Until the series’ last shot, the outside of Doug and Carrie Heffernan’s modest brick Rego Park home remained unchanged — and our two characters were still at it on the inside — but the door will never open for us again. At least not until 5 p.m. on Wednesday. TBS presently airs syndication reruns of the sitcom, with back-to-back episodes covering the early evening hours. Every night, millions of Americans return home and, like Doug Heffernan (Kevin James), the sluggish IPS deliveryman with a gold beer belly, plonk down on the couch and laze out. I believe some candor is required here: I am one of them. And if I’m unsure about my qualifications to write a series finale wrap-up, it’s because I’ve never seen the prime-time version of “The King of Queens,” and I certainly haven’t been paying attention throughout this last season.
“The King of Queens,” in my experience, isn’t something you make time for; it finds you — on weekends or after a hard day slinging paper when you’re bored, worn out, or miserable. It’s dependable, and things in Queens, New York, don’t change much, for better or ill. Doug and Carrie just approach you, distract you with fat jokes and good old-fashioned marital arguing, hit you in the belly, groin, and offer you a beer.
So there you have it, my confession. I’m not sure who made the decision, but I get the impression that intellectual people aren’t meant to admire “The King of Queens.” (Perhaps they should stick to “Seinfeld” reruns?) That argument, however, has a weakness. The sneaky comic brilliance of “King of Queens” has been the way it subtly overlays a cookie-cutter sitcom structure with a whole ensemble of less-than-lovable characters and some truly dark humor from the beginning — that gut-punch before the warm beer.
The Series Finale of ‘King of Queens’ Has Been Ten Years, and We’re Still Not Over It
Its ostensibly harmless premise may have been inspired by golden-age classics like “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy,” but “King” shone brightest in its moments of aberrant conduct. There’s nothing remarkable about Doug being the immature and lazy one, and Carrie (played by Leah Remini) being the ambitious, upwardly mobile sophisticate: especially considering the fat sexy wife sitcom period during which “King” was developed. But the episode delivered a stunning curveball by revealing that, while being sluggish and full of blundering ideas, Doug was also incredibly patient. Carrie was an active person, but she was also self-centered and strident. Doug and Carrie were all wrong in exactly the correct ways, to put it frankly.
They never had any children. They lied, were irritated by their in-laws, and called each other derogatory names. (In fact, one of my favorite episodes, “Window Pain,” has Doug and Carrie overhearing a fight in which Carrie refers to Doug as an elephant and threatens to burn down the house.) Doug and Carrie were consistently just as horrible for nine seasons, no matter how petty, cheap, or dysfunctional you felt. They were terrible. And that was “normal” at the time. Talk about a heartwarming comedy!
Even the darkest comedy may succumb to the seduction of tidy ribbons and closure in the hazy dusk of its run. So when I saw the series’ last episode on Monday night, my greatest concern was that the immature Doug, greedy Carrie, and insane Arthur that I’d grown to know and love would be replaced with functioning cyborg selves who’d become teary-eyed and recite emotional speeches. Fortunately, that was just half of the story.
Some background information: The season’s closing episodes have focused on whether Doug and Carrie would finally leave Queens and make Carrie’s dream relocation to a Manhattan apartment a reality. A quarrel over that apartment leads to the implausible choice to stay in Queens and adopt a Chinese kid, despite Carrie’s desire to move to “the city” and Doug’s adamant desire to stay put. (If you believe that’s a far-fetched outcome, you’re correct.) (However, recall what I said about ribbons?) What about Carrie’s insane father, Arthur (played by a scenery-chewing Jerry Stiller), who resides in their basement? Of course, he’s marrying a Liza Minnelli-style lounge singer!
As a result, the last episode began with Doug and Carrie getting ready for Arthur’s wedding. The first surprise came quickly: Carrie kept her Manhattan apartment despite their reunion and her pledges to the contrary. Doug, naturally, perceives it as a betrayal, and after Carrie departs to assist her father with his preparations, Doug decides to confront her and seek a divorce. But first, he needs to remove his trousers and lounge around in his tuxedo and boxers while downing numerous six-packs. It’s amusing, believe it or not.
The rest of the story moves at a blazing pace. Arthur’s bride abandons him at the altar, but he chooses a new bride and marries her. Doug becomes even more inebriated and wrestles his friend Spence in the banquet hall’s alleyway. Then he gets even more inebriated and wrestles Holly, the dog walker they hired to look after Arthur. Isn’t it true that Holly is now heavily pregnant? Rabbi jokes, LGBT jokes, and racial jokes all exist. Carrie receives a text message from the adoption agency informing her that their baby, “Ming May Heffernan,” is ready for pick-up.
Doug confronts her about her lie and considers divorce when she goes to give him the good news. They have one more classic fight ahead of them. (Doug comments, “You want everything to go smoothly when you’re getting married”). Then, ten years later, you remark, “Well, he’s still overweight.” And she doesn’t seem to be becoming any kinder, does she? Until there are only the two of us left, obese, nasty, and naked.” Carrie: I’m Carrie, and I’m “Everything is forgiven by me. You’d better forgive me if I did this!
Then things become even worse. An immature quarrel over who gets Ming May, the baby they don’t even have and aren’t sure they want, leads to a mad dash to the airport for a ticket to China, and Doug and Carrie appear to be spitting and swinging.
However, this is not the case. No, not at all. The bones of “King of Queens” may be brittle, but the heart remains tender, so the show’s writers can’t help but provide some optimism and sweetness amid the bile in the closing 10 minutes. There are some touching, insightful speeches, as well as a surprising narrative twist (remember the old wives’ story about women getting pregnant as soon as they quit trying?).
The run ends with the sound of infants wailing, and while the wails aren’t Doug and Carrie’s, their expressions suggest that there will be plenty more humorous pain in their future. And what about those wet eyes? You must determine if they are a sign of affection or simply the sting of a sucker punch.
The closing scene showed a glimpse of the future.
Carrie and Doug are sitting in their living room with their two children a year later when Arthur walks in holding a bag. He returns to the basement after telling them that his marriage to Veronica “didn’t work out.”
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