Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of The King Of Queens

Whenever anyone mentions the funniest sitcoms in TV history, there's almost always one name forgotten on every list: "The King of Queens." It never had the mainstream popularity of "Friends" or the pomp and circumstance of "How I Met Your Mother," but it had something that most shows lack: lasting power. It ran for a total of nine seasons from 1998 to 2007, actually airing more episodes than the likes of "The Office" and "Seinfeld," which also ran for nine seasons.

"The King of Queens" also featured the trio to end all trios, as the combination of leads Kevin James, Leah Remini, and Jerry Stiller ensured the laugh tank never ran out of gas. That being said, it wasn't all giggles and guffaws when the cameras weren't rolling. From the castmates not getting along to an actor almost quitting the show altogether, there were many moments that were simply no laughing matter. So let's take a peek at the not-so-royal road to "The King of Queens."

The King of Queens universe

Before the Avengers joined forces to save New York City and brought several films' worth of continuity together, there was someone who'd created their own shared universe long before Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It was a delivery driver — an everyday working-class man — who made sure that everything was connected. That brave hero's name was Doug Heffernan.

While Doug might not have possessed an Infinity Gauntlet or a super-soldier serum (that we know of), he was the glue that ensured several sitcoms took place in the same continuity. It's no secret that "Everybody Loves Raymond" is a sister series to "The King of Queens," and Doug appeared on both shows; interestingly, Kevin James actually portrayed another character called Kevin in earlier seasons of Ray Romano's hit sitcom (via IMDb). That wasn't to be the only two shows that Doug would show up on, though, as he also made guest appearances on "Cosby" and "Becker." Can those coffee-sipping friends who were always stuck in second gear claim to have been as connected as this? Unlikely.

Kevin James felt he was the weakest actor on The King of Queens

Having begun his career on the stand-up comedy circuit, Kevin James followed in the footsteps of other famous comedians and joined the sitcom scene. Speaking to PhillyVoice, James revealed that he learnt a lot from watching his friend Ray Romano, who also transitioned from stand-up to TV. In a way James considered "Everybody Loves Raymond" as his own personal "school" for his eventual leading role.

That being said, James was under no illusions of his abilities as a thespian on "The King of Queens." "I was definitely the weak link for sure as far as acting was concerned on the show," James said in the same interview. "Leah [Remini] and Jerry [Stiller] had done a crazy amount of things. Leah had done so much stuff. It was my first gig." He added that he learnt the basics such as where he should be facing and his marks through his experience on the show.

Kevin James and Leah Remini fought behind the scenes

On "The King of Queens," Doug and Carrie would fight like cats and dogs. Almost every single episode would see them getting into some overblown argument before making peace with one another until the next escapade. After sharing so much time together as co-stars, it was bound to happen that Kevin James and Leah Remini's storyline bickering would boil over into the real world, as revealed by Remini to Oprah.

"I mean, listen, we had our ups and downs. Anybody who's together that amount of time is going to fight," Remini said. "There were times when Kevin and I would argue about something really stupid and we'd had to kiss, like, but we would make no eye contact. But I mean, that's because we loved each other. You know, if you don't care about somebody, you don't even bother to fight with them." While they might have argued like any other stars on set, the truth about their relationship is they're still close and worked together on another sitcom, "Kevin Can Wait."

The network didn't want Doug and Carrie to have kids

In the '90s, the average sitcom focused on the family unit and how the parents and their kids would get along. "The King of Queens" deviated from the norm here, leaving Doug and Carrie childless until the very end of the final season. While it should be no big deal, since there are many couples who cannot or prefer to not have children, it was a storyline decision made by the people who signed the checks: the network.

In an interview with The Futon Critic, David Bickel — an executive producer of the show — spilled the beans, admitting the network wasn't keen on the idea of Doug and Carrie having a baby. "I think that, one — the audience perceives it as a life raft, a power pill that we're going to take to try and get story ideas. You can't disagree with that," he said. "And two — I think they felt that if you have a big thing happen to the Heffernan family then it kind of like dates the old shows as 'pre-baby' and the new shows as 'post-baby' and it kind of hurts syndication a little bit." More importantly, Bickel added that everyone saw Jerry Stiller's Arthur as like the proverbial "baby" of the Heffernan household.

A different actor was cast as Arthur

Arthur Spooner was the MVP of "The King of Queens." Whether it was his hilarious argument with Doug about why he didn't want to play mini-golf with him or his endless shenanigans gone wrong, he played a crucial role in many of the show's funniest moments. A major reason for Arthur's popularity and success as a character was down to the late Jerry Stiller's phenomenal performances and expert comedic timing. Yet, there was somebody else who played the role before him.

The pilot for the show was actually shot with the late Jack Carter as Arthur, as Bickel explained to The Futon Critic; however, a change was made sooner afterwards. "I think they wanted Jerry to begin with but he wouldn't do it, couldn't do it, whatever it was," Bickel said. "So they went with Jack Carter. And then [later on] they realized they could get Jerry so they made that hard phone call to Jack." One can't help but feel for Carter here, since he was an talented comedian in his own right — though can anyone imagine anyone else but Stiller as Arthur?

Jerry Stiller nearly quit The King of Queens

Being an actor isn't all about fat paychecks and an adoring public. It also means being away from home for a considerable amount of time. Jerry Stiller wasn't a big fan of having to travel from his home in New York to California, where "The King of Queens" was being filmed. (And yes, it is rather amusing that a show about Queens was filmed in Los Angeles in the first place.)

At one point, Stiller threatened to quit the show unless the production was moved to his hometown. Executive producer Michael J. Weithorn told TV Guide: "He said the commute was killing him." To keep the actor happy, CBS decided to lend him a plane, because, of course, that's what Hollywood does. Good thing that he didn't live in New Zealand, right? Otherwise, there would be arguments over who would cover the astronomical fuel bill and hefty airport taxes.

Why The King of Queens was canceled

The cancelation of "The King of Queens" was surprising. Much like any other program, the viewership had dwindled over time; however, it still did better numbers than the average show on network television. According to TV Series Finale, the drop in viewers coupled with the rising costs of production and Kevin James' demand of $500,000 per episode resulted in CBS pulling the plug on the sitcom.

Rob Schiller, who directed many episodes of the show, told The Buffalo News that James' burgeoning movie career was also a major factor in its cancelation. "I don't think he can juggle both things anymore," Schiller said at the time. "We tried this year and did 13 episodes around his movie ['I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry']. Now he has more and more offers. If that Sandler movie blows up, he'll be just as busy. And it is where his heart and his creative mind are right now, and who can blame him?" TV can be gruelling and demanding for performers. If James was making bank starring alongside the likes of Adam Sandler, with a lighter schedule, it's only natural that he'd gravitate towards those types of projects.

The King of Queens revival?

The 21st century isn't only known for the advent of social media; it's also the era of the revival. Pick any show from the late '90s or early 2000s and chances are that it's been revived or there have been talks of it eventually happening. As it turns out, "The King of Queens" isn't exempt from this conversation, either.

During an interview with Access in 2020, Kevin James revealed that the sitcom does better nowadays than it did when it was originally on TV and a whole "new generation" of fans are discovering it exists. While many of the cast members did get together to do a table read reunion afterwards, there have only been Internet rumors about a potential revival, with no one from the cast and crew outright confirming it. However, James whipped social media into a frenzy when he responded to Leah Remini's birthday wishes on Instagram by saying: "Can't tell you how much I love you and I gotta feeling we will be seeing each other soon!" Could it mean what we all think it means? He's definitely not referring to a "Kevin Can Wait" continuation, that's for sure!

The network didn't interfere with the sitcom

Network interference is a common issue in television. In fact, rumor has it that studio execs' notes account for 90% of all Post-it Notes in the world (not really, but it sounds plausible, right?). For "The King of Queens," it appears as if the network decided to do something unprecedented and leave all the creative decisions to the actual creatives.

In an interview with CBS News, Kevin James attributed the lack of meddling as one of the likely reasons for the show's success. "It may have worked for us because people kinda left us alone," James said. "You know, when they tapped us on the shoulder and we looked up, it was nine years later." By avoiding the mainstream's bright spotlight and demands, "The King of Queens" successfully suffered less headaches and arguments with the suits in the long run. Who would have ever thought that would be the secret to creative nirvana?

Patton Oswalt's (out)standing prank

Considering everything that Patton Oswalt has done, it's easy to forget that his big breakthrough in acting was as Spence Olchin in "The King of Queens." Spence was essentially a prototype for what the characters of "The Big Bang Theory" would later become, even if he never received the same amount of credit for his geekiness. Oswalt, though, had a good time on set, and once pulled a prank for no other reason than the fact he could.

Posting on his Twitter account (via Mediate), Oswalt recalled a moment on set where he decided to stand still and entirely motionless for the opening scene of the Season 8 episode "Emotional Rollercoaster." Surprisingly, it made its way into the final cut and is still there for anyone who wants to view his outstanding impersonation of a statue. When asked by one of his followers if he was told to do it by anyone, Oswalt responded that he couldn't remember. Oh, how convenient! 

Tony Danza read Carrie's part

There's a perception that "The King of Queens" was the Doug show. While he was the central character, it's unlikely that he would have been as compelling without his wife and The Queen of Queens, Carrie, who brought a bit of fire and spice to the Heffernan household. Without a shadow of a doubt, Leah Remini was the perfect casting choice for the part of Carrie, but Kevin James actually did a table read with someone else before Remini accepted the role.

"We were looking for the female lead, the lead of the show, and we couldn't find anybody," James revealed to Today. "And I did a fake table read with Tony Danza." Taking into account Danza's experience with popular sitcoms such as "Who's the Boss?" and "The Tony Danza Show," James could have done a lot worse in picking a table read partner. Now, imagine if Danza had been cast as Carrie, though ... "Ay-oh! Oh-ay! Doug Heffernan!"

Leah Remini said Kevin James 'ruined' her

After starring together in "The King of Queens" for nine years, plus spending another year on "Kevin Can Wait," Leah Remini and Kevin James have been joined at the hip for the best part of a decade. Their legacies are so intertwined that it often becomes difficult to separate one from the other. More importantly, their pairing as the TV couple Doug and Carrie will forever be mentioned in the same breath as the greats like Ross and Rachel and Lucy and Ricky.

Remini revealed in her 2015 memoir, "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology," that James is a one-of-a-kind performer who "ruined" her for others. "He was my first leading man; and despite doing other shows with other leading men, I've never found anyone who could compare favorably to him," she wrote, adding that he was a "gracious" performer who would gladly give her jokes to use and wasn't fueled by his own ego. Judging by how Remini discusses "The King of Queens" experience, there's no denying that the show and James hold a special place in her heart.