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Is King Of The Hill's Arlen, Texas Based On A Real-Life Town?

It's hard to immediately follow up one smash hit animated series with another, but in 1997, Mike Judge accomplished that astonishing feat. Hot off the success of "Beavis And Butt-Head," Judge teamed up with "The Simpsons" writer Greg Daniels to focus on the everyday struggle of a proud propane salesman and his eccentric family and friends. "King of the Hill" won fans over, lasting 13 Seasons before it got canceled in 2010. Regarding tone, "King of the Hill" is a vast departure from the wackier and sometimes gross-out humor of "Beavis And Butt-Head. And really, "King of the Hill" differs from many other animated shows of its ilk due to its sense of grounded realism.

The laughs in the series don't come from the set-up to a punchline but from the relatable observations and reactions of the blue-collar cast. "King of the Hill" is hilarious because many of its moments resonate deeply. Honestly, who hasn't had a Hank Hill (Judge) moment of yelling "Bwah" in response to something so unexpected or shocking? Some of the show's down-to-earth vibe can be traced back to specific incidents in Judge's life. For instance, a complaint about "Beavis and Butt-Head" helped Judge create the character of Boomhauer (also Judge). And while the show's setting of Arlen, Texas, isn't a place we can visit, there is an actual city that served as the main inspiration for it.

Arlen is inspired by Richardson, Texas

Arlen, Texas, is the town that the Hill family calls home. According to The King of the Hill Wiki, it boasts a population of 145,300 and is located around 100 miles outside of Dallas. That means Arlen's location is prime for any hardcore fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Hank, of course, included. And fans may already be familiar with its most noticeable landmark, the water tower, which has been shown off in plenty of episodes. Arlen itself is fictional, but according to an interview with Mike Judge in The New York Times, the real-life Dallas suburb Richardson, Texas served as inspiration for the setting of "King of the Hill."

But Richardson wasn't the only reference point. In the interview, Judge credits his childhood in New Mexico as inspiring the show's down-home flavor. "I actually grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., and had a paper route in a blue-collar neighborhood," Judge said. "West Texas and eastern New Mexico blur a little bit, and I remember my brother and I just noticing that every adult authority figure used to have a Texas accent. There was always someone going [with a twang], 'Excuse me, boys.'"

One brief glimpse at some of the demographics and location of Richardson, and it's easy to trace Arlen back to it. As of 2020, its population is close to Arlen, with approximately 119,469 residents (via U.S. Census Bureau). And, per the Dallas Morning News, the city even has a new water tower.