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Our reviews of The King Of Queens: The Complete First Season (published December 17th, 2003), The King Of Queens: The Complete Second Season (published August 4th, 2004), The King Of Queens: The Complete Third Season (published June 8th, 2005), The King Of Queens: The Complete Fourth Season (published August 31st, 2005), and The King Of Queens: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 11th, 2006) are also available.
The comedy that rules!
In a week in which Arrested Development—The Complete Third Season—otherwise known as the final season of what might be the finest half-hour television comedy ever produced—is being dumped onto DVD, it's difficult for me to talk about a show like The King of Queens. Don't get me wrong—it's not that King is an awful show. It isn't. It's actually the only of the few traditional three-camera sitcoms remaining that's still watchable (I declared these all but dead a few months back, and I stand by the claim). It's just that Arrested Development has become the standard by which I compare all other TV comedy, and it's untimely passing hurts even more when I see shows like Two and a Half Men and According to Jim still going strong. God is mocking me, and He/She is doing it Before A Live Studio Audience.
But enough about my pain. Let's talk about The King of Queens. With a show like this, the appeal is pretty much limited to your tolerance for the leading man. It just so happens that I find Kevin James to be funny and likeable, even when he's doing essentially another variation on the blue-collar-slob-with-a-hot-wife formula that has informed so many sitcoms in the last ten years. James elevates the role to an art form by making it completely believable—this is him, not some Belushi-like (Jim, not John) pose. It's also believable that his out-of-his-league wife, Carrie (Leah Remini, Old School), would be with him. It's not just a construct of the show. He makes her laugh, and as someone who speaks from experience, never underestimate the power of making the out-of-your-league girl laugh. It's a small detail, but one that this particular sitcom smartly gets right when most others don't. And while the show falls into the trap of making Carrie little more than no-nonsense and annoyed more often than not, it (again) occasionally distinguishes itself by allowing her to be the comic lead; she never has to be just the straight man. Or woman.
The 25 episodes that make up The King of Queens: The Complete Fifth Season are all included here, spread out over 3 discs. They are as follows:
Season Five of the series doesn't offer much that the previous seasons haven't covered. The writing has gotten sharper and the show has refined its voice, and the talented supporting cast (I'll watch anything with Patton Oswalt, and Nicole Sullivan plays cute/annoying better than most) continues to get more and more screen time. At the same time, a kind of laziness seems to have set in, especially in the season's second half—a going-nowhere plotline about Doug and Carrie's mold problem makes up one of the show's few multi-episode arcs (and provides one of the few instances where an episode assumes you've seen the others; typically, the shows are little self-contained 22-minute installments). It's too bad that much time and energy couldn't have been devoted to one of season's more inspired stories, like Patton Oswalt's burgeoning relationship with his female counterpart, played by Saturday Night Live's Rachel Dratch. The series really isn't interested in taking many chances or breaking any ground—even its own. It's just a pleasant diversion, one that's funny and sometimes sweet and reassuringly constant. It's never going to be a Great Show, but it is good at being what it is. That's more than can be said for most of what's on TV.
Sony releases The King of Queens—The Complete Fifth Season without much fanfare, just as they've released the four seasons prior to this. The episodes come in their original full frame broadcast format, generally looking at least as good (in the set I reviewed, one episode, "Driving Reign," had major transfer inconsistencies, but that seems to have been a fluke) if not better than their original airings. A standard stereo audio track delivers the dialogue and laugh track in a competent mix as well. There are, however, absolutely no extras; at a time when just about every TV box set comes with a couple of bonus features, this comes off as lazy. Not unforgivable, just lazy.
So, that's it for The King of Queens. If you've been collecting the seasons all along, there's no reason why you shouldn't pick up The Complete Fifth Season. If you haven't, I'm not sure that I would recommend starting with this season or even this show. There are far better shows still on the air, and certainly available on DVD. Some of them are even comedies. I mean, yes, this week marks the official end of Arrested Development, but it's also the week that The Office was awarded the Emmy for Best Comedy. There's hope for us yet.
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