With the Huxtables long gone, the Hills of Arlen, Texas, may just be television's most functional family. They are certainly one of the funniest as they struggle to appreciate "the little things in life while some big things are wrong and evil," as "sweet and trusting" Peggy learns in the classic episode "Peggy's Headache," in which Peggy is the last to discern that Dale's wife has had a decades-long affair with John Redcorn. Likewise, in "Death and Taxes," Peg is conned by an alleged former student, now a Death Row inmate, to unwittingly smuggle him cocaine. Hank, who is aptly described at one point as "a good husband with a good head on his shoulders," is the lone voice of reason in "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men," in which he joins a focus group to rate a new "yuppified" model of his beloved lawnmower. At least he has come to terms with his son Bobby's desire to become a prop comic, and his wistfulness at the prospect of Bobby one day leaving home in "Hank's Cowboy Movie" is just one of many "sweet family moments" that elevate this series. The third season is a pivotal one for Bobby, whose coming-of-age misadventures include his devastating first adolescent crush on an older student in "And They Call It Bobby Love," a father-son hunting trip in "Good Hill Hunting," becoming Connie's boyfriend in "Love Hurts... And So Does Art," and marriage (don't ask) in "The Wedding of Bobby Hill."
The Simpsons gets all the glory, but I'll tell you what, the writing in King of the Hill is no less incisively brilliant, its core ensemble no less indelible, and its star power no less impressive. Guest voices this season include Mary Tyler Moore as the new minister in "Revenge of the Lutefisk," Sarah Michelle Gellar in "And They Call It Bobby Love," Billy Bob Thornton in "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men," Buddy Ebsen in "A Firefighting We Will Go," Uta Hagen, Betty White, and Phyllis Diller in "Escape From Party Island," and, as himself, a very gracious Chuck Mangione in "Death of a Propane Salesman." Unlike the previous two sets, there are no extras; but who needs commentaries? Such benchmark episodes as "To Spank With Love," in which Peggy is dubbed "Paddlin' Peggy" after spanking an unruly student, eloquently speak for themselves. --Donald Liebenson