gratitude

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

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Gratitude for a Few of My Favorite Things

I recently read a book by a man chronicling his experience sending a thank you note to someone every day for a year — it was A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life, written by John Kralik and published by Hyperion in 2011.

John Kralik book

It’s an interesting read; if you want to check it out, click the image above, or here.

This book was still pretty fresh in my mind a few weeks ago when I had to deal with a company’s customer service division to resolve an issue for me.

I started thinking about how they’ll really only hear from people when there’s a problem.

Which is understandable, but having a lot of experience handling clients’ problems myself throughout the years, I know how it feels to not hear enough good feedback. When things are not ideal — you’ll hear it. But when they’re great?

Silence, usually.

At times it can be a little discouraging to only hear the negative side of things, despite everything you’re doing right. So in the spirit of that book, as well as the Thanksgiving season we’re in, lately I’ve been trying to contact companies whose products I love, to let them know they’re appreciated. I also want to help spread the word about them, since I think what they offer is so…well, cool!

I should add that I also do this with individuals, but in this post I’ll just cover a few businesses, primarily because I think they offer products you may enjoy as well or which may give you some gift ideas for the holidays this year!

And no, I am not being paid or compensated in any way for this; I know one or two of you are wondering about that. 🙂

So, here are 3 of my “favorite things” — to quote Oprah and the famous song from Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music — which I truly appreciate!

Wellspring

I love this company’s “Flip Note” line; I have so many of them that it could be considered an addiction a collection!

Wellspring argyle Flip Notes

Wellspring’s “Stacy Argyle Flip Note.” I love how cute AND practical these are!

These are so handy; while I know many people jot things down using their phones, you can’t deny the merits of old-fashioned pen and paper in a pinch, like when your phone battery is low for example. And these beat generic notepads, which usually get damaged pretty quickly in a purse or bag; Flip Notes, on the other hand, have metal cases that stay shut. That’s because each one comes with a pen (how convenient is that?) which is stored on the case itself (yet even more convenient); when you slide it into place, it locks the notepad shut. That way, you don’t have to worry about the pages getting ruined or torn.

The Flip Notes come in so many cute designs and options, like the “Stacy Argyle” one I have (pictured above); they also have a few options “for men” (which I found amusing).

A couple of times when I found myself in an unofficial meeting without my planner or laptop on me, I was able to use a Flip Notes pad and not worry that it looked unprofessional or that my notes would get lost or messed up, the way I’d feel with a loose sheet of paper or a notepad like this with no protective cover. Plus then I’d have had to look for a pen — but with Flip Notes? They’re small enough that I always have one in my bag, which means I always have pen and paper on me, and in good condition! (I feel like I’m reciting copy for a commercial. Oh well, I love these notepads and am not afraid to say it!)

You can easily find Wellspring Flip Notes, as well as additional pens and paper for them, on the Wellspring website or on Amazon; I use the latter option myself, since I do a lot of my shopping that way. (Amazon is another addiction habit of mine, but we won’t get into that right now.)

So, take a look at what they offer if you think these could be useful to you or anyone you know. I’ve given many as gifts and stocking-stuffers, and everyone seemed to truly like them. In fact, a couple of people I know carry theirs on a daily basis, like I do.

I should also point out that Wellspring offers many other unique products besides Flip Notes, like Auto Notes (which attach to your car’s visor), wall art and more. Although I’ve never personally used these, they look like good gift-giving options as well.

Peter Pauper Press

I am also obsessed with Peter Pauper Press’ line of journals. You can find these in many stores, and of course on their website above as well as on Amazon.

I still remember the first time I came across one of their journals. It was years ago, and I was browsing a bookstore — ah, the good old days, when bookstores were popular! — when I saw it.

It was a beautiful book that looked more like an ancient text one might see on display in a museum than something I could use to record my daily ramblings in.

I bought it instantly, without any of the usual “Hmm, should I?” debates in my head.

Here’s a picture of it from Amazon:

Peter Pauper Press Persian Splendor journal

But bear in mind that online photos of it do not do it justice at all; in person, the book looks so much more beautiful, down to the embossed detailing that isn’t easy to see in a photo. I found it so lovely and well-made, in fact, that — and this is somewhat embarrassing to admit — I didn’t feel I could sully it with my writing!

Yes, I’m aware I have a problem.

Some time later, I thought to look the journal up online and was thrilled to find it. I bought a second one, just so I wouldn’t feel so bad messing one of them up. That’s when I discovered all their other beautiful designs and products.

Today, I have quite a collection of them, and at least now I’m more willing to write in them since I know I can easily find them online again, in addition to a wide range of new designs they release on an ongoing basis. I really appreciate how varied their designs are, ranging from being inspired by 17th-century French book binding to 19th-century Japanese art. (And yes, I have purchased both of those; the first for a friend, the second for me — in case you were curious!)

Another benefit, I find, is that writing in such an aesthetically-pleasing book inspires me to be more creative and thoughtful about what I write in it. I’m much less likely to scrawl nonsense; it’s like the book’s quality helps me think quality thoughts, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, if you’re also into beautiful books and novelty items, or if you’re looking for some gift ideas for the holidays, I urge you to check out Peter Pauper Press’ products. They sell much more than journals, including planners, cute little books, unique bookmarks and more.

Sparkling ICE

OK, I swear I don’t only buy and consume notebooks of various types — although the writer in me does love writing supplies. 🙂

No, I am also a fan of Sparkling ICE, a line of zero-calorie, “naturally flavored sparkling mountain spring water” beverages that have added vitamins and antioxidants:

Sparkling ICE

These are great! I especially recommend these if ever you’re in the mood for a less-than-healthy soda; I have that tendency now and then but want to avoid soda. Luckily, I’m more than satisfied drinking these instead.

I must be honest about the fact that I haven’t tried all the various flavors they offer, so I can’t vouch for every single option; at first, I’d only tried their apple one, which was pretty good. One day, though, my store was out of apple, so I tried their pomegranate blueberry drink — and I was hooked. I’ve felt no need to explore further ever since. I love this flavor combination, representing a mix I won’t usually find and enjoy too often otherwise.

On a side note, while I do eat blueberries often, I rarely bother with pomegranates even though I know I should; the seeds are so good for you! Luckily, this drink contains real pomegranate juice, as opposed to artificial pomegranate flavoring like so many other products would do. A prime example that always bugs me are the pumpkin drinks out there, most of which have no real pumpkin in them. Why?!

If you’d like to try Sparkling ICE, you should be able to find it in your local supermarket or drugstore; if you need help, check out this link on the Sparkling ICE website for where to find it by you. Once you know which stores carry it, look for it in the bottled water aisle; at least that’s where I typically find it.

You can also order it online via Amazon; I recently ordered it from there myself when my local stores were out of the pomegranate flavor I must have to live prefer!

I feel good having told these companies how I feel about their products, as well as sharing these recommendations with you. I hope this post helps you find a nice treat for yourself or someone  else, and that it also helps these businesses; I get so disappointed when a product I love disappears, so here’s hoping these remain successful enough to stick around for a long time!