When it debuted nine years ago, critics dismissed The King of Queens as a lackluster entry in an old sitcom subgenre: the domestic farce about a schlubby guy and his tart-tongued knockout wife. The format was defined by The Honeymooners and King’s former CBS stablemate Everybody Loves Raymond. King, which signs off this week, was never as intense or cutting as those classics, but fans didn’t mind. With its quirky but harmless characters and its ancient setup/punch-line rhythms, King was as proudly downscale as its hero, working stiff Doug Heffernan (Kevin James)—a sitcom best enjoyed in stocking feet with a bowl of pretzels.
Monday’s wrap-up resolves some lingering subplots: Doug finds out that his wife, Carrie (Leah Remini), lied about getting rid of their New York apartment and feels so betrayed that he contemplates divorce and pickles himself in beer. Meanwhile, Carrie’s dad, Arthur (Jerry Stiller), plans to marry nightclub singer Ava St. Clair (Lainie Kazan) while Veronica (Stiller’s real-life wife, Anne Meara) looks on in wistful approval.
Although the finale genuflects toward melodrama, it mostly refuses to embrace it and instead piles up wacky grace notes: a drunk, pants-less Doug in the backseat of a wedding-bound car, discussing religion with a droll rabbi; Arthur recalling an unfortunate Halloween costume; Doug complimenting his best buddy, Spence (Patton Oswalt), as “one sweet little creepy dude.” King was never accorded royal respect, but it deserves some small tribute: It aimed to amuse, and it did. — Matt Zoller Seitz