The Order of the Straight Arrow (Season One, Episode Three)
Original air date: February 2nd, 1997
Writer: Cheryl Holliday
Director: Klay Hall
Even more than the Pilot, “The Order of the Straight Arrow” focuses on Hank and Bobby’s relationship. KOTH hits its stride here, with a more streamlined blend of humor and characterization.
Hank and the gang head the Order of the Straight Arrow, a Boy Scout-like organization. Bobby, Joseph and two other boys join them on a “snipe hunt” in John Wayne National Park, where Hank inundates them with Indian lore stolen from John Redcorn (“Wematanye!”). Bobby takes Hank’s hooey seriously and bags a “snipe” – really a whooping crane. Since the animal’s endangered, Hank tries to hide the body, leading to trouble with park rangers and environmental protestors.
“The Order of the Straight Arrow” approaches its father-son conflict with finesse. This time, Hank doesn’t worry about Bobby being effeminate or weird; he’s just awkward and overly eager to please. Hank views turning against one’s father important to coming of age – understandable from Cotton Hill’s son. Becoming a man requires self-sufficiency, both in living outdoors and spurning parental guidance.
While Bobby struggles adapting to the outdoors, he’s crestfallen at his dad’s dishonesty. It’s an interesting twist: where Bobby usually falls short of Hank’s expectations, this time Bobby’s disappointed. Early seasons played with this dynamic: Hank’s advice would be flawed or outright wrong (“Life in the Fast Lane”), Bobby would teach Hank a lesson (“It’s Not Easy Being Green”), or more frequently they’d find a way to blend interests (“Meet the Propaniacs”). Later seasons would settle into a good Hank-dumb Bobby rut.
“Order of the Straight Arrow” provides much more assured humor than its predecessors. Writer Cheryl Holliday (who also voices Randy) ridicules environmentalists, who gloat over lost logging jobs and stomp a bird’s nest while pursuing “nature haters.” Bobby’s naive credulity inspires obvious laughs; Boomhauer admits guilt to a park ranger who can’t understand him. And John Redcorn gets his first extended scene, enduring ridicule from Hank and Co. while explaining Indian lore.
This episode features a discursive subplot, with Peggy driving to Lubbock to buy size 16 shoes. She’s so ashamed that she withdraws cash, checks into a hotel and uses an assumed name. This story doesn’t add much to the episode, though it establishes her over-sized feet – a recurring trait that provides a chink in her self-image.
“Arrow’s” only flaw is its over-convenient ending, which at least earns a laugh when Bobby proclaims himself a shaman. It’s still dramatically solid and consistently funny, marking KOTH’s first classic episode.
Notes and Quotes:
- Victor Aaron makes the first of two appearances as John Redcorn. Tragically, Aaron soon died in a car accident; he was replaced by Jonathan Joss. This episode’s dedicated to Aaron’s memory.
- Eustis and Randy recurred throughout the series. When Cheryl Holliday left the writing staff they disappeared.
- Is that blond kid supposed to be Boomhauer’s son? He sure looks like him.
- Bill’s character-defining line: “I’m so depressed I can’t even blink!”
- “Peggy Hill knows half a swear word when she hears one!” Joseph’s impressed: “She smells like Miracle Whip!”
- Dale’s aghast at the protestors: “What kind of lefty hootenanny is this?”
- Randy defends his father: “My dad is a successful patent lawyer.” Hank: “Not in the eyes of Wematanye he isn’t!’
- Hank recites the Straight Arrow’s immortal creed: “Though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you’re gonna commend us to the Spirit in the Sky.”
- “Wematanye, I see Texas!”
Hank Gets the Willies (Season One, Episode Four)
Original air date: February 9th, 1997
Writer: Johnny Hardwick
Director: Monte Young
By series’ end, KOTH rivaled The Simpsons in its impressive roster of guest stars. Landing country legend Willie Nelson for its fourth episode though was a major coup. Unfortunately, “Hank Gets the Willies” has little else to commend it.
Hank’s distressed by Bobby, who now venerates the prop comic “Celery Head.” During a golf game, Bobby beans Willie Nelson with Hank’s club. After damaging Hank’s guitar Betsy, Bobby takes the instrument for Nelson to autograph. And Hank learns that Bobby has a hero after all.
Moment by moment, “Hank Gets the Willies” is pretty funny. A cutaway gag with Howard Adderly, a nerdy shut-in, is as funny as anything KOTH ever did. Dennis Hopper flirts with Peggy, who’s unimpressed: “Hank would flatten you.” Nonspeaking appearances by Lyle Lovett (“Outta my way, Rooster Boy!”) and Governor Ann Richards earn laughs, as does Bob Dylan bantering with Boomhauer. Johnny Hardwick’s script is snappy, but many jokes seem overly set-up with telegraphed punchlines.
The big problem is that “Willies” constructs a plot around its guest star, always tricky. Nelson has fun with his dialogue but he’s just a nice guy – no depth, little self-effacement, just a swell helping Hank resolve his issues. He doesn’t even get a song! The character plots – Hank convincing Bobby to find a hero, Peggy’s jealousy over Hank’s guitar – are too thin to stand alone; Nelson just adds dubious spice to a weak story.
One thing The Simpsons ran into the ground were guest stars. It was fun hearing Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor in semi-anonymous roles, but when Mark McGuire or Tom Hanks popped in just to say hi, it smacked of showboating (look what stars WE can get!). KOTH rarely did that, and its examples (say, ZZ Top in “Hank Gets Dusted”) generally aren’t better. Despite its star power, “Willie Gets the Willies” isn’t very memorable.
Notes and Quotes:
- Governor Richards guest starred in a later episode, “Hank and the Great Glass Elevator.”
- Hank gets a phone call from Bobby, then asks if he’s “crushing Dwight Yoakam’s voice box with my five iron?”
- Hank denies Willie Nelson is alternative: “I’ve followed that man from Country and Western to Country to Adult Contemporary, and that’s as far as I’m going.”
- Peggy isn’t jealous of Betsy: “I’d like to see that guitar come home and chicken fry a steak after substitute teaching all day.”
- Willie’s best line: “You’ve been raking my lawn with a golf club? I want my quarter back.”
Next we’ll observe “Luanne’s Saga” and examine “Hank’s Unmentionable Problem.”