September 19, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Kevin Can Wait”


KEVIN CAN WAIT:  Monday 8:30PM on CBS (thru 10/17, then 8PM) – Change the Channel

Sometimes when a TV star returns to the tube, it’s to try something excitingly different.  Think of Rob Lowe’s second career as a comic actor, or Kyle Chandler’s move from the heroic coach of Friday Night Lights to the dangerous cop of Bloodline, or Ray Romano’s post-Everybody Loves Raymond career.  The traditional move, though, which dates all the way back to the days of Lucille Ball’s many sitcoms, is to come back in a role that’s just a tiny variation from the one that made you a star.  CBS’s new KEVIN CAN WAIT was created by King of Queens star Kevin James himself, along with veteran multicamera sitcom producer Bruce Helford (The Drew Carey Show, Anger Management, Norm) and former King of Queens writer/producer Rock Reuben, as a vehicle for those who adored James’s old show, which ended a 9-year run in 2007, adding the extra fan service of having his character become a mall cop by the end of the pilot, a la James’s Paul Blart movie franchise.

Never having been a devotee of either King of Queens or Paul Blart, I can’t speak to whether Kevin Can Wait will scratch their collective itch.  For those of us not already members of the Kevin James fan club, though, it’s excruciating stuff.  James’s character (inventively named Kevin) is a recently retired cop who has the inevitable lovely, long-suffering wife (a role endured by Erinn Hayes), plus a few lunkhead buddies (one is played by Lenny Venito, who in happier times was the star of The Neighbors), and a trio of kids whom he loves but who exist to cause him trouble.  The pilot’s main plotline concerns the oldest daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler), who decides to leave her pre-law college life to support her oddball app-developing boyfriend Chale (Ryan Cartwright, last seen as a semi-autistic with super powers on Alphas).  As that casting suggests, Chale is barely regarded as human by Kevin, but of course by the end of the pilot, Kevin has nevertheless invited Kendra and Chale to move into an apartment in the family garage, thereby losing the chance to collect rent and live on the combination of that and his pension, requiring him to take that mall cop job.

James, Helford and Reuben lean in to every possible cliche, from Kevin’s original scheme to rent the apartment to someone who can get him and his buds free beer, to his nearly fainting when he climbs on the family exercise bike for the first time in years.  Director Andy Fickman can merely direct traffic until the end-credits sequence, a single-camera bit of the go-kart race Kevin runs with his pals, which is staged with little style.  Even viewed on its own terms, the show’s characters have a serious lack of chemistry, and James, while likable, allows no hint of inventiveness to interfere with his rote delivery of lines.

CBS is giving Kevin Can Wait a solid month with the best lead-in it can offer, moving The Big Bang Theory to Mondays while Thursday Night Football is occupying its regular night.  That all but guarantees Kevin a sampling.  In October, though, things will get more difficult, as Big Bang goes home, and Kevin has to start Mondays at 8PM, serving itself as the lead-in to the Matt LeBlanc sitcom Man With A Plan.  Even in the face of The Voice, Dancing With the Stars and Gotham, there may very well be an audience for this tired half-hour, especially on CBS, but it’s the kind of series that hammers another nail into the coffin of broadcast TV even as it draws its share of older, less educated and less affluent eyeballs.

NETWORK FINALS:  Not Worth The Wait.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."