The fact that an average comedy like “The King of Queens” is reaching the 200-episodes milestone serves as a testament both to the importance of solid characters in sustaining a sitcom and the dearth of durable half-hours over the show’s workmanlike run. On the home stretch of its ninth and final season, this genial series is seldom laugh-out-loud funny, but Kevin James and Leah Remini remain the most likable and real among TV’s trademark fat-guy-plus-hot-wife couplings.
There’s certainly nothing special about episode No. 200, with Doug (James) and Carrie (Remini) having a minor fit when they discover his friend and co-worker Deacon (Victor Williams) and wife Kelly (Merrin Dungey) have bought a vacation home. How can they have done that on a similar income, unless they’ve been squirreling away cash by letting Doug and Carrie pick up dinner checks?
The “B” plot is even less fresh, as Carrie’s dad Arthur (Jerry Stiller, who somehow appears to have grown younger over the nine years) endeavors to help the hapless Spence (Patton Oswalt) find a new job. This produces several cheap homoerotic gags, the less said about the better.
Like his pal Ray Romano, James is a talented stand-up with just enough acting chops to pull off his roly-poly, blue-collar character, the frequent butt (a la “The Honeymooners”) of weight and eating jokes. Still, having failed to keep up with the series regularly, it’s amazing how little has changed since the pilot, other than the ups and downs of the central couple’s physiques over that period.
“King” isn’t exactly sitcom royalty on the order of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but it has been a reliable component of CBS’ Monday lineup and returns there for its remaining seven episodes, an arc that will conclude during the May sweeps.
Take it as a sign of the times, then, that the exit of even a middling comedy with proven appeal is cause for lamentation, if only because that’s one less proven half-hour amid an audience-challenged roster of jesters struggling just to stay on the air, much less mount the ratings throne.