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  Texas : Features : Columns : "Letters from Central Texas"

King of the Hill
Does Hank Hill Really Live In Temple?
Or not?

by Clay Coppedge
Rumors that the fictional town of Arlen, home of the characters on the Fox TV show "King of the Hill," is inspired by or based on Temple have been not exactly rampant, but they are at least persistent.

Conventional wisdom has it that Arlen is based on Garland, which not only rhymes with Arlen but is also the hometown of series creator Mike Judge. That the main character, Hank Hill, is a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys boosts that notion, as does the name of the Tom Landry Middle School where Hank's wife, Peggy Hill, is a substitute teacher and son Bobby is a student.

But according to people who study such things (and there are more than you might imagine) Arlen is four hours from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Or so one episode indicates.

Since the show is animated - a cartoon, for Pete's sake - the people at Fox Broadcasting who produce the show can take as much artistic license as they want. Creative types have always done this. Few readers doubt that Larry McMurtry's Thalia is really his hometown of Archer City in disguise, or that Thomas Wolfe's Altamont setting in "Look Homeward, Angel" is a thinly disguised Asheville, North Carolina.

But this is a prime time cartoon, so the question of what Texas town Arlen most resembles takes on either more or less significance, depending on your point of view.
For those of you who have never watched the show, "King of the Hill" is a satirical animated TV series created by Judge and set in the aforementioned fictional town of Arlen. Hank Hill sells "propane and propane products." Though it's a cartoon, the show bases its episodes on real life situations.

Thus, there is more debate than you might imagine about what town actually inspired the town of Arlen, especially in Texas, where pride can and is taken in matters both large and small.

The Wikepedia.com website lays out the case for Temple being the inspiration for Arlen.
DVD
"Much speculation has noted that Arlen, Texas is probably Temple, Texas, based on distances to Austin, Dallas and Houston listed in the show," the Wikepedia.com entry on Temple reads. "Temple is the location of Scott and White Hospital. and, as such, it is noted that Bobby drove to this hospital, arguably the most recognizable in all Central Texas.

"Furthermore, with Bill {one of Hank's beer drinking buddies} working on a large Army base, the location of Fort Hood is right beside Temple/Killeen, Texas."

Other clues also point to Temple. One episode in which Dale's wife, a weather forecaster, reports live from a wildfire points to a map that shows Arlen located just where Temple is located on a Texas map.

Not mentioned on the website is an episode titled "What Makes Bobby Run" in which Bobby, serving as Arlen's Longhorn mascot, attempts to kidnap the armadillo mascot of Arlen's arch-rival. That arch rival? Belton.

The show ends with Bobby getting the first ever "Belton beating" from fans loyal to the armadillo and all it represents.

From a Temple point of view, that should pretty much settle the matter. We can't imagine someone in Garland getting a "Belton beating," not even in a cartoon.


Clay Coppedge

"Letters from Central Texas"
July 15, 2007 Column

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