Sitcom knows how to satisfy by being silly
DURING the past decade sitcoms have been fairly uniform. The guy is fat, inconsiderate and childish. The woman is hotter and long- suffering.
Worse, it’s a sitcom dynamic that has been around since 1955 when Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden regularly threatened his wife with domestic abuse for comic effect, and the set- up has rarely been funny since. Such shows feel like cookie- cutter sitcoms, relying on lazy stereotypes of the difference between the sexes, which is a topic that ranks right up there with aircraft food for welltrodden jokes.
The King of Queens was one of the first of the contemporary wave of this type of sitcom, but it has really grown on me. It didn’t seem that promising when it began in 1998 but, let’s face it, that was a decade in which Seinfeld and Friends set a high benchmark for television comedy.
Frankly, we didn’t know how good we had it, so we could afford to poohpooh a sitcom that didn’t match those lofty standards. During a sitcom drought — My Name is Earl and How I Met Your Mother may be excellent, but they’re basically the only first- run prime- time sitcoms to air during the ratings period — The King of Queens doesn’t look so bad.
In Australia the show has tended to be scheduled during the summer doldrums, but in the US it was one of the year’s higher rating sitcoms, even in its ninth and final season.
The show deals with Doug ( Kevin James), a delivery man, and his wife Carrie ( Leah Remini) who, as the title suggests, live in the New York City borough of Queens.
Early episodes dealt with the fact that Carrie’s eccentric father, played by Jerry Stiller, lived with the couple, but now he tends to waft briefly into the show, provide a gag and leave, which is just as well since in- laws may outrank even aircraft food in the comedy cliche chart.
There are two factors that really lift The King of Queens , both of which are in evidence in this episode. The first is that it is not afraid to be silly for a laugh, such as in Doug’s story- line, which deals with a war with a rival courier company and includes a parody of The Matrix in a pub brawl.
The other is that The King of Queens delivers a serve of I Love Lucy with The Honeymooners . Carrie can be just as nutty as Doug and doesn’t just nag from the sideline, such as in this episode where she mentors a troubled teenage girl and leads her astray. Remini pulls off the long- suffering and the misbehaving so well she rarely plays second fiddle to James.
Since Nine has about two weeks worth of episodes left and this show was the last remaining from the 1990s sitcom boom, it may be an idea to take your laughs when you can get them.
Low- rent rules: Leah Remini, Kevin James and Jerry Stiller