Plot: Doug Heffernan (Kevin James) has just come home from work to discover his wife Carrie (Leah Remini) has arranged to have a big screen television delivered. Doug knew it was en route, but was thrilled to find out it came a few days ahead of schedule. With the television in place, his basement is now the coolest place in town. Doug has taken an immense amount of care to make this his own little slice of paradise, a plan which has now come to fruition. Now he has a beautiful wife, some great friends, and the perfect place to unwind after work. In other words, Doug has reached the place where few married men even dream about. But as with all things, nothing lasts forever and soon enough, Doug’s paradise is threatened. Carrie’s father Arthur (Jerry Stiller) has just lost his latest wife. Soon after the funeral, he burns down his house with a faulty hot plate, leaving him out on the streets. Carrie considers a retirement home, but soon breaks down and asks Doug to let Arthur move in. Doug knows the only place for Arthur is the basement, which means his just finished paradise would be torn asunder. But he agrees to give up his perfect place in the world, to make his wife happy and give Arthur a place to reside. Can this oddball household work out, or has Doug sacrificed his nirvana in vain?
Entertainment Value: I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of most television sitcoms, but some do reel me in at times. In the case of The King of Queens, the light humor and over the top characters are fun in measured doses, but the real draw for me is the presence of Jerry Stiller. His role in the series is a supporting one, but is he around for every episode in the series and often has a side thread, so he gets a decent amount of screen time in most episodes. As a lot of the material here is the typical sitcom stuff, with mild relationship woes being a main focus, Stiller’s Arthur brings a much needed change of pace to Doug & Carrie’s arguments. Stiller really runs with the dialed up, sometimes even surreal nature of the character, which leads to some wild moments and hilarious exchanges. I think The King of Queens is a much stronger show when the secondary story belongs to Arthur, as he is such a fun character and Stiller’s performance is always an absolute blast. Kevin James would become a star from his work here and while basic, his comedic antics found an audience, while Leah Remini is quite good throughout the series as his loving, but acidic wife. Patton Oswalt and Victor Williams are recurring stars as Doug’s friends, while Lou Ferrigno makes regular appearances in some stretches, as himself. So while Stiller tends to steal the show here, I have to think sitcom fans will appreciate the entire ensemble.
The show might be a little wackier than some of its peers, but The King of Queens is at heart a traditional sitcom and for the most part, adheres to those conventions. As such, the stories are resolved in the nick of time, regardless of how ridiculous, and there’s little in terms of larger scope arcs. Even involved, outlandish narratives close out in the usual window, but there is some consistent character development and minor stories that bridge between episodes at times. But by and large, The King of Queens is episodic and you can drop in at any point and know what is going on, which is of course nice as a comfort, but limits the material. The writing is fine, but doesn’t often stand out as all that creative or memorable. The stories are often ones we have seen countless times on similar shows, but the cast is able to make them work well enough to pass. The show does go a little bananas at times and throw in an oddball story, which I think prove to be some of the most interesting. I also feel a number of Arthur’s threads are so over the top, that really helps break up the sitcom monotony, especially when Stiller is so committed to being outrageous in the role. So even if he simply wanders into the main narrative and drops some wild dialogue, it raises the ante a little. In the end, while this might be a typical sitcom in many ways, I think there’s enough wackiness and colorful moments to recommend it beyond the usual sitcom fans.
The Disc: Mill Creek has released The King of Queens on Blu-ray with all of the show’s episodes spread across 20 discs. The show looks fine here, though it doesn’t have the visual spark to really stand out that much. Some earlier episodes look soft, but most are passable and better than the DVD release, to be sure. I found colors to be natural and contrast to be accurate, while detail is decent, though it doesn’t pop with depth like some shows in high definition. The extras include all of the bonus elements from the previous releases, so we have a couple of audio commentary tracks, cast & crew interviews, a retrospective featurette, and a thank you to the show’s fans.