LOS ANGELES -- After years of moving around the Fox prime-time schedule, the working-class comedy "King of the Hill" is back where it started.
The Fox cartoon series about a small-town Texas family - stoic patriarch Hank Hill, his Boggle champion wife, Peggy, and their vaudeville-loving son, Bobby - is moving to 8:30 p.m. EST on Sundays - the slot after "The Simpsons" that it first occupied when it strongly debuted in 1997. (Most recently the show has aired at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays.)
"I'm on it and I could never find it," said Kathy Najimy, who provides the voice of Peggy, an award-winning substitute teacher and pseudo-intellectual with a penchant for "Fat Albert" impressions.
"I'd tell people I was Bobby on 'King of the Hill' ... and they'd say to me, 'I saw that show years ago," said Pamela S. Adlon, who won an Emmy this year for supplying the scratchy voice of the 13-year-old character. "And I would say, 'Yesss ... we're still on."'
Just as Hank Hill suppresses all emotion except his passion for selling propane and propane accessories, the makers of "King of the Hill" are tight-lipped about the show's nomadic past.
"Fewer people out in the world would come up to you and talk about it," shrugged Greg Daniels, "King of the Hill" co-creator. "This (new time slot) feels like a little bit of an acknowledgment that we did a good job last season."
"It's good to be back there. It's good for the morale of people who work on the show," said Mike Judge, the voice of Hank and the show's other co-creator, who was previously known for creating MTV's "Beavis & Butt-head."
"King of the Hill" has thrived in syndication, and Judge said the multiple showings each week may have helped rejuvenate its fan base.
"It's funnier when you get to know the characters and notice the subtle things," he said, comparing the show to the low-key comedy of Bob Newhart.
While Homer Simpson is known for outrageous oafishness, Hank Hill is the soft-spoken opposite - funny because of his blandness.
Hank is a frustrated man's man. He loves football, beer, barbecue and trucks, but his feet are too chubby for cowboy boots, the whole neighborhood knows about his bowel problems and other health woes - and he regards pop culture with a restrained disdain.
"The show is definitely about masculinity," Daniels said. "Hank's trying to take his son, who's sort of a couch potato, and turn him into a man."
Hank has a lot of love for the boy, but expressing it isn't easy. In a moment of overwhelming fatherly pride, he once said: "Bobby, if you weren't my son, I'd hug you."
Although the show pokes fun at Hank and Peggy's lack of sophistication, it generally favors their orthodoxy. In Sunday's season premiere, the couple faces down the overly permissive parents of Bobby's new girlfriend and rescue the boy from an embarrassing situation at the girl's coed sleepover.
"It's not a political show, but it has a lot of sympathy for unhip regular people," Judge said.
The family is surrounded by oddball neighbors like bug exterminator and conspiracy-theorist Dale Gribble (voice of Johnny Hardwick); Bill Dauterive (Stephen Root), an Army barber and sloppy bachelor, and mushmouthed stud Boomhauer (Judge).
"King of the Hill" also isn't afraid to show its characters' ugly sides.
Hank often displays bullheaded chauvinism, second-guessing his wife even when he suspects she's right and giving the cold shoulder to live-in niece Luanne (Brittany Murphy).
Meanwhile, Bobby seems determined to take sloth to new levels. In one episode, he develops gout from inactivity and poor eating habits and is delighted to travel around on a Rascal, the kind of slow-moving scooter used by the elderly and infirm.
"I was trying to capture the kind of kid who is capable of sitting on the couch expressionless for hours and hours," Judge said.
Peggy can be obsessive and selfish, undercutting Hank when he taught a shop class so she could win a substitute teaching prize and spending hundreds of dollars on ice cream so she can correctly guess the weight of a sundae at a local store - and therefore get it for free.
"What I like about her is she's not the typical boring housewife," Najimy said. "She's just this silly ego-inflated person."
"Peggy's wrong a lot of the time," Judge laughed. "She has a lot of problems."
As Hank might put it: Yup.
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