Though King of Queens justifiably gets lumped in with other "Ugly Guy, Hot Wife" sitcoms of the early '00s, like Still Standing, Yes, Dear, and The George Lopez Show, it had a better handle on how to twist classic sitcom premises than many of its schlubby contemporaries. An episode like the Season 5 standout "Flash Photography," where Doug uses a disposable camera to take a picture of his penis wearing a top hat and almost ends a friend's marriage, took the "wedding episode" to the type of dark place shows like You're the Worst or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia now specialize in. The show never announced itself as experimental or form-breaking -- and the braying laugh track might be a stylistic road block for younger viewers raised on single-camera shows -- but it was quietly, reliably funny.
So, if the show was well-liked, why doesn't The King of Queens have a cultural footprint online? Unlike Friends, Seinfeld, or even Fraiser, you won't find GIF-filled lists about "Why Doug and Carrie's Relationship Was Serious Relationship Goals" or thinkpieces about "How Deacon Subverted Deliveryman Stereotypes." Unlike other shows that have emerged as nostalgia touchstones for millennials, The King of Queens is not available on any of the popular streaming platforms. (Though most episodes are available on YouTube.) It never went off the rails to the point that people started writing articles about how crazy it was. No one is making a documentary about exporting it to other countries. The King of Queens sits in sitcom purgatory, totally forgotten despite its long-running status, decent reviews, and its star's continued success.
With the premiere of Kevin Can Wait tonight, are we headed for a widespread King of Queens re-appraisal? Are you ready for the Jamesaissance? Yes, that's unlikely to happen, though I have vague hopes for his new show, which was created by James, Queens writer Rock Reuben, and Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford, mostly due to a moment in the trailer for Kevin Can Wait that gets at the heart of what makes James an appealing comic actor. James receives a Gyro-Bowl as a retirement gift from his once again way more attractive wife (Childrens Hospital's Erinn Hayes), pours ketchup into it, and tests out the bowl by dancing around his kitchen, pretending he's in a fishing boat. It's not going to win any awards, but I laughed.
James excels at goofy yet graceful physical comedy. His little Gyro-Bowl shimmy is the same type of move that made his work as a shy accountant who learns to dance in Hitch so effective. It's why his old stand-up material, like his 2001 special Sweat the Small Stuff, generally holds up pretty well. It's why people still pause on King of Queens reruns in syndication. Though James has turned into something of a critical punching bag, we shouldn't totally give up on him yet.