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Fall '98: "King of Queens"

"King of Queens" is about a big lunk of a guy who drives a truck by day and trades loving barbs with his wife by night and how is world is turned upside down when both his father-in-law and his sister-in-law move in.

If you consider the premises for TV sitcoms to be like comestibles mass-produced to reach the widest possible audience -- and really, why shouldn't you? -- then the plotline for King of Queens is the TV equivalent of Velveeta.

It says something then, with material that familiar, that King of Queens if a fairly enjoyable little sitcom. Mostly, it's a testament to the talents of star Kevin James.

James is exceedingly likable. He can take bland material that we've seen a hundred times before and freshen it up a bit. He has a nice chemistry with co-star Leah Remini, who after enduring a career of creative train wrecks more horrible than the last -- Living Dolls, Man in the Family, Fired Up -- may have finally found a respectable gig to list on the ol' resume.

The cast is rounded out by Jerry Stiller -- who turned in some funny work as the father-in-law in the premiere episode -- and Lisa Rieffel as the sister-in-law. If King of Queens has a weak link, it's Rieffel, who takes a character that was grating to begin with and, through sheer force of personality, makes her exponentially more grating. The show would be improved dramatically if I flipped to TV Guide in a few weeks and found this entry for King of Queens: Doug's sister-in-law is run over by a truck.

Until then, King of Queens is worth at least a look. It's an agreeable enough show, punctuated by a genuinely funny moment or two. James, Remini and Stiller make for a pretty nice ensemble. And the show leads in nicely to the inestimably funny Everybody Loves Raymond.

Besides, a little Velveeta every now and again is good for the soul.


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