A dang ‘ol revival of the classic animated sitcom King of the Hill is in its first stages of development. Helmed by the show’s original creators Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, fans have a lot to look forward to if the revival does actually happen. Throughout its impressive 12-year run, King of the Hill included surprisingly nuanced portrayals of bipolar disorder, gender identity and progressive vs. traditional values.
But with so much room for speculation, some fans argue that certain elements shouldn’t be included in today’s political climate. King of the Hill featured many morally gray characters in its slice-of-life cast, with perhaps the most controversial being Buck Strickland. Hank’s boss – and unwitting father figure – Mr. Strickland was a man with many, many vices. But there's still a place for him in the revival.
A compulsive gambler, womanizer and drunk, Buck’s bad habits were only enabled by the well-meaning Hank, who sought to defend the man’s honor – and clean up his messes – whenever possible. But where Hank viewed Buck as the father he’d always wanted, Buck merely saw Hank as a loyal, hard-working employee ripe for exploitation – even going so far as to frame Hank for the murder of his mistress in the Season 4 episode “High Anxiety.”
However, an attempt was made by the King of the Hill writers to redeem Buck’s character near the end of the series. Entitled “What Happens at the National Propane Gas Convention in Memphis Stays at the National Propane Convention in Memphis,” the Season 13 episode depicted Buck up to his usual antics – accompanied by an enabler far worse than Hank. As the lengthy title suggested, Buck was set to receive a great honor at a propane convention in Memphis, and asked Hank to present the award.
Hank, while humbled by the gesture, was worried that Buck would make a fool of himself and resolved not to let that happen. Accompanied by his family as well as Dale, Boomhauer, Bill and Joseph, Hank found his mission quickly put to the test when Buck ran into his bastard son Jody, nicknaming him "Ray Roy." It became immediately apparent that father and son had very much in common.
Claiming to be guilt-ridden over his absence in Ray Roy’s life, Buck used that as an excuse to drink to excess, pick up multiple attractive women and engage in bar fights. And while the episode hinted that Hank’s anger at Buck might stem from seeing Ray Roy as a threat to their perceived father-son dynamic, Dale was used as a mouthpiece for this idea -- thereby instantly dismissing it.
Hank’s rage over Buck's behavior caused him to become increasingly drunk -- and when introducing Buck onstage, he completely humiliated himself. In a grave amount of trouble for his actions, Hank was at a loss until Buck (admittedly prompted by Peggy and aided by Ray Roy) concocted a plan to rescue him. While that would have been an ideal character arc for the callous Buck, the episode ultimately fell short of redeeming his character.
As previously mentioned, Hank and Buck’s father-son bond was presented as some kind of absurdity. “What Happens at the National Propane Gas Convention in Memphis Stays at the National Propane Convention in Memphis" also wastes the majority of its runtime on Buck’s debauchery, Peggy’s attempts to impress well-known wives in the propane industry and Bobby and Joseph’s asinine mission to sit on every chair in the hotel. Had the episode placed more of an emphasis on Hank and Buck’s parasitic relationship -- and Hank’s unconscious view of Buck as a surrogate father -- Buck’s redemption would’ve felt much more earned.
The solution to the glaring issue of Buck is not to remove him from the revival entirely, but to present viewers with a fresh take on this infamous episode. Ray Roy could take a trip to Arlen and he and his father could potentially jeopardize the good name of Strickland Propane. As a result, Hank could be forced to recognize both Buck’s undeniable flaws and his personal appreciation for the man who sparked his love for selling propane and propane accessories. Without Buck, Hank wouldn't be in the career he loves and that viewers have come to love him for.