Exploring Hank And Bobby’s Relationship On ‘King Of The Hill’

In the early years of King Of The Hill, one of Hank’s more prominent catchphrases was “that boy ain’t right.” You’d hear him say it every time Bobby had done one more thing that reminded him how different he was from his father. In one episode, it was because Hank found him playing guitar with a piece of cheese. In another, it was because he was excited to smell laundry fresh out of the dryer (“6AM, and already the boy ain’t right!”). But while Hank often struggled to relate to Bobby, they still had a surprisingly healthy relationship. these episodes illustrate how each of them overcame their vast differences, and still managed to get along well as father and son.

“Pilot” – Original Air Date: January 12, 1997

It’s rare that the first episode of a show — where we’re still being introduced to all of the characters and their mannerisms — could be emotionally resonant, but the divide between Hank and Bobby, as well as the love they have for each other in spite of that divide, was explored right away. After Bobby gets a black eye from a baseball (he wasn’t keeping his eye on the ball!), a social worker who notices Hank’s short temper (note: Hank was considerably angrier in the first season) thinks Hank is abusing him.

Eventually, the misunderstanding is settled, and the investigation is called off. But Bobby hears of this first and decides not to tell Hank, because he notices that Hank was nicer to him when he thought social services was investigating him. Finally, Hank and Bobby sit down and talk, and we find out that Bobby fears that Hank is disappointed in him. Hank reveals that despite Bobby being very different from him, he is nonetheless proud of his son. With the pilot episode, King Of The Hill set the tone for the relationship between Hank and Bobby, which would be explored many more times throughout the show’s 13-season run.

“How To Fire A Rifle Without Really Trying” – Original Air Date: September 21, 1997

In the premiere episode of the second season, Bobby finds out that he’s an excellent shot while playing a game at a carnival. Since Bobby has never been particularly athletic, or interested in things like guns, this would seem to be a great opportunity for Hank to bond with Bobby. There’s just one problem; Hank is a terrible shot.

It seems that, after being intimidated by his father when he taught him how to shoot (Cotton was always one to yell too much), his hands would shake whenever he attempted to shoot a rifle. After seeing a sports psychologist, Hank was able to get his father out of his head and shoot with a clear mind, vastly improving his skills. Unfortunately, when Hank and Bobby compete at a target shooting competition, he misses the final target, and they come in second. While Hank fears he let Bobby down, he’s actually encouraged by their second place finish, vowing to do better next year.

“Next Of Shin” – Original Air Date: November 3, 1998

This episode is particularly interesting in the way that it explores how Hank, Bobby, and Cotton all get along with each other. For reasons that have never been specified, Cotton has always taken a shine to Bobby, liking him far more than he likes his own son.

This episode finds Bobby and Cotton suffering through similar crises; when Cotton’s wife becomes pregnant, he fears that he’s too old to raise another child (note: he would die in Season 11, so really, he was right), and when Bobby finds out that Hank and Peggy are trying in vain to have another child, it’s because they want to “get it right this time.”

No matter how many episodes ended with Hank and Bobby on good terms, Bobby could never be sure that Hank was genuinely proud of him. Naturally, Hanks smooths both issues over, convincing Cotton to be there for his family while assuring Bobby that he and Peggy weren’t trying to replace him.

“Chasing Bobby” – Original Air Date: January 21, 2001

In one of the heavier episodes of the series, Hank is caught crying at a movie involving a reconciliation between a man and his dying father. We initially think he’s crying either because of his relationship with Bobby, or with his own father, but it was because the truck on the screen reminded him that his own truck — which he has always loved — is on its last legs. He tries everything to fix it, and Bobby tries to help by seeing an ad for what he believes to be mechanic, but turns out to actual be an truck salesman. When Hank’s truck is destroyed on the ride home from the dealership, he initially blames Bobby. Feeling a combination of guilt and alienation, Bobby decides to walk 40 miles home in a rainstorm. When Hank finds him in a new truck that he takes for a test drive, the two reconcile, as Bobby tells Hank that he loved the old truck, too.

“Now Who’s The Dummy?” – Original Air Date: February 18, 2001

It’s no secret that Bobby and Hank’s interests are quite dissimilar. Hank loves sports while Bobby is more interested in prop comedy and Iron Chef. But when Bobby begins playing with a ventriloquist dummy that was meant to be an All-American high school football player, he becomes interested in sports in order to generate material for his act. This leads to Bobby and Hank bonding more than ever before as Hank seems to get along far better with Chip, the dummy, than he does with Bobby.

After Dale, who is terrified by the sight of Chip, puts him in his woodchipper, Hank decides to create a new version of the doll. While working endlessly in his garage, Peggy points out that Hank seems to be trying to create a son he can relate to more than Bobby. Chastened by this, he decides to make a dummy version of Bobby instead.

As much as Hank does love his son, sometimes it does show that he wishes he had a child he could relate to more. Ultimately, though, as this episode’s ending showed, he wouldn’t trade Bobby for anything in the world.

“To Sirloin With Love” – Original Air Date: September 13, 2009

In the series finale, Hank and Bobby bond over the one thing we could naturally expect them to share an interest in: meat. As it turns out, Bobby is quite an expert at being able to identify pieces of cow meat, and thus, he becomes the perfect choice for a local competition that judges that very ability. A lot of the episode focuses on the stress Bobby goes through during this, particularly what happens when he guesses wrong at a crucial moment. Naturally, Bobby overcomes his mistake and comes through in the end. But what really matters is the final scene, in both the episode, and the show itself where we see Hank and Bobby grilling together, their considerable differences in every other area the furthest thing from either of their minds.