Stream On: When ‘animated’ doesn’t equal ‘cartoon’

By on January 3, 2020


Conservative Texas family man Hank Hill (center) struggles to impart his world view and wisdom to his son, who wants to become a prop comic, in King of the Hill. (

1987 was the year newspaper cartoonist Matt Groening (Life in Hell) put his first show on television. In 1993 animator, actor and filmmaker Mike Judge (Office Space, Idiocracy, Silicon Valley) landed an animated show on MTV. I’m not going to talk about Groening’s The Simpsons or Judge’s Beavis and Butthead, but about those writers’ sophomore efforts, both of which I consider superior, while never managing the notoriety of their predecessors.


I’ve put in my time watching Beavis and Butthead with friends on smelly couches, and it was only when I discovered Mike Judge’s 1997 followup that I realized his earlier show wasn’t a celebration of the two titular stoners, but a pretty fierce condemnation of them.

King of the Hill is a conservative show with some sharp, cynical humor, yes, but at its heart it’s about family values, pure and simple. The closest series to it in spirit might just be The Andy Griffith Show.

Hank Hill (Judge) is a Texas dad who reveres his churchgoing family, propane (he’s a propane salesman), Lone Star Beer, the Dallas Cowboys, and his quirky friends: Dale Gribble is an exterminator and a paranoid conspiracy nut who often goes by “Rusty Shackleford” and has married a beautiful TV weather forecaster. Dale is ginger and his wife is a blonde, and he is the only one in town who doesn’t notice that his young son appears to be Native American. (His wife is having an affair with hipster massage therapist John Redcorn.) Bill Fontaine de La Tour Dauterive (Stephen Root, The Man in the High Castle) is an emotional slob who works as an army barber, and Jeff Boomhauer is a handsome mealymouthed ladies’ man. Nobody know what he does for a living; we only find that out in the final episode of the series.

Hank’s wife (Kathy Najimy, Veep) is a high-school Spanish teacher with a very high self-opinion who can’t make herself understood to the local Mexicans, and his apparently dullard son Bobby is a budding metrosexual who wants to become a prop comic, both of which are anathema to Hank, but Hank would do anything for him. Bobby’s girlfriend is the brilliant daughter of yuppie Laotian immigrants who live next door.

Guest stars include Tom Petty, ZZ Top’s Rusty Hill (who plays himself as Hank’s cousin), Willy Nelson and Texas Governor Ann Richards, who plays herself, as one of Bill Dauterive’s girlfriends. Tom Petty has an ongoing part as Hank’s niece’s boyfriend. The plots are standard 1960’s family sitcom affairs, but the humor is sharp and subversive.

I love this show. Here are 2 minutes of contemporary Fox commercials for the show. [TVPG]


Delivery boy Philip J. Fry (in blue jeans) is accidentally cryogenically frozen in 1999 and joins the Planet Express delivery company in 2999 New New York in Futurama. (

FUTURAMA (Hulu; on-demand from other services)

King of the Hill is overtly concerned with family, as much fiction is, family being our default referent, the basic unit of human life. Futurama (1999) is a workplace comedy mostly concerning the ad hoc family found there, but subplots include the past, present — and future — family life of some of the characters.

Philip J. Fry (Billy West, The Ren & Stimpy Show) is an uncurious delivery boy for a pizza parlor somewhere in New York City; in the first episode he delivers a pie, the result of a prank call, to a cryogenic company and accidentally becomes frozen, waking up in 2999 New New York. He meets the cute cyclops Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal, 8 Simple Rules, at left in the screenshot above) who informs Fry, to his chagrin, that if he wants a job in NNY it should be as a delivery boy. (He thought he might make a fresh start since he has woken up 1000 years in the future.)

He then meets the one who is destined to become his best friend: Bender Rodriguez (John DiMaggio, Transformers franchise), an alcoholic, sarcastic, larcenous robot (second from left in the screenshot). Bender’s name comes from the facts that he’s a bending unit, built to bend metal in a factory, and that he was assembled in Mexico.

Leela (who quits her job in the employment office), Bender, and Fry find work at the Planet Express interplanetary delivery company, alongside Amy Wong (Lauren Tom, King of the Hill), who comes from money (her parents own Mars), and Dr. John Zoidberg (West), an anthropomorphic crustaceon who speaks with a thick Yiddish accent, and is the company doctor, though he knows nothing about human anatomy. (“There you are, good as new. Except for your dorsal fin. I’m afraid I couldn’t find it after the crash,” he tells Fry on the operating table. Fry asks, “Can I live without it?” Zoidberg replies, “If you call that living!”) The crew is rounded out by Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr, MAD TV), a Jamaican bureaucrat who runs Planet Express’s office and is given to poetic exclamations, such as “Sweet lion of Zion!”

The zany exploits that the crew of Planet Express get into are Douglas-Adams smart and very funny. That’s not all, though — the emotional lives of the characters are not neglected and a few of the episodes are genuine tear-jerkers. Here’s a 30-second teaser for it. [TVPG]

Next week I’ll talk about two other brilliant ongoing animated series on streaming TV, postmodern “cartoons” that are unprecedented, audacious and vastly entertaining. Email me and follow Stream On OBX on Twitter.

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV by Peter Hummers.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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