sitcoms

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:

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Reruns, I Love You So! (Stream of Consciousness Saturday)

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Reruns are my guilty pleasure; almost an addiction of sorts.

I probably watch a lot more of them than I should; although to be fair, the word “watch” isn’t completely accurate since I tend to just leave these familiar, favorite shows on in the background as I do other things, especially tedious errands like sorting laundry, shredding papers…you name it, a loved rerun will always make the chore fly by, whether the show is being rebroadcast on TV or I’m playing a DVD. Plus since I’ve seen it before, I’m not likely to get so sucked in that I focus more on the show than on what I’m doing.

Usually the reruns I’m drawn to are from sitcoms; I rarely want to watch old dramas and mysteries again, even though I loved shows like 24 and Lost when they were on the air. For me, the main draw of those shows was the suspense, which doesn’t exist once you know how things turn out!

Nor do I usually rewatch movies, unless it’s Christmas and we’re talking about A Charlie Brown ChristmasElf or A Christmas Carol (the Alastair Sim version from 1951, of course; in my opinion, none other compares!). Perhaps because movies are longer and more involved; I’m more likely to get distracted (or on the flip side, bored) by them.

No, my favorites vary depending on my mood but usually include episodes from sitcoms like:

  • The King of Queens (my all-time favorite!)
  • Perfect Strangers (I never see this in reruns anymore on TV, but I have seasons 1 and 2 on DVD and am eagerly hoping for the rest to be released)
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (although I can’t stand the episodes after they switched the actress playing Aunt Vivian; Janet Hubert was the best)
  • The Honeymooners (none of my peers like this show, but I love it!)
  • I Love Lucy (I always find most of the jokes and plotlines to be very relatable and amusing even today, versus some other old shows that seem too dated to watch other than for nostalgia’s sake)
  • Frasier (I’ve seen all of the episodes thanks to Netflix, but still put on a rerun of it now and then when it airs on TV)
  • The Middle (yes, this is still on the air, but it’s also already in syndication too, and I love putting an episode on when I find one or remember to DVR it — and occasionally I catch one I hadn’t seen the first time around)
  • Keeping Up Appearances (this is a British sitcoms from the 90s; it’s a bit slapstick but I like the main character’s uptight ways and her forced attempts to move up in social status, failing each time)
  • As Time Goes By (another show from England; it starred Dame Judi Dench and featured a mature, understated form of comedy I like a lot)
  • Becker (rarely do I catch this on TV but I have it on DVD; it featured Ted Danson in an ornery role, playing a doctor from the Bronx)

This is by no means a complete list; I’m sure I’m missing another couple of shows. But this is a pretty good idea of the kind of reruns I love. I can’t give them up and can’t imagine not being able to re-enjoy them via reruns, DVRs and DVDs. I love the technology that makes this possible; without it, it’s quite possible I would never get anything done!

Note: This post was written as part of LindaGHill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday; this week’s prompt was the prefix re-. The word “reruns” popped into my mind and I ran with it — with a rerun on quietly in the background, of course (The King of Queens, if you were wondering)!