TV: Kevin Can Wait

Title: Kevin Can Wait
Network: CBS
Airs: Mondays 8:30/7:30c
Starring: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes, Ryan Cartwright, Gary Valentine
Rating: PG
Reviewer: Susan Tolleson
FA Scorecard: B

In this new CBS comedy series, Kevin James plays … Kevin James. If you love his teddy bear persona and self-deprecating humor, then you’ll probably love this show. Consider it King of Queens, but with children. Kevin plays Kevin Gable, a lovable, chubby and somewhat clueless guy married to Donna Gable (Erinn Hayes), a beautiful, thin and intelligent woman, leaving audiences to wonder how—once again—that happened. But in the land of TV, anything is possible, and this formula of contrasts makes for a pretty sure bet the show will get plenty of laughs. But there’s more to this show than just King of Queens Part 2.

As a father of three children, Kevin is a newly retired police officer living in Massapequa, New York. All his life, he’s worked toward this day when he can spend more time at home with his wife, kids and retired officer buddies. But the transition to being home full-time and more present in the lives of his growing children has its challenges. When his oldest daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) announces she’s dropping out of college to support her fiancé’s new app development, Kevin sees his only choice is to move her nerdy fiancé Chale (Ryan Cartwright) into their garage and his daughter back home to keep her in school.

This relationship between sports-loving, beer-guzzling Kevin and “sensitive” hipster Chale shows lots of promise for major laughs as the show moves forward. One of the funniest scenes comes in the pilot when Kendra shows up at her dad’s retirement party with Chale and an athletic male friend. Kevin assumes the athlete is Kendra’s boyfriend and is immediately smitten. You can imagine Kevin’s reaction when he finds out he’s man-crushed on the wrong guy.

Kevin Can Wait doesn’t demand a lot from its audience. As somewhat of a modern-day Honeymooners, the show finds topics most couples and families can relate to, and uses those around which to build an episode. In the second episode, “Sleep Disorder,” Kevin begins to notice that Donna has moved many of “his” things out of sight and into the attic. At first he’s only slightly bothered by this, but his retired police buddies convince him it’s a bigger issue than it seems, so he confronts his wife and they come to an understanding about how to deal with changes moving forward. Although the audience knows Donna has the upper hand in this arrangement—and will continue to win—she’s convinced Kevin that they’re in this together and he’s satisfied for the moment. The brilliance on this episode (and all the others) is that—just like an old-fashioned sit-com—their issue is solved in 30 minutes or less, and all seems good with the world.

By the second episode, you’re beginning to see that Kevin really can’t wait. The more he’s at home and involved in the daily life of his family, the more he realizes that life is slipping by and that he’s becoming more irrelevant by the day. His inability to connect with Chale on his app development or adjust to his wife’s life outside their home, or connect with his other two kids (Mary-Charles Jones and James DiGiacomo) becomes more apparent to Kevin as each day goes by. His years of being gone while he worked long shifts protecting the community have caught up with him, and his dreams of retirement being all about what he wants, come crashing in on him. He soon realizes that time has not stood still waiting for him, and although he now has the time to selfishly squander on himself, he’s needed at home. He’ll have to wait for what he wants.

In the third episode, “Chore Weasel,” Kevin wants to spend his days playing football and hanging out with the guys, but Donna needs him to stay home and wait for a delivery. His buddies—which includes James’ real-life brother Gary Valentine (cousin Danny on KofQ)—tell him about a revolutionary way to get chores done while he’s doing what he wants to away from the house. So Kevin hires a chore weasel to wait for the delivery. In the mean time, he hurts his leg while playing football. Since Donna warned him against playing at his age, he tries to hide the injury from her. Kevin becomes addicted to the chore weasel, hiring him to do lots of projects Donna has asked him to do while taking credit for the finished product. Of course, his plan backfires as the chore weasel is just a little too good. This episode showcases some of that Kevin James sneakiness we often saw in King of Queens’ Doug Heffernan. The episode also features a hilarious slow-mo scene of Kevin and his buddies playing football against a group of young cops, and an ending shot of them limping off the field toward their cars.

Kevin Can Wait isn’t a brilliant, intellectually-stimulating comedy, but it is a solid, somewhat predictable one that delivers laughs, as well as an unexpected sweetness.

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