The longest running sitcom currently on network TV, The King of Queens, returns tonight with the first of its final seven episodes. The series is finishing its ninth year on television and is scheduled to say goodbye on Monday May 14, 2007 with a double episode.
The King of Queens centers around Queens, N.Y. blue-collar couple Doug and Carrie Heffernan who share their humble home with Carrie’s eccentric father, Arthur. Doug’s only refuge from Arthur is the bits of time he can spend alone with Carrie or with his TV sports-watching buddies Deacon, Spence and Danny. Queens stars Kevin James as well as Leah Remini, Gary Valentine, Patton Oswalt, Victor Williams and Jerry Stiller.
The Kevin James sitcom has long been a staple of CBS’ primetime schedule. Some viewers were dismayed to find it strangely missing from the Fall 2006 schedule but CBS maintained that the sitcom would return by early 2007. Fans were pleasantly surprised when the series returned earlier than expected on December 6th and began its ninth season. That joy was quickly tempered when loyal viewers realized that it would be a short season.
Queens has been on the air since September 21, 1998. The show’s popularity has waned in recent years and, as often happens, the cost to produce the show has risen. Kevin James reportedly got into a salary dispute in 2005 and CBS agreed to pay him an estimated $500,000 per episode for the 2005-2006 season. The network agreed to a ninth season, albeit a shorter one made up of only 13 episodes (versus the regular 22). Fans that knew of the situation were hopeful that an agreement would be reached to produce a full season if the ratings were strong enough.
Though Queens started the season with almost 10 million viewers, it apparently wasn’t enough for CBS to want to change its plans. In late 2006, CBS decided to break up the abbreviated Queens season — running six new episodes in December/January and then airing the final seven starting tonight — replacing the seven episode run of freshman series Rules of Engagement. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tasslet said at the time, “These scheduling moves enable us to program more original episodes of comedy in targeted time periods for the remainder of the season. It also provides an opportunity to give The King of Queens a proper send-off in a high profile time period in the Monday night block it helped build.”
Cast and crew alike are staying hush-hush on the story details but we do know that the final episodes will tie up a lot of storylines, give us some resolutions, and reference a lot of past events from the series’ 200+ episode history. Though there are a lot of heartaches and surprises ahead (as you can tell from the network promos), the series will conclude with a happy ending.
The final episode was taped on March 15, 2007 with many friends and family members in attendance, including Ray Romano and his wife. By all reports, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. At the following night’s wrap party, Williams shared, “Last night I felt the strongest sense of pride I’ve ever felt in my life. Nine years on a sitcom is such a tremendous accomplishment in such a difficult business. Everyone on the show has much to be proud of.”
Remini commented on how difficult it is to say farewell, “It’s really hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, you know, to say goodbye to some people that I’ve been working with for 9 years. It’s very hard.” No doubt loyal viewers can sympathize. Stay tuned!