Peggy the Boggle Champ/Keeping Up With Our Joneses

Peggy the Boggle Champ (Season One, Episode Nine)

Original air date: April 13, 1997
Writers: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Director: Chuck Sheetz

Boggle Playing Chicken

I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was ages eight and up!

Like much of Season One, “Peggy the Boggle Champ” has a straightforward plot, straightforward jokes and straightforward characterization. It’s entertaining but missing what makes the best KOTH episodes.

Peggy shows an aptitude for Boggle and wins the Arlen Elks’ tournament. Soon she’s traveling to the National Boggle Championship in Dallas. Hank’s initially dubious until he learns a mower expo is in Dallas the same day. Peggy runs into stiff competition, especially defending champion Cissy Cobb (a wonderfully abrasive Laurie Metcalf). While Peggy battles her opponents, Hank’s attending the mower show with Dale, Bill and Boomhauer – and feeling horribly guilty.

Writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger wrote some of KOTH’s most formulaic episodes (“Westie Side Stories,” “The Arrowhead”) so it’s unsurprising “Peggy the Boggle Champ” follows familiar beats. Like all sitcom husbands, Hank must swallow his masculine selfishness and support his wife, even if it means wearing a pink shirt and becoming “Mr. Peggy Hill.” KOTH regularly returned to this conflict (“Peggy’s Turtle Song”) and, it must be said, much better.

Peggy starts showing her less appealing traits, namely overconfidence and inflated self-image. Being Arlen’s Boggle champ only makes her (in Peggy’s own words) “the smartest hillbilly in hillbilly town.” But she’s still an underdog against Cissy Cobb, thoroughly unlikable for her arrogance and obnoxious chortle. The premise gets a few laughs, especially when Peggy squares off against “Boggle-playing chicken,” while Maurice LaMarche voices a ludicrously excited announcer: “Everything comes down to this last… PENCIL!

“Peggy the Boggle Champ” draws its biggest laughs from the mower expo, whether it’s Dale flashing Liberace’s mower or Boomhauer’s unpleasant experience with a virtual mower. Bobby and Luanne fret about a coffee stain in a silly subplot, which has a great payoff gag. It’s funny enough but very predictable.

Grade: B

Quotes and Notes

  • Voice actor alert: As mentioned, Maurice LaMarche of Pinky and the Brain, Hey Arnold! and Futurama appears. He’d appear in a few later episodes, notably “The Arrowhead.”
  • Chuck Mangione narrates Luanne’s fire safety video and the hotel safety instructions. Can you dig it?
  • Minh’s a gracious loser: “Thank you for Boggle lesson, Peggy Hill. Maybe next weekend I teach you mahjong. Bring your checkbook!
  • The mower commercial is pretty hilarious: “SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!… and Saturday.”
  • Hank does not like Dallas: “That place is crawling with crackheads and debutantes. And half of them play for the Cowboys!” Later, he urges Peggy to hurry: “We’ve got to get to Dallas before the gangs wake up!”
  • This episode features Hank’s classic “motivational speech” to Peggy: “You’re a loser! Baby want a bottle? A big dirt bottle?” Peggy doesn’t take it well: “Why are you yelling at me!?”
  • Points for the Risky Business non-spoof, too. A tired gag beaten into the ground years before KOTH came along.
  • Peggy bests Cissy: “It was not my pleasure to make your acquaintanceship.”

Keeping Up With Our Joneses (Season One, Episode Ten)

Original air date: April 27th, 1997
Writers: Jonathan Collier and Joe Stillman
Director: John Rice

Keeping Up With Our Joneses

Do I have to take you out back with another carton of cigarettes?

“Keeping Up With Our Joneses” also has a straightforward story with a predictable ending. Yet it’s better than “Peggy the Boggle Champ” because writers Jonathan Collier and Joe Stillman handle it more creatively. Besides its quotability, “Joneses” makes clever use of character dynamics to advance its story.

Hank catches Bobby and Joseph smoking. As punishment, he forces Bobby to smoke a carton of cigarettes. This backfires: Bobby gets hooked, and so do Hank and Peggy. They try desperately to kick the habit, with no luck. After Cigarenders and nicotine patches don’t work, Luanne’s forced to take drastic action.

Considering its premise, “Keeping Up With Our Joneses” is surprisingly smart, examining how the protagonists react to drug addiction. For Bobby, smoking is an adolescent mistake, a cheap rebellious thrill. But Hank and Peggy associate smoking with their youthful romance, rationalizing it as reinvigorating their relationship. “Joneses” half-jokingly tags on a PSA warning against cigarettes, yet acknowledges that habits are driven by more than nicotine.

“Joneses” is a great episode for one-liners and character moments. Needless to say, the Hills’ assorted withdraws get laughs: “God, are you still talking?” Hank snaps at Luanne, while Bobby rubs out a sausage link like a butt. Dale enthuses over Hank (“Welcome back, friend!”) andencourages Joseph to “keep an open mind” towards smoking. Boomhauer scorns Hank’s habit; Bill attends a support group for company and shuns Hank and Peggy.

Surprisingly, Luanne gets her best episode to date, affectionate yet keeping a sane perspective on events. Throughout, she tries helping the Hills kick the habit, then locks them in a room to go cold turkey. She’s unwilling to watch her adoptive family follow her parents into dissolution, fighting over cigarettes like animals. Luanne’s willpower saves the day: after a season’s worth of ridicule and endless weeping, she finally emerges as a full-fledged character.

Grade: B+

Quotes and Notes:

  • Voice actor alert: Billy West of Doug, Ren and Stimpy and Futurama as the Cigarenders leader.
  • Enrique’s first appearance. Voiced here by Eloy Casados, he’s much mellower than Danny Trejo’s take on the character.
  • Hank critiques Bobby’s smoking style: “Why are you holding your cigarette like some kind of European Nazi in a movie?”
  • Luanne warns about the dangers of tobacco: “Don’t you know more people die of smoking than die of… war… in Vietnam… every day?”
  • Peggy tries to persuade Luanne she isn’t trailer trash: “Just ’cause you grew up in a trailer and your momma’s in prison…”
  • Hank lashes out at Cigarenders: “You callin’ me weak? Look at your little birdy arms! They’re no thicker than a cigarette! I could smoke them little arms!”
  • Don’t insult Peggy’s cooking: “Do you think the potatoes just fly into the bowl and mash themselves!?”
  • “Shut that damned door! Can’t you see that I’m knitting!?”
  • Bobby begs Peggy for a cigarette: “Mom, nine months inside remember? Those were good times, too!”
  • Naturally, Boomhauer gets the public service announcement at the end.
  • “Why is she still talking!?”

Next time, Dale becomes “King of the Ant Hill” and Bobby gets to first base with his “Plastic White Female.” Hopefully sooner rather than later!


About Christopher Saunders

Semiprofessional historian and film writer. Currently writing my first novel. Expert on all things Richard Nixon, from Agnew to Ziegler. Lover of classic movies, American literature and Flashman novels, King of the Hill, Gravity Falls and Steven Universe, and music ranging from Tears for Fears and Neil Young to Hamilton and Taylor Swift. I contain multitudes.
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