In a somewhat surprising move, the FOX network has decided to cancel one of the staples of its Sunday night line-up. On the eve of Halloween, the King of the Hill TV show has been cancelled after 13 seasons on the air.
King of the Hill follows the animated adventures of the Hill family from the small town of Arlen, Texas. The family’s patriarch, Hank (Mike Judge), is a propane salesman who’s obsessed with his lawn and the Dallas Cowboys. His well-meaning wife Peggy (Kathy Najimy) holds several part-time jobs and together, they raise their husky teenage son, Bobby (Pamela Adlon). Other characters include niece Luanne (Brittany Murphy), neighbor Bill (Stephen Root), and conspiracy-lover Dale (Johnny Hardwick).
The series debuted on January 12, 1997 on FOX and quickly became a staple of the network’s animation line-up. Having survived to produce over 240 episodes, King has become the second longest-running animated series, following The Simpsons. It’s become very popular in syndication, both in the US and internationally.
In recent years, King has been on the verge of cancellation several times. Earlier this month, Gary Newman, the co-chair of 20th Century Fox TV, hinted to TV Week that it may be time to pull the plug. He said, “I don’t know if the network will be ordering more seasons or not. That show has had its last rites read to it several times, and keeps rearing its head again.”
This season, King has been averaging seven million viewers and a 3.4/8 rating/share in the 18-49 demographic, a far cry from the series’ heyday. Simpsons and Family Guy, the shows that air before and after, both attract better numbers.
Back in early April, FOX ordered 13 episodes for the show’s 13th season. Production is nearly completed on those and the network has decided that they will be the series’ last. The episodes that are currently airing are actually from the show’s 12th season. FOX won’t begin showing King’s final batch of episodes until February 2009 which means that, though cancelled, the series could end up on the network’s 2009-10 schedule.
King isn’t scheduled to have any kind of series-closing finale. Executive producer John Altschuler says that this is by design. If there’d been a series finale when the show ceased production in the past, it would have been difficult to revive it.
If this is truly the end of King, Altschuler feels good about the run but ultimately isn’t totally convinced it’s over. He told Variety, We’ve been here before… When it’s time for King of the Hill to go, it will go. But I think with the ratings this good, and with quality that doesn’t seem to be diminishing, it would be very odd for King of the Hill not to keep going.”
Influencing the network’s decision to cancel King, aside from the declining ratings, is the fact that FOX is hot to introduce two new animated series in midseason; Sit Down, Shut Up, from Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz, and The Cleveland Show, a spin-off of Family Guy. Stay tuned!
Image courtesy FOX.