Since Atlanta's Fox affiliate has scheduled syndicated episodes of King of the Hill from 12:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. during the week, I frequently catch segments of an episode before I call it quits for the night. Over the past few weeks, I've gradually come to realize just why I enjoy this series so much: Hank Hill just may be the most ethical and open-minded father on television.
When I first heard the concept of King of the Hill, I dismissed the series as an intolerant redneck-stereotype comedy; as a result, I didn't even try it for the first two seasons. Once I tried it, though, I realized I had totally misjudged. Hank routinely demonstrates loyalty, responsibility, family love, modesty, and other ethical values rarely seen in family comedies, animated or live-action. He clearly loves his wife; he loves and appreciates his son, even though it's obvious that Bobby Hill will grow up to be very different from his father's expectations; he loves his father, even though his father frequently displays qualities of which Hank disapproves. Heck, Hank even embodies the Hindu concept of dharma, although I suspect he'd have to ask Peggy to explain it to him.
In some ways, Hank reminds me of my good friend Charles; both of them do the right thing because they believe it to be right, and both follow that path of self-discovered ethicality even when no one else would know of their actions. Charles is, of course, more erudite than Hank--but there is much to admire in both of them.
What's even more surprising is that, in a medium that almost always finds its humor in the inadequacies and failings of father figures, Mike Judge and his creative team have managed to keep King of the Hill relatively fresh and clever without compromising Hank's character or sacrificing his integrity. Considering the typical television attitude towards character and integrity, that's a pretty amazing accomplishment!