King of the Hill Revival Has To Address Its Missing Characters To Succeed

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

King of the Hill is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and I’m excited to see what Mike Judge and Craig Daniels do with the reboot. That said, there are some problems the show will face that make me a bit nervous. One of the biggest problems the reboot has to overcome is its missing characters.

Stars That Have Passed Away

Unfortunately, multiple King of the Hill cast members have passed away. Brittany Murphy, who played Luanne, and Tom Petty, who played Luanne’s husband Lucky, passed away in 2009 and 2017, respectively. The other notable cast death is Dale Gribble’s voice actor Johny Hardwick, who passed away during the reboot’s production last year.

The Apu Problem

Two other characters the show needs to deal with being absent are Cotton Hill and Kahn Souphanousinphone. Hank’s father, Cotton, died in the 12th season of King of the Hill, so he obviously won’t be returning for the reboot, but his relationship with Hank should still be addressed. It’s uncertain if Kahn will return, as a Laotian character originally voiced by a white man the showrunners have stated he either won’t return or will be recast, and while I’m personally hoping for his return his absence would be too notable to ignore.

Happily Ever After

Luane and Lucky should be fairly easy to write off as the writers could plan around their absence, and the characters are married, meaning a single explanation works for both characters. I believe they should be written off in a way that keeps the characters alive, something as simple as moving away from Arlen would suffice. This would explain why they aren’t around in this version of King of the Hill without needlessly killing two beloved characters.

A Tough Loss

Dale and Kahn are a bit more tricky to deal with; as neighbors to the Hills, their family members are just as important as they are to King of the Hill. Having Dale die could work both in the narrative and as a tribute to Hardwick, though dealing with his absence may not be an issue until the reboot’s potential second season. If Kahn is written off it would need to be in a way that keeps his wife Minh and daughter Connie in Arlan, they are too important to Peggy and Bobby for the show to lose. 

Death Picks Cotton

While the other characters I’ve mentioned will be missing because of real-life factors, Cotton is dead inside of the King of the Hill universe, but I think it’s just as important for the show to address that he’s gone. His fraught relationship with Hank was a core component of the original show, and it would be odd for him and his death to go unnoted. Cotton could appear in a dream sequence or flashback, but even having Hank talk about his father’s death would be enough for me. 

Can Not Lose Its Heart Or Any Propane Accessories

It always feels off when a revival ignores an important character’s absence, like The X-Files reboot failing to mention Agent Doggett or The Conners ignoring that Jackie had a son in Roseanne. The King of the Hill reboot has to focus on the characters who are still there first and foremost, but if it’s going to succeed, it needs to address the characters who are gone as well. Luanne, Lucky, Dale, Kahn, and Cotton were all unforgettable characters, and I can’t imagine enjoying the reboot if it doesn’t give them the respect they deserve.