Orbital View: Fatalities in Fiji

The Fox sitcom, which went off the air in 2010, managed to unite both liberal and conservative viewers by emphasizing its characters’ humanity in a changing world.

Does the political party you identify with have an influence on what you find funny? Recent trends in TV viewing habits overwhelmingly suggest that it does. In 2011, a survey conducted by Experian-Simmons for Entertainment Weekly found very little confluence between the TV shows watched by Democrats and Republicans—perhaps a symptom of how the cultural divide has grown deeper over the last eight years. Liberals generally love quirky comedies like Community, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Mindy Project; conservatives tend to prefer reality shows and crime dramas including NCIS, Duck Dynasty, The Bachelor, and Top Gear.

But for 13 years there was a show that drew laughs from viewers of all political persuasions. King of the Hill—an animated sitcom about a bumbling Texas everyman and his family—which ran on Fox from 1997 to 2010, still stands alone in the way it portrayed the complexity of red-state America with wit, good humor, and vitality. I was 11 years old, growing up in a rural county in North Carolina, when the show premiered, and for me, it was the first contemporary show that genuinely reflected the world I lived in. Its characters embodied all of the desires, needs, and contradictions that make up the universal human experience, undermining assumptions about “red” and “blue” culture in the process.