10 Fun Facts About The King of Queens

CBS
CBS

From September 21, 1998 to May 14, 2007, Kevin James played Everyman Doug Heffernan, an International Parcel Service (IPS) delivery driver living in, you guessed it, Queens, New York. For nine seasons, the CBS sitcom was a hit, especially because of Doug’s bickering dynamics with wife Carrie (Leah Remini), his cousin Danny (played by James’s older brother, Gary Valentine), and his live-in father-in-law, Arthur Spooner (Jerry Stiller).

In 1996, Kevin James made his first appearance on Everybody Loves Raymond as a character named Kevin. "When I created The King of Queens in 1997, it wasn’t even for CBS, it was for NBC," co-creator Michael J. Weithorn tells Mental Floss. "David Litt and I created the character of Doug for that pilot. NBC passed on the pilot, then CBS picked it up." A couple of months after The King of Queens debuted, James reappeared on Raymond, this time as Doug Heffernan. And, in a bit of symmetry, between 1998 and 2005 Ray Romano played Ray Barone on four episodes of The King of Queens. For the 10th anniversary of the show’s finale, here are 10 fun facts about the sitcom.

1. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT DOUG AND CARRIE TO HAVE KIDS.

    David Bickel, one of the show’s executive producers, told Futon Critic that Sony didn’t like the idea of them having kids. “The studio felt that if you have a big thing happen to the Heffernan family then it kind of dates the old shows as 'pre-baby' and the new shows as 'post-baby' and it kind of hurts syndication a little bit,” he said. “And for us, the thing was always Jerry Stiller is the baby.” During the series finale, Doug and Carrie finally have kids—they fly to China to adopt a girl, and then Carrie finds out she’s pregnant.

    2. PATTON OSWALT STOOD MOTIONLESS ONSCREEN FOR ALMOST THREE MINUTES.

      During the almost three-minute opening of the April 10, 2006, episode, Patton Oswalt’s character, Spence Olchin, can be seen standing motionless in the Heffernans’ living room while everyone else moves around, talks, and celebrates Doug’s 40th birthday. Spence neither moves nor speaks for the duration of the sequence, even when the camera cuts back and forth from the living room to the kitchen. In 2011 Oswalt explained the reason for his bizarre behavior to Jimmy Fallon: “I’ve never worked with a stonier crew than The King of Queens’ writers and producers,” he said. Apparently the writers asked him to stand there just to see how weird it’d look, and to see if anybody would notice.

      3. VICTOR WILLIAMS THINKS PEOPLE LIKED THE SHOW’S “SIMPLICITY.”

        Victor Williams played Doug’s co-worker and friend Deacon Palmer. “It’s the simplicity of regular folks that people respond to—and in such an overwhelming way, it was kind of surprising to me initially,” Williams told Today in 2007. “But then it made sense. There’s a sort of honesty in that simplicity that I’ve really enjoyed and I’m really going to miss."

        4. CARRIE HAD ANOTHER DAD BEFORE JERRY STILLER SIGNED ON.

          Bickel described the show’s pilot as a “hybrid” because actor Jack Carter played Arthur, but when Stiller became available for the role, he replaced Carter. “What they did was when they decided to do it with Jerry, they reshot just the first few scenes with him,” Bickel said. “So I'd be watching the show [with Jerry onscreen] and it was like, ‘Oh, this is great’ and all of a sudden Jack Carter would appear and it was like, ‘What's happening here?’

          “Years later I was in Costco and who’s there buying batteries yelling at his wife but Jack Carter. And I’m thinking our lives would have really would have been so different—both of ours—by this one event.”

          5. KEVIN JAMES THOUGHT HIS UNIFORM WAS TOO SNUG.

            Talking to TV Guide, Kevin James revealed that when he gained weight his IPS uniform hurt his body. “The shorts were tight and they'd cut into my hips,” he said. “I'd feel like writing scenes around it, like, ‘Oh, I don't need a uniform.’ They’d be like, ‘But you’re at work!’ And I’d be like, ‘Whatever. I show up without it!’”

            6. SCIENTOLOGY AFFECTED REMINI’S WORK ON THE SOW.

              In a much publicized move, Remini left the Church of Scientology in 2013, and filmed a docuseries about her traumatizing experiences called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which aired on A&E in November 2016. Remini told The Hollywood Reporter the church wanted her to recruit James, her fellow actors, and crew members. “It’s always, ‘Why are you not getting Kevin James in? You’re not setting a good example. You’re not getting the director in.’ There was always pressure to make a Scientologist out of the people you were working with,” she said. She also said the church objected to a joke the show did about Katie Holmes, who was then a part of the church, too.

              7. JERRY STILLER FELT ARTHUR WAS A “NOODGE.”

                In an interview with Emmy TV Legends, Stiller said he created Arthur’s characterizations from his costars. “You live off the people you’re working with,” he said. “I took it from the other actors and how they treated me in terms of the character, and I found out I was a noodge, a person who was a pain in the neck, a bunion on their life. And I carried it out to the best of my ability.”

                Stiller thinks that Carrie and Doug would’ve murdered him if they could. “He rules his daughter and son-in-law by virtue of the fact he’s alive,” Stiller said. “You don’t want to kill him off, but if you would you could. He’s a meshuggah. You don’t exactly know what his background is, whether he’s a union man or a capitalist. Week to week, he just floats. That’s my estimation of who I am.”

                8. JAMES AND REMINI ARGUED IN REAL LIFE, TOO.

                  While appearing on Oprah, Remini admitted that she and James fought on set, because they cared about each other. “There were times Kevin and I would argue about something stupid, and we had to kiss but we’d make no eye contact,” she said. “But that’s because we loved each other. If you don’t care about somebody, you don’t even bother to fight with them. When you tell somebody to go f’ themselves, and they don’t turn around and fight with you, then you know there’s a problem."

                  9. LOU FERRIGNO FINALLY GOT TO SPEAK.

                    On the show, the former Incredible Hulk plays a version of himself as the Heffernan’s next door neighbor. Ferrigno said the producers saw him in a movie called The Godson and cast him. “I did the one episode and it was so well-received they said, 'We want to give you a recurring role,'” Ferrigno said. He ended up appearing in 18 episodes, beginning in 2000. He liked the opportunity to tackle comedy—and to finally speak dialogue instead of just grunting.

                    “I knew at the time I was typecast,” Ferrigno said about his Hulk character. “They said, ‘Maybe Lou Ferrigno can’t speak.’ So I changed all that. I went to the theater and then eventually I did The King of Queens.”

                    10.  JAMES AND REMINI RECENTLY REUNITED ON KEVIN CAN WAIT.

                      Kevin Can Wait, another CBS Kevin James-starring sitcom, debuted during the fall 2016 season. This time, instead of playing a delivery man, James plays a retired cop. During the May 2017 season finale, Leah Remini appeared as Vanessa, the former police partner of James's character. In the two-part episode, “Sting of Queens,” they go undercover and pretend to be a married couple.

                      “They’re literally Doug and Carrie, as cops,” Remini told USA Today. James didn’t want her role to be meta. “We’re not going, ‘Hey, can you Carrie this for me? I really Doug myself out of a hole this time, didn’t I?’” he also said to USA Today. “It’s a weird thing to bring someone in. I chose to not make her Carrie or say he was having a dream. I just wanted to make it realistic and not break that fourth wall.”

                      James told the New York Post that the reunion was like old times. “I felt like it was 10 years earlier; it felt so similar to those days [on The King of Queens]. It’s like we never stopped and just picked up where we left off.”

                      11 Fun Facts About Them!

                      Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
                      Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
                      Warner Home Video

                      In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

                      1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

                      When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

                      Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

                      Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

                      2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

                      Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

                      The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

                      3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

                      Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

                      4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

                      In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

                      5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

                      Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

                      6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

                      Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

                      So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

                      “They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

                      7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

                      To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

                      At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

                      8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

                      Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

                      9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

                      The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

                      10. The movie was a surprise hit.

                      Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

                      11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

                      When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

                      By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

                      George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

                      Kevin Winter, Getty Images
                      Kevin Winter, Getty Images

                      No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

                      In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

                      He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

                      While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

                      “I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

                      Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

                      [h/t The Guardian]

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