If you’ve never watched King of the Hill, you’re missing out. It can teach you a lot about creating characters.
The show’s regular and semi-regular cast of about a dozen are drawn so well. Each has a few, well-chosen defining traits that make them quintessentially that person, yet still they’re still complex enough to not be… cartoons… for lack of a better word. Yes, they are cartoons, but the writers treated them as real people with hopes, dreams, foibles and then — and I think this is what makes them work so well — more foibles.
If that weren’t enough, they all fit into the same universe, complimenting each other almost like pieces of a puzzle. Below, I’ve tried to boil the characters down to their essence, to create a logline for each.
A logline is really important when you create your own characters, because if you can do this, if you can sum them up in a few words, then you know you have an overarching character design that the audience will identify, and maybe more importantly, a solid framework to build out more complex traits. If you watch King of the Hill, then you know how often everything about these characters relates back to their loglines: what they do, what they say, what they want, who their best pair is, how they interact with others.
Most of the characters have strong pairs, others that pull out their funniest and most interesting traits, so I’ve named those, too. Thinking about that when you create your own characters is also really important, because I don’t think the obvious pairings we usually come up with (husband and wife, best friends, etc.) are always the ones that draw out the characters the most. You’ll see below, there are some really surprising pairs, and at least one character is best paired with herself.
12 King of the Hill Characters
A by-the-rules family man and propane salesman. Best pair: Peggy
A super-confident, almost arrogant (yet adorably so) mom and substitute teacher. Best pair: Bobby
A languid teen and aspiring comic with “alt interests” Best pair: Connie Souphanousinphone
Luanne Platter Kleinschmidt
A simple-minded hair-stylist and mom. Best pair: Peggy
A paranoid conspiracy-theorist, smoker, and dad. Best pair: Bill Dauterive
A sultry “on-air personality” with a competitive streak, mom and semi-repentant adulteress.
Best pair: Nancy’s true personality comes out when left to her own devices.
A teenage ball of hormones and gifted athlete Best pair: Bobby Hill
New-age healer, native american and Joseph’s real father (and Nancy’s paramour) Best pair: Bobby
A sloven divorcee with self-esteem issues and a child-like naiveté. Best pair: Dale Gribble
Jeffrey Boomhauer III
A speech-impaired, unlikely lady’s man with an inexplicable cool-factor Best pair:
A semi-accomplished, liberal laotian transplant driven to (try to) achieve Best pair: Hank
A house-wife and mother with a blunt-side Best pair: Kahn
Kahn “Connie” Souphanousinphone, Jr.
An overachieving teen with a rebellious streak Best pair: Bobby