Miércoles 16 de Mayo de 2007, Ip nº 191

Sitcoms take another hit
Por Roger Catlin

After nine seasons, "The King of Queens" ends its reign with tonight's episode. The longest-running current network sitcom, "King" is also the 12th longest-running sitcom in TV history.

It's one of only eight sitcoms of the 500 launched since 1990 to have reached the 200-episode mark, Variety has noted. Yet its demise comes without the hoopla, magazine covers and hourlong retrospectives that have accompanied final episodes of other long-running recent comedy series.

That seems to befit the modest blue-collar comedy starring Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller, about a package delivery man, his sassy wife and her loopy father.

The show never received much notice or critical acclaim as it went from year to year with its loyal fans. Yet its end represents another step in the extinction of a comedy genre that goes back to "The Honeymooners" and "The Flintstones."

All feature the affable, all-too-human and frequently overweight husband alongside the long-suffering and unaccountably beautiful wife as they face day-to-day domestic irritants.

In "King of Queens," they included his sometimes obsession with food, her penchant for shopping and the unexpected behavior of her father, who moved in with them.

Not so long ago, TV was pocked with these kinds of comedies, in which the hapless head of household was both cause and butt of most of the humor.

From a glut that included "Still Standing," "Yes, Dear" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," now only a few such shows remain. One will continue for sure: "The Simpsons." But others — "George Lopez," " 'Til Death" and "According to Jim" — their futures will be revealed this week, when the networks announce their fall schedules.

The end of "The King of Queens" is another step toward the end of another kind of network comedy — those that are simply presented in a studio before a live audience, where the resulting laughs (sometimes enhanced after the fact) are as much a part of the show as the multiple-camera setup, shooting the action as if it were a play.

Nowadays, comedies are much more sophisticated, without laugh tracks and shot like a movie or drama series. They're called single-camera comedies, though they certainly involve more than that.

The studio style of sitcoms continues most often on kids' channels, where the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon churn out inoffensive and cheap comedies that attune young people to the rhythms of studio-audience laughter.

But an attempt to update the form to accommodate adult humor was a huge flop on HBO with "Lucky Louie."

It's still a trying time for comedies on network TV, with just one sitcom represented in the top 30 most-watched shows so far this season (and "Two and a Half Men," at No. 19, barely cracks the top 20).

By this accounting, "The King of Queens" is the No. 3 comedy of the season, but by averaging 12.8 million viewers through its first few episodes — its 13-episode season didn't start until December — it lands just behind a similar show, " 'Til Death," which is the vehicle for Brad Garrett, costar of "Everybody Loves Raymond." The latter comedy also lasted nine seasons and helped introduce James to TV audiences.

James played a different character on "Raymond," however, so "King of Queens" is not strictly a spinoff, though Ray Romano has appeared on it as guest star, portraying his TV character Ray Barone. The two actors are friends who met on the stand-up circuit. Likewise, "King of Queens" has been generous in helping introduce others from the East Coast comedy circuit, such as Patton Oswalt and Gary Valentine.

Even so, "King of Queens" didn't rely on big guest stars or issues of social import to gain attention. Rather, it chugged along on its reliable and familiar-feeling comedy.

That's the way it was from the beginning, when it debuted Sept. 21, 1998, the same night as "Will & Grace," which ended its run with much more hubbub a year ago.

Fans may be consoled by the fact that, like "Raymond," with which it was long paired, "The King of Queens" won't be going away anytime soon.

James' character, Doug Heffernan, will continue his antics daily on hundreds of stations, because "The King of Queens" is the fourth-most-syndicated comedy in television, behind "The Simpsons," "Raymond" and "Seinfeld."

  14/05/2007. Los Angeles Times.