The center of many sitcoms is the couch, but on this day on the Culver City, Calif., set of CBS' "The King of Queens" -- which comes to an end after nine years with a two-episode finale on Monday, May 14 -- final confessions come at the dining-room table.
The afternoon begins with filming of a rather disturbing sequence featuring Arthur Spooner (Jerry Stiller) -- who plays the freeloading father of Carrie (Leah Remini), the wife of Queens, N.Y., delivery-truck driver Doug Heffernan (Kevin James) -- dressed up in a leather cap, vest, shorts and boots, hoisting a drink in a bar. Following that is James recording many promos for TV stations (U.S. and international) that air the show in syndication.
James comes to the table, and when it's remarked how good he is at the promos, he says, "You do them for nine years, you know how to turn it on."
Asked if it's sunk in yet, he says, "That it's ending? It really is the end of an era. It's been 10 years, actually, for me, with development and first starting up. I don't think it will really, really sink in until a couple of weeks after, when my wife tries to throw me out of the house, because she's not used to me being home.
"She'll say, `Go back to work!' It'll get sad. I'm going to miss everyone. These guys are all my family. I'll take them all home with me, like stray dogs, the whole crew."
Over its long run, "The King of Queens" has garnered few critical accolades but has a loyal and devoted audience.
"We're that utility player on a [baseball] team," James says, "that just gets on base. It's nice to be able to do that for a long time. You need those shows. I'm proud of what we've done.
"With any show, it's got to have an end. You don't want to overstay your welcome. At a certain point, it's time to move on and just remember it for what it is."
As for Stiller's outfit, James says, "Boy, was I turned on. It was great. I had seen his legs before, actually. Me and him were in a hot tub together, first or second season. What was it, first season? 'It's gravity, Douglas, it's coming for you.'"
Next up is Anne Meara, Stiller's wife, who plays Arthur's on-again/off-again love, Veronica. "Hello," she says, "it's Anne Meara. I'm sleeping with one of the stars."
Stiller arrives, and after a brief discussion of his parsimonious ways, marijuana experience, guilt and costume (referred to by Stiller as a "Village People outfit"), the two talk about Veronica and Arthur.
"Veronica is truly in love with Arthur," Stiller says. "She's a masochist."
"Are you talking about my character?" Meara says.
"Well," Stiller says, "you've talked about mine for a while. You've talked about my life up till now."
"He's a weird guy who lives in a cellar or something," Meara says.
After a further conversation about Arthur's lovers, the Stillers' wedding ("Democratic judge and breakfast at the Republican club," says Meara) and the ins and outs of sitcom acting, Stiller talks about his younger co-stars.
"You talk about learning from us," he says, "I learned from them that, acting, there's no age question. You're an actor, or you're not an actor. It doesn't matter. You can bring any sobriety to a set, or whether they respect you or you expect respect from them -- you have to be who you are."
Meara heads off, and in comes Gary Valentine, who plays Doug's cousin Danny but is actually James' brother.
"He's an incredible actor, this guy," Stiller says, "stand-up comedian. He's got a heart, humanity. He's got everything."
"You know what," Valentine says, "I've been so blessed to be able to work with a legend, that's him, and what's-her-name, Meara, the red-haired chick."
"Uta Hagen student," Stiller says.
As for the show ending, Valentine says, "Life goes on. Change is good. I've only been a regular for the last six years, and I've been around for nine. It has sunk in a little bit, and I'm ready for it. I'm ready to move on.
"But so many times I've heard, 'My grandfather's like that,' or 'My father's like that,' 'I'm just like Doug,' 'I'm just like Carrie.' You hear it all over the place. It's so relatable. That's why the longevity was there."
Speaking of Carrie, next up is Remini.
"Having a show like this, that runs for nine years," she says, "you really do, at the end of the day, realize what's important -- and that's your friends, your family, the people who love you, with or without a show. Thank God we have phones, and we're able to see each other. We'll see if we really do like each other."
When the subject of possible future barbecues comes up, Remini says, "Barbecues at Kevin's house, because he has a much bigger barbecue than I do. The guy who put in his grill at his house said, `I've done restaurants that are not as big as this.' It's awesome. I'm so beyond jealous of him right now. I'm almost wanting us to go to year 10 just for that reason, so I can get myself a grill like that."
But seriously, the show's end means more time for Remini with her daughter, Sofia.
"I'll probably just fill my time with my family and my daughter," she says. "She's starting to say, 'Don't go to work.' It's the right age to give it a break. She's going to be 3."
As the day winds down, Victor Williams, who plays Doug's co-worker, Deacon Palmer, stops by in a suit and tie.
"More than anything else, I've learned how hard it is to sustain," he says. "There's so many things that are out of your control, that you learn to let things be. I need structure. I might be better as an executive."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times