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CBS

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.”

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                      Karl Walter, Getty Images
                      When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
                      Karl Walter, Getty Images
                      Karl Walter, Getty Images

                      The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

                      Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

                      When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

                      A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

                      It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

                       
                       

                      In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

                      The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

                      Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

                      Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

                      Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

                       
                       

                      The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

                      With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

                      The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

                      “It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

                      “My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

                      nextArticle.image_alt|e
                      Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
                      West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
                      Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
                      Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

                      As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

                      As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

                      West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

                      To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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