Fox scrambles for ‘King’ farewell

Episode order nearly prevents finale from airing

It was the “King of the Hill” series finale that almost wasn’t.

As it became apparent that Fox was ready to say goodbye to “King” — which had been canceled and revived at least twice before — the show’s producers prepped an episode that could double as a series farewell.

There was one problem: Fox had picked up only 13 episodes of “King’s” 13th (and final) season, yet 20th Century Fox TV had produced 17. That 17th episode wasn’t part of the Fox package — so when Fox recently announced “King of the Hill’s” series finale, to air Sunday, the episode it cited as a “finale” was actually just a run-of-the-mill seg with no obvious closure or finality.

The actual “King” goodbye appeared destined for syndication and DVD — until 20th stepped in and renegotiated its arrangement with Fox. Under the revised arrangement, Fox still wound up with 13 episodes — but traded out one of the segs it had planned to take and replaced it with “To Sirloin, With Love,” the actual “King of the Hill” finale.

Given “King’s” history of landing on the chopping block, “To Sirloin” isn’t a firm finale — in other words, Hank doesn’t dramatically get out of the propane business and Bobby doesn’t suddenly age up, get married and move out of Arlen.

But it is an episode that packs a lot of emotion and was written with closure in mind. And now that everything’s been squared away, viewers will now get to see the final episode as “King’s” producers had intended and get one last primetime dose of the second-longest running animated series in primetime history. (Half-hour will be paired with another firstrun episode, “The Boy Can’t Help It.”)

The remaining four unaired segs will eventually see the light of day via syndication.

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