'The King of Queens' earns his crown
After nine seasons, Ken Tucker finally warms up to the Kevin James sitcom. Plus: ''The Amazing Race'' finale, Philip K. Dick, and more pop gems to get you through the week
‘The King of Queens’ earns his crown
1. Philip K. Dick chosen for a Library of America collection
Now, there are those who’d say sci-fi fly-guy Dick (1928-82) was not a master stylist; that his pulp roots should disqualify him from a volume in this august series. Well, true about the style part, yet when it comes to novels of ideas, Dick is at least as important as LoA inclusion Frank Norris and a helluva better stylist than LoAer James T. Farrell. And anyway, why does Dick need to be placed in this high-culture context? He’ll continue to work his mind-blowing on generations to come regardless. But it’s quite amusing to have this cheap-paperback genius enshrined in the LoA hardcover-with-ribbon-bookmark collection; that The Man In the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch?, Do Androids Dreams of Electric Sheep, and Ubik are a good start; and that the introduction by the exemplary high/low writer Jonathan Lethem is something to jolly well look forward to. Coming in June 2007.
2. The Amazing Race 10 finale
(Sunday, CBS, 8 p.m.)
It’s been a great season for this armchair-traveller delight. Yes, I wish Kentuckians David and Mary were still around, and I really wish ”the beauty queens” hadn’t come in last during a non-elimination round, but of the remaining contestants, there’s not a loser in the bunch when it comes to personalities that are vastly amusing whenever they aren’t actively annoying. Which is just how I like my TV.
3. The Black Panthers: Photographs by Stephen Shames
This is the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, an occasion that has been marked by a fine DVD release, What We Want, What We Believe, and… dead silence from most of the mainstream media. Photographer Shames’ book deserves a lot of attention. These are, foremost, spontaneous yet beautifully composed portraits of urban-dwelling black men and women from the late ’60s to the mid-’70s, both obscure and famous. (The 1970 shot of Panther leader Huey Newton, his shirt off to reveal a muscled chest, as he holds a copy of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and smiling in anticipation of playing that vinyl record, is but one stunner.) That Shames was also privy to moments such as being the only photographer allowed in the church during slain Panther member George Jackson’s funeral is one of his books many striking moments. Recommended further reading: Jo Durden-Smith’s Who Killed George Jackson? And Murray Kempton’s The Briar Patch.
Writer Bruce Jones has taken one of my favorite old comic-book characters and reimagined him in a setting many adult readers will relate to — no, I don’t mean feeling like you’re a walking dead person, although that has a certain universality, doesn’t it? — but rather the constant reliving of the past, a past in which you find yourself facing down old questions like, How did my brother end up marrying the girl I was in love with? Plus terrific gloomy, intentionally blunt art by John Watkiss.
5. The King of Queens returns
(CBS, Wed., 8 p.m.)
This middle-of-the-road sitcom has slowly won me over, and it leads off its ninth — and perhaps final — season with a very funny episode in which Kevin James’ Doug fulfills a lifelong dream: He buys an ice cream truck. Which is not what his wife Carrie (Leah Remini) believes is a sound financial investment. Listen for the throwaway Scarface joke.