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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mismatched couples are a staple of TV sitcoms

By John Maynard
Washington Post

Leah Remini was Carrie and Kevin James was Doug in the newly defunct series "The King of Queens," which lasted for nine seasons on CBS.

CBS

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CBS's "The King of Queens" went off the air for good Monday night after nine count 'em, nine seasons. The sitcom starred Kevin James as burly deliveryman Doug Heffernan and Leah Remini as his sexy, put-upon wife, Carrie.

OK, it had its strengths: We liked Jerry Stiller playing Doug's cranky, basement-dwelling dad, and buddies Deacon and Spence (Victor Williams and Patton Oswalt) grew on us. But we've got to think that the show hung on as long as it did because of one everlasting TV formula: the schlubby hubby (James) with the smoking-hot wife (Remini). For beer-guzzling male viewers, it's perhaps a chance to live vicariously through a like-minded character. For women viewers, it affords the opportunity to laugh at their beer-guzzling men.

But "The King of Queens" certainly wasn't the first show to rely on mismatched couples. Here's a short history of the winning recipe and the various ways it has morphed over the years.

THE ORIGINAL

For many of us, it all began with "The Honeymooners." The pioneering sitcom starred the barrel-chested Jackie Gleason as an exasperated bus driver and the out-of-his-league Audrey Meadows as his frustrated homemaking wife. The show's success opened the door to a half-century of imitators.

NEWHART'S DOUBLE THREAT

Bob Newhart, with his hangdog expression and wry, mopey disposition, scored twice in prime time. As a leisure-suited psychologist, he was paired with glamorous Suzanne Pleshette in the '70s on "The Bob Newhart Show"; a decade later on "Newhart," he landed blond beauty Mary Frann as his innkeeping wife in Vermont (although he woke up with Pleshette again in the memorable series finale).

CARTOON COUPLES

The key to a successful prime-time cartoon? He's a tubby, she's a Twiggy. Witness Fred and Wilma Flintstone (buddy Barney Rubble didn't do so bad with Betty, either). The trend continues with "The Simpsons," with portly Homer and mile-high-haired Marge a vision in green and blue. Ditto "The Family Guy," with plump Peter Griffin and svelte Lois. ("The Jetsons," with a trim George Jetson, never made it in prime time.)

'KING'S' CONTEMPORARIES

"The King of Queens" is dead, but the formula remains alive. ABC's got two of them: "George Lopez," starring Lopez opposite attractive Constance Marie, and "According to Jim" with bulky Jim Belushi and cheerleader-hot Courtney Thorne-Smith. Over on Fox, " 'Til Death" stars lumpy Brad Garrett with busty Joely Fisher. Carry on, rotundos!

THE RICHTER SCALE

Viewers can't seem to stomach pudgy former Conan O'Brien sidekick Andy Richter, despite his surrounding himself with a bevy of beauties on three failed shows. On "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" his love interests were in a different class. He had a trophy wife on the short-lived "Quintuplets." His most recent failure, "Andy Barker, P.I.," teamed him with the pixielike Clea Lewis, who played Mrs. Barker, P.I. But with all those canceled shows, maybe he's better off with the dishy Conan.