‘King’ rule extended

Fox exercises option on toon for 9th year

I tell ya whut: Fox has already greenlit a ninth season of animated hit “King of the Hill.”

That keeps Arlen, Texas, mainstays Hank, Peggy and Bobby Hill on the network through at least May 2005. Early pickups are necessary in the animation world, where it takes nearly eight months to produce an entire 30-minute episode.

Fox actually exercised a pre-existing option to pick up “King of the Hill.” Series producer 20th Century Fox TV had negotiated a three-year license fee with Fox, giving the net a “one-plus-one-plus-one” option to renew the show each year.

“King of the Hill” enters its eighth season this fall. John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, showrunners for the show’s upcoming season, will return to lead the show’s ninth year as well.

“It’s a great success story for the studio,” said 20th Century Fox TV prexy Gary Newman. “We put this show into the hands of Altschuler and Krinsky… and they’ve done a spectacular job of reinvigorating the show. The credit really goes to those guys. They are so locked into who these characters are and telling stories that are relatable and funny.”

Altschuler said he and Krinsky wanted to stick with the show after experiencing a “very creatively invigorating year.”

“We didn’t do all of the stories we wanted to do this season,” Altschuler said. “What’s nice is you’ve got another year, you’ve got the ideas, you’ve got the staff, and that made us want to run up that hill again.”

The early renewal will give the show’s staff a chance to kick around ideas before taking their yearly brainstorming trip to Texas this fall, the exec producers said.

“Knowing there’s going to be another season, after we wrap (season eight), we can hit the ground running,” Altschuler said. “What’s nice is (co-creator) Mike Judge has really been involved, he’s had ideas.”

Krinsky said the show’s ninth season won’t see any major changes in terms of story or character arcs.

“We find there’s already so much going on in this world,” he said. “The characters Mike and (co-creator Greg Daniels) created are so vivid, and have so many stories to tell, that it doesn’t necessitate changing anything.”

“King of the Hill” debuted in January 1997, immediately becoming a hit for the net as the first solid companion to the net’s other animated staple, “The Simpsons.”

Skein has remained on Sunday night for most of its run, save an ill-fated journey to Tuesday nights in the 1998-99 season. Skein marked its 150th episode last season.

Since moving last midseason to Sundays at 7:30 p.m., the show has ranked No. 1 in the slot among adults 18-49 and most male demos. Show’s May sweeps numbers were up 14% in adults 18-49 vs. May 2002.

“King” has also been a off-net syndie success story for the studio, and 20th Century Fox’s home entertainment unit recently released the show’s first season on DVD.

“As more and more people watch the show, it keeps you going,” Altschuler said. “What’s great is the critics have been kind, the audiences are growing, the show just feels like it’s got great momentum.”

Guest voices for “King of the Hill’s” upcoming eighth season include Kelly Clarkson, Gene Simmons, Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, Christina Applegate, Melissa Etheridge, Laura Dern, Jamie Kennedy and Sum 41.

Judge, Daniels, Altschuler and Krinsky exec produce, along with Michael Rotenberg and Howard Klein. Show’s a production from 20th, 3 Arts Entertainment, Film Roman, Deedle-Dee Prods. and Judgemental Films.

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