Johnny Hardwick, the actor and writer who brought Dale Gribble to life on King Of The Hill, passed away recently at age 64. Hardwick had voiced the conspiracy-theory-spouting neighbor for all 258 episodes. His trademark hat, sunglasses, and ideas about government overreach were a hallmark of the show. I have yelled, “Pocket sand,” to mimic his voice more times than I could count.
It wasn’t only Dale’s craziness that made him endearing. Ladled throughout the show are instances of Dale showing genuine kindness, humility, and love. Hardwick helped make him a three-dimensional character. The show exceeded at presenting characters who were more than just stereotypes, and Dale was a prime example of that.
For years after the show’s cancellation, people have wondered how the characters would react to modern developments. Earlier this year, it was confirmed that fans would be getting their wish. A reboot of King Of The Hill had begun production with the original cast set to return, aside from Brittany Murphy, who passed tragically after the show’s completion.
While it has yet to be confirmed or denied that Murphy’s character, Luanne Platter, would return on the show, the future of Dale Gribble is also uncertain. According to sources that spoke with TVLine.com, Hardwick had completed “a couple” episodes of the reboot. It is not known whether the show would recast the character or continue without him.
I was already hesitant to revisit Arlen, Texas, without Brittany Murphy. At a certain point, shows and movies should be allowed to end gracefully. While I’ll be happy to enjoy “a couple” more Johnny Hardwick performances, the pain of knowing for certain that it will be his last will be strong.