King of the Hill is coming back to TV, thanks to a Hulu revival, with most of the original cast returning — but there’s one character who’s conspicuously missing.
Hank, Peggy, Bobby, Bill, Dale and Boomhauer will all be back and voiced by the same actors from the original 1997-2009 Fox run of the animated comedy. Hank’s niece Luanne is understandably absent, since Brittany Murphy tragically passed away in 2009. But Hank’s nemesis Kahn, the status-chasing Laotian dad who moved in next door, is nowhere to be found in the revival. And there’s an obvious reason why: Kahn was an Asian character, but he was voiced by a white actor, Toby Huss, during the show’s Fox run. (TVLine has reached out to Hulu to see if the role will be recast.)
Now a lot has changed since 2009: The Simpsons‘ Hank Azaria has famously stepped aside from voicing Indian immigrant Apu on that animated series after an uproar sparked by the Hari Kondabolu documentary The Problem With Apu, and several other white actors voicing Black animated characters have since been replaced by Black actors. It’s a long overdue shift for an industry that has too often marginalized people of color, but it does put the King of the Hill producers in something of a bind. They want to bring back as much of the original cast as possible, but Huss continuing to play Kahn, with his exaggerated accent and mangled English, simply would not fly today.
That doesn’t mean Kahn should be erased from the Arlen landscape entirely, though. The revival is bringing back Lauren Tom (an Asian American actress who also played Julie on Friends) as Kahn’s wife Minh and daughter Connie, but makes no mention of Kahn. So will the revival’s producers simply write Kahn out to save themselves the trouble? That’d be a shame, actually, because Kahn served as a great foil to Hank and his Texas buddies, offering a sharp and salty contrast to their yee-haw way of life. Kahn wasn’t just a broad stereotype, either: He was an ambitious career man who longed to be accepted into America’s upper crust, with relatable faults and fears. Voiced by the right Asian actor, Kahn could be a fantastic addition to the new King of the Hill.
We understand not bringing back Luanne, both to honor Murphy’s legacy and to acknowledge that no one could equal her pitch-perfect performance as the lovably ditzy blonde. But not bringing back Kahn — and trying to sweep the original series’ Apu-like problem under the rug — would be a mistake. Arlen just wouldn’t be the same without him.
Do you think Kahn should return for the King of the Hill revival? Sound off in the comments.