TCA: New Show Is Not ‘King of Queens,’ Swears Kevin James

Complete Coverage: TCA Summer 2016

Beverly Hills, Calif. -- Kevin James, star of CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait, emphasized that the new show isn’t a clone of King of Queens, while acknowledging that he doesn’t seek to alienate fans of the long running sitcom. He said that duality is a “constant battle in my career,” and voiced concern about “losing half your audience” by straying too far from what it knows and likes.

As with King of Queens, James plays a blue-collar Long Island guy with tight drinking buddies and a mercurial yet ultimately loving relationship with a sometimes nagging wife. It is again a four-camera operation. Both are CBS-Sony productions.

This time around, he’s a father, and a retired police officer. Kevin Can Wait will also use more location shots, promised James, such as a lively go-kart race/paintball battle in the pilot. “I love to get out and do physical stuff,” he said, “big event things.”

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Another notable difference with Kevin Can Wait—it’s shot on Long Island, which James said is key to the show’s energy. He said getting the studio and network on board with shooting on a New York soundstage near his home was a serious battle, but one that ultimately gives Kevin Can Wait more authenticity and a special energy. Showrunner Rock Reuben said Kevin Can Wait is the first multicam sitcom filmed on Long Island.

“It would be one of many shot here in Los Angeles,” said James. “There, it’s something special. It was pretty expensive to do. Thank you, CBS.”

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James said he loves the four-cam format, and coming up through the ranks as a stand-up, feeds off a studio audience.

CBS promos show both James’ King of Queens star and his Kevin Can Wait protagonist. James described it as “a nice way to hand the baton from one show to the next.”

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Erinn Hayes, who plays Kevin’s wife on the show, said she avoided watching King of Queens to keep her performance fresh and unique. “I really don’t want that in my mind,” she said. “I think we’re creating a different relationship. I’m pleasantly going with my blinders on, and taking it as it comes on the page.”

In an era of edgy comedies, Reuben said there’s something comforting about a conventional family comedy. “American is drained, we’re drained,” he said. “When you watch TV, you want to get away for a half hour and have some comfort food. That’s what we are.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.