Luanne crafting her Christmas song. We are privy to the real love between Dale and Nancy Gribble as Luanne interrupts her filing a missing persons report. This show just does these amazing, human moments so much better than any other show out there.
The episode draws to a close around Hank as the truckers from earlier rally around the gang, as they had overheard the whole ordeal over their C-B radios. The Arlenians are escorted to Tilly’s home in Arizona before making their way home.
“John, hold up. This barely sounds like a holiday episode. Why would it be your pick for best holiday episode?” There are no shoehorned-in references to Jesus and Santa Claus or the California Raisins. It’s a holiday special with a bare minimum of special holiday bullshit.
King of the Hill is an animated television program with little reason for being animated. Livin’ on Reds, Vitamin C and Propane is a holiday show with little reason for being a holiday special. In the process, this episode teaches us that holidays are about more than religious piety or adherence to tradition. It’s about making new traditions with the fucked up people we love, rather than just blindly following old habits.