Why «King of Queens» is the best series of all time
Humour is a matter of taste. But when Doug Heffernan and Arthur Spooner are tearing each other apart at supper over the pronunciation of ketchup, there’s no two ways about it: this series is in a league of its own. Forget «The Office», «How I Met Your Mother», «Friends» and «Brooklyn Nine-Nine» – when they’re pitted against the series of all series in the world of comedy, they stand no chance. Let me tell you why «King of Queens» was, is and always will be better than all the other sitcoms out there.
The perfect take on your average American
What do you get when you take an XXXL New York Jets T-shirt and fill it with a huge portion of hot dogs, chicken wings and pizza? The average Yank from any English textbook. I’m guessing quite a few of the USA’s 328 million inhabitants will like me a bit less for saying that. But hey, it’s not my fault if it’s true. Overweight Doug is content to laze in front of the TV in just his shorts.
This extra portion of junk food is juxtaposed with a petite, slim and sexy brunette, who is a legal secretary seeking her fortune in trendy Manhattan. Motivated, hard-working and focussed, Carrie is always striving for more. She keeps things tidy, runs the house and deals with the finances. You’re made to feel sorry for the ambitious Carrie given that Doug thwarts her at every turn when she’s always trying to improve their lives.
As if one overgrown schoolkid in the house wasn’t enough, there’s also Arthur to contend with. Carrie’s dad, who accidentally set fire to his own home and so is garrisoned in the basement, is always finding new ways to try his daughter’s patience. It’s not as though he gets on well with Doug or that they’d even cooperate. Far from it. They take it in turns to drive the wary lady of the house nuts – and sometimes even make a concerted effort to annoy her.
But what’s so special or funny about it?
A cast that’s one of a kind
Pretty much everything is special and funny about it. Every single character. The personalities might seem exaggerated but they’re not.
Doug’s laziness alone, which constantly winds Carrie up, would be able to keep the series alive. I buy every single one of the guy’s lines and disdainful gestures. You just don't question it. And whenever I see Kevin James in a film, my mind automatically thinks of him in «King of Queens».
I’m convinced that Kevin James is acting when he’s being Kevin James. Doug Heffernan is obviously his true identity and Kevin James is purely an alias. Because for me, there’s no other actor who could have convinced me they were Doug. James doesn’t play a role; he lives it.
Thanks to Kevin James's perfect embodiment of Doug, Carrie is a sure-fire success. She’s the complete opposite of Doug so trouble is inevitable. The couple bicker more than I change my underpants. And yet, the friction doesn’t come across as staged. The gags are predictable but I still roll about laughing when I hear them for the 27th time. Why? Because in that moment, Doug is saying what 98% of viewers would. The rest either didn’t get the joke or can just get lost.
Doug would have earned his own TV show were it not for the fact Carrie goes with the programme like a side on a meat-laden meal. And Arthur makes the comedy barrel overflow. The old guy manages to give his daughter and son-in-law sleepless nights, and he also drives me round the bend. The way he manipulates Carrie to get what he wants is just outrageous. And Arthur Spooner acting as Doug’s ally to get Carrie’s attention is the cherry on top that the series didn’t even need.
Arthur and Carrie make sure that the viewers feel even more sorry for Doug. He embodies the hero that isn't really a hero but whom everyone wants to be.
It never gets old: clichés
It’s that very cliché that draws you in. Doug is an endearing, overweight employee who does an honest day’s work delivering parcels and who wouldn’t hurt a fly. It’s not just that I instantly had a soft spot for him; I often feel sorry for him. We have to protect this blundering guy at all costs.
The legal secretary, who commutes from Queens to Manhattan every day earns the cliché label as well. But Carrie is the one I struggle most to sympathise with. Her character seems too extreme and over the top. But her relationship with Doug lets you overlook that. She’s meant to kickstart the two lazy men into action – but the less she’s able to do that in the series, the less I find her convincing. And yet the sitcom needs her so that Doug can absorb himself in his role.
Last but not least, there’s Doug’s father-in-law in the basement. I say basement but it should actually have been Doug’s own man cave. The series bosses obviously didn’t have to give this section much thought. When a man’s only safe haven is taken away, there’s ten times as much potential for conflict. In another episode, Carrie’s old grouch of a dad manages to kill Doug’s enthusiasm for food. Although it's all quite predictable, it's still really funny. The stout postman falls into every stereotype trap but in his usual charming style so that even the critics don’t know what to say.
Unbeatable: the best «King of Queens» quotes
Individual episodes, dialogue and scenes might be entertaining but it’s the fine details that finish the viewers off. I’m not talking about Doug’s grimaces, Arthur’s temper tantrums or Carrie’s acts of desperation. I mean the phrases that will go down in history:
Doug: «Why fart and waste it, when you can burp and taste it?»
Doug: «Friends keep you away from TV.»
Doug: «Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.»
The reaction of Doug’s best friend Deacon is also worth mentioning: «Is there any good day to be your pants?»
Doug: «No longer being Mastercard's bitch? Priceless!»
Doug: «Salsa dancing? That's got 'split my pants' written all over it.»
Doug: «There's no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.»
Arthur: «Ah, Paris. I haven't been back there since we liberated her in '44. The City Of Lights knew peace once more. I also got the clap, but that's another story for another time.»
Arthur: «You rode the frog to the top, but lady luck can be a fickle whore.»
Carrie: «It's me. Listen, real quick, there's a pie in the fridge. It's for my book club, please don't touch it. Doug... please.»
Carrie: «Doug, Nobody's last name is penis.»
The king is dead. Long live «King of Queens»!
Why is «King of Queens» better than «The Office»? Steve Carell is fantastic but I don’t buy him as Michael Scott. It’s not that Carell does much wrong. But he can’t keep up with Doug. While I’m a big fan of «The Office», the series doesn’t come close to «King of Queens». When I switch channels and land on a «King of Queens» episode, it generally takes all but 20 seconds until I burst out laughing for the first time. The other advantage is I can jump into an episode and know exactly what’s going on and understand the references. That’s not the case with «The Office».
And what about «How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM)», you might ask. Barney Stinson started getting on my nerves by the second series. Even though many men like to identify with him, imitate his bro code and want their life to be like his. But he’s too far removed from reality. That’s why his lines rarely elicit more than a tired smile from me. It gets a bit tiring to see Ted try to win over Robin over the course of all the series – in fact, it had me bored after a few episodes.
«King of Queens» is also streets ahead of «Friends». Although I do like the six friends from Manhattan and occasionally treat myself to watching an episode, I can never truly warm to them. I certainly don’t get the same warmth and happiness as from «King of Queens». Once Joey has uttered «How you doin'» for the 500th time, even someone with my lowbrow taste struggles to find it funny. And similar to the romance story in HIMYM, the constant on-off between Ross and Rachel makes even the most optimistic individual have suicidal thoughts.
The series that comes closest to «King of Queens» is «Brooklyn Nine-Nine». As soon as Jake Peralta gets started, I crack up. When he goes round the houses with his useless partner Boyle, ignores Captain Holt’s instructions and even muscleman Terry has to watch on powerless to see how he messes up another opportunity… that’s when I roll about laughing.
However, I did find it hard to get into the series. It was only from about the fourth or fifth episode that I started to piece everything together. Whenever I skip an episode, I miss a lot. That’s a shame really because when it comes down to it, it’s the little details that make the big difference with «King of Queens». Even the latter’s pilot had me howling with laughter.
What next for «King of Queens» aficionados?
That’s all well and good but what are «King of Queens» fans supposed to do now? Avid followers of the sitcom have been waiting 12 years for a new series. But this is actually where the programme wins yet more Brownie points with me. I mean, obviously new episodes would be like Christmas or my birthday had come early but that’s not going to happen and I’m realistic about it. What I appreciate is that the comedy series is a classic and it managed to still be funny even after the 23rd time. I might know every scene, joke and location off by heart, but it’s all just as funny to me as the first time I heard it. And that’s despite the fact I sometimes take a trip down memory lane and chat about it with my two office partners in crime and walking «King of Queens» scripts Natalie and Severin.
«King of Queens» is a cult classic and there won’t ever be another series that can even come close to it.
An unnecessary comeback with «Kevin Can Wait»
But wait a minute. There was something else, wasn’t there? You're right. It was a dark day for all «King of Queens» fans when Kevin James decided to drum up some of his friends from the cast and put together a new series. American channel CBS aired the first episode of «Kevin Can Wait» in 2016, on my birthday, to make matters worse. As a Kevin James fan, that was something I couldn’t miss. Even though I couldn’t suppress a few laughs, I was devastated by the time it was 20 minutes in. James’s character lacks substance, personality and charm. The minor characters are awkward and the actors themselves don’t seem convinced by their own performance. It was a complete flop. Either way, the bosses – unfortunately I have to include Kevin James himself in this – didn’t quite grasp the title: yes, Kevin can indeed wait.
While my «King of Queens» heart wrenches, I ask myself… no, I’m asking you, Kevin James: why did you do that? That’s not you! That’s not your level of work at all – well, ignoring that complete drivel that you concocted with Adam Sandler that is. It’s a cheap imitation and something that’s way beneath you. And as if that wasn’t enough, you let your TV wife die so that Carrie gets a bit more screen time? Nope, Kevin, that’s not you at all. You don’t need to stoop to that level.
Because for me, there is only ever one Kevin James and that’s Douglas «Doug» Steven Heffernan.