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King Of The Hill took the time to depict magic realistically

King Of The Hill, "Sleight Of Hank" (Screenshot: Dailymotion)

Most animated shows, even those about supposedly ordinary suburban families and schoolkids, allow themselves to play fast and loose with reality, especially when reality is inconvenient for a joke. Characters on The Simpsons and South Park routinely violate the laws of physics, and no one bats an eyelash. After all, they’re cartoon characters. Why the hell not let them do whatever they want?

But Fox’s long-running domestic comedy King Of The Hill took a decidedly different approach. Series creators Mike Judge and Greg Daniels wanted the adventures of Texas propane salesman Hank Hill to be as realistic as possible. Never mind that the title characters of Judge’s previous series, Beavis And Butt-Head, survived any number of ordeals that would kill a human being. King Of The Hill even had a list of very specific rules for its animators to follow in order to keep the show consistent from scene to scene and episode to episode.


Perhaps the single best illustration of King’s commitment to realism is the third season episode, “Sleight Of Hank,” from February 16, 1999. In this installment, Hank is dragged to a surprise party for neighbor Nancy Gribble at a magic-themed restaurant sublimely named Abracapasta. Ever the pragmatist, Hank distrusts magicians because their acts are based on lies, but he nevertheless becomes obsessed with figuring out how a magician called The Astounding Herrera performs a particular trick. A post by Imgur user holycow81 shows how King Of The Hill goes well out of its way to depict Herrera as an actual, working magician who uses the same misdirection and sleight-of-hand fakery as anyone in his profession would. Using screenshots from the episode, holycow81 is able to demonstrate how these illusions work, from a simple card trick to levitation. There is even an explanation of the very trick that drove Hank to the brink of madness. Those who proceed should know that all kinds of trade secrets are herein divulged.

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