As a lifelong resident of the rural heartland, I often find myself rolling my eyes at the perceptions that folks who mostly just fly over flyover country have of what it's like here. Take one part Deliverance, one part Dukes of Hazzard, add in a pinch of political seasoning, turn up the heat, and you have some sense of those misconceptions.
I used to wonder how people who knew me could have such a weirdly wrong perception of where I live — as I walked my dog along old train tracks that Lincoln traveled regularly while he ran for president, or thought back to my school days in a building a few miles down the road, where I crammed for tests in a building in which the potential of the internet was unleashed with the development of NCSA Mosaic). But TV and film still shapes how we think of such things to a great extent, even in the internet era.
Obviously, this is far from the only area where TV and film creates and reinforces cultural fallacies, but it is an area that TV networks are interested in addressing at the moment. THR tells us, in a story spinning out of Television Critics Association's summer press tour:
"Broadcasters are looking to bring in broader programming that speaks to the middle America that voted for President Donald Trump as many networks admit they have underrepresented that audience."
I'm going to brush past the misconception in that statement, and encourage Fox Television Group CEO and Chairman Dana Walden to pursue the reboot she's contemplating to address this. It seems that Fox is eyeing a return of the long-running animated series King of the Hill:
Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden said the network has had "preliminary conversations" with King of the Hill creators Greg Daniels and Mike Judge about bringing the Hill family back.
"I would like to explore that. We had a very preliminary conversation given what's going on in the country; they had a point of view about how those characters would respond. But again, it was one meeting and I hope to revisit it," Walden said. "The meeting was probably two and a half months ago. They're both very busy and it was really just a first exploratory, 'Are you excited about this? Is there potential in that future?' And they were both excited about it, but they're working on a lot of different things individually, so it's about finding time."
I've been a huge King of the Hill fan for years, and yes, it's true: America needs Hank Hill right now.
I usually get a blank stare when I tell people that King of the Hill is one of my favorite animated series ever, but the genius of the show is in the little things. The storylines and gags are rather ordinary, but the characterizations are completely brilliant. I know at least a dozen variations on the theme of every main character on the show in real life, including the man at the center of it all: Hank Hill.
Hank was a staunch George W. Bush supporter (until he actually met him), a man who scoffed at the cosmopolitan environs of the liberal elite (until circumstances changed his mind), and someone who has held some misconceptions about people from other places (but always makes every effort to understand and get along with everyone he comes into contact with).
He's not the kind of character who usually gets to star in his own television show, a medium which often draws on exaggerated extremes, but they made it work by throwing him into problems with characters who were not quite so level-headed, and watching him carry the day by pointing everybody else in the right direction. He's just a normal dude who quietly sets an example for the people around him. He acts like —hell, he even looks like — about 50 guys I've known around here in my lifetime.
If Fox does reboot King of the Hill, I suggest they launch with a remake of the episode in which Hank met George W. Bush on the campaign trail, shook his hand, and then spent the rest of the episode deciding whether it was fair to base his vote on the impression he formed of Bush in that brief moment. Replacing Bush with Trump there would be a heck of a way to relaunch this show.