Recognizing The King of Queens on its 20th Anniversary!

KoQ publicity photo from official website

The King of Queens starred (from right to left) Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller. It debuted in 1998 and ran for 9 seasons, ending in 2007.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the debut of TV show The King of Queens! It debuted on September 21st, 1998, according to the show’s IMDB page. As a big fan of the show, I just had to make note of it!

For those of you unfamiliar with the show’s basic premise, it focused on character Doug Heffernan, a driver for a delivery company called IPS, which is understood to be alluding to UPS. Doug lives in Queens, New York with his wife Carrie and her father Arthur.  They’re a working-class family reminiscent of a modern-day Honeymooners — except with a father-in-law always present.

I’ve always loved the show and have thought it didn’t get the kind of recognition and acclaim it deserved — and still deserves, in my opinion. I mean, it was popular enough, running for 9 seasons on network TV. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in best-shows lists and TV retrospectives the way shows like Seinfeld and Friends are. Yet I believe it’s right up there in terms of quality; in fact, I like it better than both of those shows.

The dialogue on the show was very realistic, the acting was very natural (especially after the show hit its stride towards the end of season one) and the premises were odd enough to be funny, yet normal enough so viewers could relate.

Take, for instance, this episode in which Doug and Carrie have finally paid off their credit card debt (image and text below courtesy of the show’s official Twitter account):

To celebrate this accomplishment, Doug and Carrie decide that each of them will indulge in a treat for themselves.

Soon after, Doug buys himself a whimsical item — a cheap harmonica. Carrie, on the other hand, comes home with a pricey leather jacket.

Doug flips out, saying their treats were supposed to be reasonable; purchases like hers will only get them back in the hole.

Carrie goes to return the jacket and then realizes she could have waited until the end of the return period, enjoying the jacket for as long as possible before returning it to get her money back — essentially “borrowing” it for free. This discovery leads her into a downward spiral in which she begins buying lots of designer clothing, wearing it, then returning it. It eventually gets out of hand, with her temporary clothing empire filling up an entire room of the house and necessitating the need for a complicated return schedule based on each store’s policies.

To me, that kind of plotline strikes the right balance between being amusingly unique, yet surprisingly understandable — it’s entertaining without requiring a major suspension of disbelief since it’s not too over-the-top.

Then there was the episode where Carrie’s out of town and Doug can’t sleep without her, which sounds sweet, but it turns out he’s not necessarily missing his wife being by his side in bed — he just needs somebody there to be able to sleep.

So what does he do? He manages to entice Carrie’s father to move upstairs to sleep in bed with him (sounds overly creepy if you haven’t seen the show, but it’s actually really funny in an absurd way — if anything, the underlying creepiness is what makes it amusing!):

What I liked most about that part of the episode, when they’re shown waking up together, is how they start laughing. It works for the scene, since it can come off like the characters are so happy with their odd, new arrangement, but I also think the actors were truly laughing during filming — it seemed like their natural reaction to the scene was coming out and wasn’t scripted. I love when real moments like that happen and aren’t cut out!

Another favorite episode of mine, and one which I think is great example of the show’s natural, relatable humor and plotlines, involves an episode called “The Hungry Man.” In this episode, Doug is getting ready to head out to work when his wife Carrie asks him to join her at a work dinner she’s just gotten a call about; the dinner is at her boss’ apartment that night.

At first Doug says no since he’s working a double shift at his job and won’t be off in time, but then decides to surprise her by skipping lunch and working through it in order to make it to the dinner. However, he hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast that morning, so by the time he gets to her event, he’s starved — only to find out it’s not a dinner after all. Turns out Carrie had found out that day at work it would just be drinks.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Doug asks her in frustration — and hunger.

“I didn’t know you were coming!” Carrie says, and rightly so.

I love this episode because you can see both sides of the situation, like how Carrie can’t be blamed for not telling him there was no dinner — last she knew, he had to work! Yet you can’t help feeling bad for Doug who was trying to do the right thing but is clearly suffering for it. Plus it’s a great representation of one of those days when everything goes wrong!

Here’s a photo from the episode which shows Doug rummaging through Carrie’s boss’ apartment looking for something, anything, to eat during the event — and having very little luck:

Ultimately, if you haven’t seen the show (and I’m always surprised by how many people have never watched it despite it having been on TV for so long in its original run and now in reruns), I recommend you see a few episodes in full to see what I mean about the fun dynamic between the actors and the realness of it all. I feel like the writing and acting didn’t try too hard for the laughs in a forced way, unlike so many other sitcoms that do. Instead, they were earned on the merits of the good writing and excellent delivery.

Also, the storylines weren’t based on lowest-common-denominator humor unlike many other recent shows like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men; I know those shows have been popular, so I apologize if I offend those of you who may have liked them, but they just never worked for me what with their sexist jokes and slimy characters.

Oh, and some random trivia:

The King of Queens featured actress Mary Lynn Rajskub in a minor part from a September 2002 episode in which she plays a woman working at Carrie’s office. Here’s a picture — which, incidentally, shows her perfecting the scowl face she became especially well-known for in her role as Chloe O’Brian on 24.

actress Mary Lynn Rajskub on The King of Queens Sept 2002

Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame also made a few appearances on The King of Queens, too. He played an annoying neighbor who lived next door to Doug and Carrie — here’s a photo from a May 2000 episode in which his character, Tim, attempted to sucker Doug into a pyramid scheme selling water filters and their licenses:

actor Bryan Cranston on The King of Queens May 2000

To find out when The King of Queens airs in syndication in your area, visit the show’s official website. You can also purchase the complete DVD or Blu-ray collection here.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this blog post 4 years ago, on the 16th anniversary of the show’s debut. I remember thinking at the time, hmm, is it weird to post this on a 16th anniversary as opposed to a more commonly-celebrated milestone like 10 or 20 years? But because I love the show so much and was inspired to write about it then, I went with it. Now, though, I decided to re-blog the post and have it reflect that we’ve hit that 20th anniversary mark! I still love this show and maintain that although it was popular, it’s underrated and didn’t get the attention I feel it deserved and deserves. Long live the King (and Queen) of Queens:

The-King-of-Queens-the-king-of-queens-34375480-1200-775

Advertisements

One-Liner Wednesday: “I Know It’s Been a Long Time Comin’…”

nf-badge-1linerweds-2017

“I know it’s been a long time comin’…”

Steve Perry

Steve Perry, former leader singer of Journey and THE greatest male singer of all time if you ask me, posted this statement on his new social media accounts and website earlier this week, seemingly alluding to a new album on the way. Well, today his accounts confirm that he does have a new album coming out! It’s named Traces and is scheduled to be released on October 5, 2018. This is really exciting since it’s been 24 years since his last album, For the Love of Strange Medicine, came out in 1994. His music has meant so much to my family and me, so I love this news and chose to quote his hint for my one-liner Wednesday entry for this week! I also wanted to spread the word to those of you who are also fans of his but may not have heard about this yet!

One-Liner Wednesday

“Yell ape for next stop.”

–Sign seen on a New York City bus back in the 90s; it had been altered from its original wording, “Press yellow tape for next stop.” This has always amused me and my only regret is that I saw this before we all had phones with cameras in our pockets! At least I have the memory, though, and I wanted to share it with you…Just try to avoid laughing about it to yourself if it comes to mind next time you’re on a bus, as has happened with me. People will assume things…

This post was created as part of LindaGHill’s One-Liner Wednesday weekly writing prompt. Check it out and consider joining in!

1linerwed

 

One-Liner Wednesday: Planning

“Many people spend more time planning a two week vacation than they do planning their life.”

–Zig Ziglar

nf-badge-1linerweds-2017

 Note: This post was created as part of Linda G. Hill’s “One-Liner Wednesday” blog prompt — check it out for some fun and inspiring entries each week!

 

Stream of Consciousness Saturday — His, Her and the Grammar Police

socs-badge-2017-18-e1503097084778

I’m always on the fence when people alter words to make a point, like using “herstory” instead of “history,” or “shero” instead of “hero” or even “heroine.” And I feel kind of guilty about that, particularly as a woman, because I definitely understand why people do this and I agree with the sentiment. Of course perspectives on current events, our society and how it’s evolved should include women’s experiences and perspectives.

My issue is with misusing words and grammar. It’s my understanding that these words didn’t actually evolve from a combination of the male pronoun “his” and words like “story.” So while changing it to be female-oriented is catchy, it bothers me since I’d bet it does confuse some people as to the true origins of the word that’s being modified.

Put another way, I guess you could say it bothers me because, at times, I can be the grammar police. Yes, I confess! It’s funny, because I make typos in text messages to friends which doesn’t really bother me, and I don’t mind when others make mistakes in writing. It happens. My pet peeve is with purposefully changing/creating terms without a true grammatical basis.

Although, I do have one other major pet peeve grammatically — when people can’t get “their,” “there” and “they’re” straight. That’s one mistake that really irks me and I’m surprised to see it happening more and more, even from mature adults and professionals. I think partly this may be due to people using dictation software to text or send brief emails using their smartphones. Usually the software gets things right, but words which sound the same verbally can sometimes be interchanged. I know that’s how it’s happened to me. And while my typos in casual communication don’t usually bother me, I really hate it when this one happens. First of all, it’s frustrating because I swear my phone often auto-corrects a message even after I’ve scanned it before sending; it doesn’t help that my phone lags frequently. Other times I may miss what my dictation software has transcribed if I’m in a rush. (And for the record, I use dictation because I find it convenient, plus my phone isn’t too accurate if I text by hand. I don’t have an iPhone and my input capabilities don’t seem too good; I once had an iPhone provided by an employer and found it was much more sensitive and accurate.) But primarily, I never want anyone to think I don’t know the difference between those basic words, especially since I’m also a freelance writer! How would that look? So when that mistake happens, I right away correct it in a follow-up message!

Anyway, I digress. Back to words that just happen to start with “his” or “he” and then are changed to start with “her” or “she.” I don’t like it. But I get why people do it. I might like it a bit more if people would include some kind of disclaimer when they do this, but I know that’s asking for too much. Some would say I’m missing the point and overthinking this. I actually don’t disagree, but I can’t help it.

Note: This post was created as part of this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog event which is run by writer Linda G Hill. Take a look at the link above to read some interesting uses of the prompt — this week it was “his/her(s)” — and consider joining in!

God’s Hidden Treasures: What the Appendix, Black Holes and Trees Have in Common

Scientific discoveries are gifts from God, to inspire and encourage us.

Despite my Christian faith, I’ve often found myself questioning what God’s plan is for me during the difficult times of my life. Although I’m comforted when I read about His wonders in the Bible, I have to admit I haven’t always been able to apply that knowledge to my own life. That’s why, during a particularly tough season in the past couple of years, I was especially moved by a few recent scientific discoveries that showed me that God’s purposes, in everything from our bodies to our world and beyond, aren’t always immediately visible from a human perspective—reminding me that the same can be said for the circumstances of our personal lives as well.

The—Useless?—Appendix

Take, for instance, the fact that the appendix has been considered an unnecessary organ. Experts theorized that while the appendix may have once served a purpose, it seems that it no longer does.

Until now. In April 2017, new research from Midwestern University suggested that the appendix is not the “vestigial organ with little known purpose” it was once thought to be. Rather, researchers say it may have the “important purpose” of serving “as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria.”

Considering that “good” bacteria in our gastrointestinal systems have been shown to positively affect virtually every part of our bodies, including our immune systems, brain function, weight, and energy and nutrition, it’s clear that the appendix could be playing a surprisingly significant role in our health.

This finding proves that just because we can’t figure out a reason for something, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one! God makes no mistakes.

Black Holes: Consumers and Creators

I felt similarly moved by the latest findings about black holes in space.

I was passionate about astronomy growing up, and to this day I still have a particular fascination with black holes. Having been taught that they were areas of intense gravity into which nearby matter is absorbed with no chance of escape, black holes always intrigued me—was there any purpose to these dangerous, mysterious regions? Or were they at most a cosmic cleansing system of sorts?

Well, reported evidence from March 2017 shows that black holes are much more than that. Black holes have not only been observed to consume and destroy matter such as stars, but to create new stars as well.

ESO-stars forming

According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), black holes “expel gases in powerful winds” containing “colossal flows of material” in which “newborn stars” were recently spotted.

A March 2017 Voice of America report described the essence of this star-creating process. It stated that as a black hole attracts and consumes matter, some matter remains immediately outside the swirling opening of the black hole. When cosmic winds then blow out of the black hole, it is this matter combining with hot gases from the consumption process which forms the new stars. The winds are so powerful that they can propel these new stars to great distances, even outside a galaxy.

The full ESO report, which was published in the journal Nature on April 13, 2017, stated that this breakthrough could also explain how some galaxies get their unique shapes.

Before this discovery, observing how these powerful winds blow had been a noteworthy finding in and of itself. In 2015, NASA had reported that these winds “blow outward in all directions,” and were “a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.” At that time, however, the winds were thought to have inhibiting effects on the growth of new stars within galaxies since they resulted in decreasing a galaxy’s mass and gas supply, both of which are necessary factors in star formation.

The ESO’s news a couple of years later, then, has provided a new perspective on these winds and how they actually contribute to black holes’ creation of stars using nearby matter.

It also shows us firsthand why God tells us repeatedly in Scripture not to be afraid—because new creations can be birthed in even the darkest of places!

Trees Can “Talk”

There have been recent surprising discoveries right here on our own planet, too. A tree is a perfect example.

As a child, I used to talk to the tree outside my bedroom window. Being young and naïve, I assumed it could process communication since it was a living thing just like me. It never struck me as odd to do this—until people started saying it was.

As it turns out, trees really can communicate, albeit not with words like we do. While browsing a bookstore recently, I was pleased to come across the September 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. In it, author and forester Peter Wohlleben writes that trees communicate in a number of ways and situations. One method involves the emission of a “warning gas” when a tree is experiencing pain or a hazard, like when a giraffe is feeding on its leaves. During this process, the tree also emits toxins to create a bitter taste and drive away its predator. Nearby trees then begin producing the same gases and toxins in response to the warning scent. As a result, grazing animals have been witnessed to stop eating, move on and then walk past the surrounding trees without even stopping to taste them due to their unpleasant odors. The injured tree has effectively warded off its predator and communicated its distress to its neighbors—and they were able to understand and respond to the message!

Hidden Life of Trees

In this book as well as in a September 2016 interview with The Guardian, Wohlleben said that trees also release chemicals and electrical impulses via their underground fungal root systems to communicate across longer distances, since scents can only travel so far; he cleverly refers to this network as the “wood wide web.”

In the June 2016 TED Talk How Trees Talk to Each Other, forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard also discussed this “massive belowground communications network” within a forest. Through experiments she conducted measuring the transfer of nutrients such as carbon between trees, she discovered trees engaged “in a lively two-way conversation.” Simard states that she knew this finding would “change the way we look at how trees interact in forests.”

TED talk on trees

Even more interestingly, both Simard and Wohlleben state that tree interactions vary, similar to how human ones do. For instance, Wohlleben states that trees will often help fortify weak trees and nurture specific “most beloved child” saplings. Wohlleben explains in The Guardian that this is possible because “trees may recognize with their roots who are their friends, who are their families, where their kids are.”

In her TED Talk, Suzanne Simard described these special bonds between trees. “We found that mother trees will send their excess carbon…to the understory seedlings, and we’ve associated this with increased seedling survival by four times.”

Simard also confirmed that trees go out of their way to help their own “children.” In an experiment conducted on Douglas firs in which “mother trees” were grown using “kin and stranger’s seedlings,” she determined that the mother trees did recognize their own seedlings as demonstrated by sharing more nutrients such as carbon with them as well as sending them defense signals, all of which “increased the resistance of those seedlings to future stresses.” In fact, “they even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids,” Simard said. Even more surprisingly, Simard stated that “when mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings.”

Since trees use not only their root cells but also fungal cells, they are able to transmit a great deal of information and resources. “It turns out they were conversing not only in the language of carbon but also nitrogen and phosphorous and water and defense signals and allele chemicals and hormones—information,” Simard said.

Ultimately, not only do trees interact, but they decide how and when to do so. As Wohlleben told The Guardian, “We think about plants being robotic, following a genetic code. Plants and trees always have a choice about what to do.”

My tree-loving inner child felt vindicated after learning that trees do interact! Beyond that, though, I was awed by the unseen richness of life around us. Reading about the hidden communication of trees brought to mind what Romans 1:20 says about God’s “invisible attributes” being evident “ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (ESV). It really should be no surprise, then, that there’s much more to His creation than meets the eye.

The same can be said for our own existence. If God has given trees such rich inner lives, we can be sure that much more is going on behind the scenes in our own lives, even when we can’t perceive it.

Science: The Perfect Gift

There are countless Bible verses that speak about God’s wisdom. Isaiah 55: 8-9 is a favorite of mine: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

Despite what we know from His Word, however, I feel God continues to gift us with scientific discoveries like these so we can see His higher ways in action for ourselves. He wants us to see that everything has a purpose and a function, no matter how impossible, confusing or scary surrounding circumstances may seem. He knows that as humans we have weak moments, so concrete reminders of His wisdom can refresh us in our faith and uplift us during trials. I know this has been the case with me, and I’m deeply grateful for it.

I also think he hides these treasures so that we can share in His joy over His creation each time we unearth a rare find, similar to receiving a gift-wrapped present: part of the fun lies in opening a gift and finding the surprise yourself.

In fact, I suspect that if we could somehow have all of this knowledge already, many of us wouldn’t appreciate His wisdom and all He has done in quite the same way. When you work for something, it means that much more, and you’re less likely to take it for granted.

Ultimately, as we learn more about God through science, we’re better able to celebrate all He has done in and around us and to trust in His higher purposes, no matter what we’re facing.