The King of Queens - The Complete First Season
In the sitcom The King of Queens
, comedian Kevin James has created a new archetype: the sensitive lug. This deceptively simple comedy bounces along because delivery man Doug Heffernen (James), though completely a guy's guy, constantly struggles to keep the world around him in a delicate emotional balance. Meanwhile, his wife Carrie (Leah Remini), though utterly feminine (and one of the sexiest women on television), uses the kind of no-nonsense rational approach that's usually a man's province. Add to this mix Carrie's father Arthur (Jerry Stiller), whose life as a fussy, self-absorbed retiree makes him more like their child than an adult, and you've got the building blocks for an excellent and durable show.
The first season of The King of Queens
quickly found its voice with stories firmly rooted in the everyday world, rarely spinning off into absurdity--and why should it, when there's such a wealth of humor to be found in petty neuroses (when Doug gets assigned an attractive young woman as a trainee at work, he gets hurt when Carrie isn't remotely jealous), ill-advised scheming (to weasel out of a traffic ticket, Carrie agrees to go out on a date with the cop who pulled her over), and juggling obligations to friends and family (just about every episode). Brilliant comic bits abound; one classic moment features Doug and Carrie having a furious argument in absolute silence at a cello concert--a scene that fuses deft physicality, well-developed characters, and sheer silliness. The King of Queens
is a delight. --Bret Fetzer The King of Queens - The Complete Second Season
Like its characters, The King of Queens
is a unpretentious but utterly dependable sitcom. Kevin James and Leah Remini, as blue-collar couple Doug and Carrie Heffernan, have the kind of chemistry that every sitcom craves (but far too few have). Layered on top of this solid foundation are the bizarre flights of Jerry Stiller as Arthur, Carrie's loud, paranoid, and combustible father. The second season has no overarching plotlines or recurring themes; it's just a compilation of excellent material, including Doug's ego inflating when a waitress flirts with him; Doug and Carrie squirming when their best friends ask them to be godparents; Doug discovering that Carrie compulsively cheats at games; and a flashback to when they first met. It's the attention to emotional detail that makes the show fly; James and Remini take the most mundane material--say, an argument over where to go for a vacation or how their marriage lacks romance--and turn the many ways in which couples cope into a pugnacious duet. Their sparring not only is funny, but consistently rings true as irrational but oh-so-common human behavior. The show pulls you in all the more because the Heffernans make up just as often as they fight, demonstrating one of the most functional marriages on television. It's meat-and-potatoes comedy, but sometimes nothing else will hit the spot. --Bret Fetzer The King of Queens: The Complete Third Season
The third season of The King of Queens
upholds the quality of the first two: Smart but unpretentious comedy based firmly in the daily lives of blue-collar couple Doug and Carrie Heffernan (Kevin James and Leah Remini) as they cope with their jobs, their friends, and sharing their home with Carrie's eccentric, obsessive father Arthur (Jerry Stiller). While dozens of mediocre sitcoms are built around fat guys implausibly married to sexy women, James and Remini have such chemistry and their characters are so well-crafted and complex that their marriage seems not only convenient for sitcom purposes but downright meant to be.
The show only goes astray when it goes for a gimmick. In one episode, Doug dreams of himself as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners
; while it's understandable for James to tip his hat to one of his idols, this belabored concept sucked all the humor out of the show. But when The King of Queens
sticks to small, mundane troubles, the results are unfailingly delightful. For example, Doug becomes self-conscious about his weight when he discovers that Carrie buys his clothes at the Big & Tall Shop; Carrie is excited to go to lunch with some of the women lawyers at her firm, then humiliated when it turns out they didn't know she's a secretary; or Carrie admits she finds Doug's best friend Deacon (Victor Williams) hot. These events launch some wonderful farce, all the funnier because anyone can identify with the characters' insecurity and jealousy. This firm psychological grounding lets the series keep its footing as it dips into some deeper emotions, like the break-up of Deacon's marriage or an unexpected pregnancy. Because James and Remini keep their characters truthful in their most ridiculous moments, they keep us engaged and even moved as they enter what could be maudlin territory--plus, the writers never lose the opportunity for a sharp but telling joke along the way. The King of Queens
makes sitcoms look easy, but the show's skillful balance of an ordinary world and fine-tuned humor is anything but. --Bret Fetzer The King of Queens - The Complete Fourth Season
The fourth season of The King of Queens
opens with a perfect example of how the show spins real life into farce: Delivery guy Doug and his sardonic wife Carrie (Kevin James and Leah Remini) want to get pregnant, but can't get Carrie's cantankerous father Arthur (Jerry Stiller) out of the house; the only solution their budget will allow is hiring a dog-walker named Holly (Nicole Sullivan) to take Arthur to the park. A more banal sitcom would conclude with Arthur's rage when he discovers the truth, but The King of Queens
finds a grace note with Arthur and Holly beginning a genuine friendship. Which is not to say that The King of Queens
goes for easy sentiment; some of the fourth season's best moments walk a distinctly unsentimental line. When Arthur goes into the hospital for a heart problem, Carrie discovers that he hid a college acceptance letter from her in order to keep her at home. While Arthur lies unconscious, Carrie wrestles with anger and grief--and, thanks to smart writing and Remini's deft performance, it's almost uncomfortably funny.
James, Remini, and Stiller form the sitcom equivalent of a rock'n'roll power trio--it's astonishing that so much comedy can come out of just three people. The King of Queens
has solid supporting players (and, towards the end of this season, succumbs to the questionable trend of casting celebrity guest stars), but the skillful interplay between Doug, Carrie, and Arthur drives the vast majority of the show's stories. The fourth season has a handful of episodes that wallow in typical sitcom schtick, but it's impressive how many more episodes remain fresh, lively, and true to these vivid characters. Even an episode that flashes back to Doug and Carrie's wedding--a premise that usually guarantees a saccharine kiss of death--finds a balance of tartness and genuine warmth. Satisfying and well-crafted. --Bret Fetzer The King of Queens: The Complete Ninth Season
The final season of The King of Queens
sends this under-appreciated sitcom out with a bang. The season begins with several strong stand-alone episodes, including ones in which Doug (Kevin James) uses a tax refund to buy an ice cream truck; Carrie (Leah Remini) suspects that their best friends have managed to buy a vacation home by sponging off of her and Doug; Doug, after rescuing a chicken from being killed, becomes a vegetarian; Arthur (Jerry Stiller), eternally resplendent in argyle sweaters, asks Doug and Carrie for the money to get braces; and Adam Sandler (Punch Drunk Love
) plays a high school friend of Doug's with a lot of repressed anger. But the season crescendos in a three-episode story that begins with Arthur preparing to get married again while Doug and Carrie's marriage crumbles when Carrie wants to move to an apartment in Manhattan. From there, the Heffernans' worst impulses run comically amok, demonstrating this show's long-standing strengths: The cheerful exploitation of all the character's bad behavior, be it Doug's selfishness, Carrie's envy, or Arthur's raging egomania; snowballing storylines that routinely end in entertaining disaster and humiliation; and the skillfully-honed interplay of the three leads. The supporting cast--including Doug's best friend Deacon (Victor Williams), the emotionally enmeshed roommates Spence (Patton Oswalt) and Danny (Gary Valentine), and needy dog-walker Holly (Nicole Sullivan)--all have their moments, but James, Remini, and Stiller are the show's engine, and it runs like a Maserati. --Bret Fetzer