It’s been 13 years since King of the Hill aired its final episode, but now the show will find new life with a reboot at Hulu after Fox dropped the project last year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the revival has been in the works since 2017, when creators Mike Judge and Greg Daniels reunited with the original cast at Sketchfest in San Francisco to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series premiere. But as certain recent animated reboots have proven, not every beloved cartoon needs a modern update.
Judge has gone all in on reviving his classics from the ’90s — King of the Hill joins Beavis and Butt-head and Daria as the creator’s recent resurrections. The differing approaches he’s taken to each project are excellent examples of what to do and not do when bringing back a past series. With all revivals it’s a delicate balance between feeding on the nostalgia of those who originally watched and capturing a new generation. The 2022 Paramount+ revival of Beavis and Butt-head seems to ignore that second part, doubling down on the idiocy of these two characters as the main punchline. Even as it attempts to endear itself to longtime fans, in the long-run, the mediocre season ends up just watering down what made the original so popular.
The Daria reboot, on the other hand, puts just enough of a twist on the concept to allow for its characters and stories to grow while maintaining the original series’ sardonic backbone. For one, the reboot takes the form of a spin-off, focusing on a different character entirely. Jodie, which started as a series and is now being produced as a TV movie, follows the post-graduation life of Jodie Landon (voiced by Traci Ellis Ross). This brings a completely new perspective to the storytelling that can stand alone from the original series and fit in more naturally on a modern TV lineup, and is a similar trajectory to how Daria, a Beavis and Butt-head spin-off, became popular in the first place.
Marci Proietto, the executive VP at 20th Television Animation, tells The Hollywood Reporter that the King of the Hill creators are “bringing a whole new perspective to the original series.” Back in January 2022, Daniels confirmed that the revival would involve a 15-year time jump, picking up with the original characters in an older (though maybe not wiser state). Those differences at least are promising, allowing for some adjustment to how these characters interact with the world. But there are still hurdles to overcome, not least of which is the loss of Brittany Murphy (who voiced Luanne Platter) and the increasing political divide across the country. The conservative values that the Hill family exemplified (and skewered) in the late 1990s and early 2000s are more volatile subjects in the year 2023.
And still, there’s a chance that coming to a well-known show with too much of a new perspective will completely miss the mark and destroy the spirit of the original. Just look at HBO Max's Velma, which on the surface does so many things right — like refocus on a new character and create a more inclusive main cast of characters — but ultimately loses the spirit of Scooby Doo by doubling down on meta commentary and ditching the monster-of-the-week structure. At a certain point, it feels more fruitful to just create an original show borrowing elements from these classics instead of trying to shoehorn present-day tendencies into an existing work. While it’s unlikely that any changes to King of the Hill will be as drastic, Velma still serves as a cautionary tale for messing with a good thing too much.
Daniels and Judge have plenty of other brand-new projects in the works through their animation company Bandera: Best Buds is being developed for Peacock, Chelm: The Smartest Place on Earth is set at HBO Max, Exploding Kittens is heading to Netflix, and Praise Petey will hit Freeform in an attempt to grab a younger audience. Now feels like the time for the duo to focus on creating a new wave of adult animated series to support the evolution of the growing genre instead of turning to the past.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.
TOPICS: King of the Hill, FOX, Hulu, Daria, Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-Head, Greg Daniels, Mike Judge