Thanksgiving is a difficult holiday. I'll be honest with you, I've never been a fan of it. It's as if we put our heads together and picked the things that piss us all off about every holiday and crammed them into a Thursday (they couldn't pick a Monday or a Friday, so we get at least get a three-day weekend out of it?) at the end of November. King Of The Hill is one of the best TV shows ever at taking an honest and dry look at everyday American life (hopefully, it'll be back soon), and as such, it took aim at Thanksgiving several times during its time on the air.
King Of The Hill aired on FOX for 13 seasons, and over the course of that run, they did four different Thanksgiving episodes. Each was unique and focused on a troubling element of the holiday that leads to yearly drama. Let's take a look at each of these episodes and how they focused on a specific element of Thanksgiving that drives us all nuts every year.
"Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men"
If you ask people what the number one source of conflict is with Thanksgiving, the answer is almost certainly family. For a holiday built around getting together, that seems to be its greatest issue as well. King Of The Hill dove into this headfirst with their first Thanksgiving episode in season three. When Hank's father, Cotton, and his pregnant wife show up unexpectedly at their house for the holiday despite not being invited and Hank's mother being there, all Hell breaks loose.
The boorish Cotton begins hurling verbal grenades at the food and especially his ex-wife, getting into vulgar detail, while Hank just sits by and allows it. The next day, the entire group heads to a mega mall on Black Friday for shopping and for Hank and his buddies to take part in a focus group put on by their beloved lawnmower manufacturer. As Hank's mother gives him the cold shoulder for what happened the day before, he's forced to deal with Cotton's wrath again as his shinless father forces his way into the focus group.
The whole thing boils down to Hank defending his current model of mower, which has been hardworking and dependable for years, against the company's newer, flashier offering. It all becomes a 12 Angry Men homage as Hank argues a lonely battle against his father in what is a surrogate for him defending his mother against Cotton. Eventually, after successfully proving the superiority of the classic mower to his groupmates, Hank's mother witnesses him standing up for her against Cotton and all is forgiven as her son has done right by her.
This one's great as the King Of The Hill creators tackle two of the biggest Thanksgiving headaches in one fell swoop: awkward family get-togethers and Black Friday. Be it because of politics or other reasons, we all have family members we try to keep separate as we know that if they're at the same table, trouble won't be far behind.
"Happy Hank's Giving"
Just one year later, in season four, King Of The Hill gave us what is my personal favorite of their Thanksgiving-themed episodes where it was all centered around the holiday being the biggest travel nightmare of the year for Americans. Hank and the family plan to spend Thanksgiving with Peggy's family in Montana (though he's bringing his own personally-smoked turkey).
This breaks poor Bill's heart, as it means he'll be alone back in Arlen for the holiday, so he makes up a story that he'll be celebrating with a mysterious uncle while everyone else in the neighborhood heads out of town. A combination of bad weather and Hank's turkey being mistaken for a bomb derails their plans, and the Hills (along with their assorted neighbors) are trapped at the airport.
I love this episode. It revolves around a very relatable scenario and gives every character some great moments to shine. Everyone's stories are nicely intertwined and come full circle for some great tension-fueled comedy.
The episode's ending is pretty lovely, with all of the stranded characters coming together to remember the true meaning of the holiday and pooling whatever they have to create a Thanksgiving meal to share.
"Spin The Choice"
We were thankful for another excellent King Of The Hill Thanksgiving episode in season five when the show's creators dove into the first Thanksgiving and how it probably wasn't such a lovely harmonious situation in reality, as it was set against the backdrop of genocide. John Redcorn takes center stage in this episode as he's desperate to get closer to his secret love son Joseph Gribble, but in his efforts to teach him about their heritage as Native Americans, he ends up making more of an impact on Bobby Hill, who comes down with a heavy dose of "white guilt."
His newly-found hatred of Thanksgiving is a blow to Hank, who was planning to let Bobby cut the turkey this year in a manly right of passage. This all coincides with Peggy trying desperately to create a new game for everyone to play during the holiday get-together. Ultimately, she ends up creating an asinine and confusing mess that might not even make sense to her, not that she lets on, though.
The Redcorn/Joseph situation is a complicated and even sad one. We obviously understand it on a surface level with a man wanting a relationship with a son who doesn't know who he is, but there's also a deeper meaning in all of this, delving into the feelings of Native Americans who are forced to stomach their genocide every year as Americans celebrate it on some level. Of course, there's a pain in all of that, but in classic King Of The Hill style, they're able to finesse the comedy out of discomfort.
Of course, the major wrongs aren't magically righted in the end. But it's an ending that finds some peace, even if not full justice. Again, these creators know what they're saying.
"Goodbye Normal Jeans"
The final King Of The Hill Thanksgiving episode came in season seven, and honestly, it's my least favorite of the bunch. Don't get me wrong, it's a very funny and solid episode, but it's also the one that least focuses on the holiday, though it still raises an issue with it that many families deal with. When Bobby begrudgingly takes a home ec. class at school, he finds that he's a natural at it, and after demonstrating his newly-found skills at home, Hank appears to prefer Bobby's cooking and housework to Peggy's.
This all leads to Hank wanting Bobby to make the entire Thanksgiving meal, which drives Peggy mad, and she goes off the rails to wreck everything, as she thinks Hank isn't into her anymore. All is made ok in the end when Hank demonstrates his love for her and her cooking by making all of her signature dishes for Thanksgiving.
So while I know Thanksgiving and every holiday can be a major pain in the ass, take a break and watch some of these King Of The Hill classics to see that you're not alone in what's frustrating you. Who knows? Maybe you'll even wind up laughing about it all. Unless your wacky relative starts ranting about the election being stolen. There's no fixing that kind of stupid. Good luck!