In 1998, in the course of the second episode of the CBS sitcom “The King of Queens,” the husband, Doug (Kevin James), learns that the ladies in his spouse’s household placed on weight as they age. So regardless that Doug is fats — “I look like I’m in my twelfth trimester,” he says — he plots to maintain Carrie (Leah Remini, a knockout then and now) slim.
The episode, which has aged about in addition to a bath of expired cottage cheese, is fatphobic and unfunny. It additionally lays naked a typical household sitcom cliché: a husband who can seem infinitely schlubby and a spouse who should stay incontrovertibly sizzling. In exhibits like these — exhibits that clearly impressed “Kevin Can F**k Himself,” a caustic satire arriving Sunday on AMC+ — the attractiveness hole typically yawns and it practically all the time yawns a technique.
This isn’t to ding sitcom dads as unattractive. And in the event that they show a larger range of physique dimension, nicely, that’s a range TV should embrace throughout gender. Instead, the requirements for feminine magnificence are enforced rigorously on community exhibits, whereas these for males and their waistbands stay comfortably unfastened. Audiences settle for this, although when roles are reversed — when a present, sitcom or in any other case, pairs an absolute hunk with a much less glamorous girl — some viewers lose their minds.
On the HBO present “Girls,” a Season 2 episode featured Patrick Wilson reverse Lena Dunham and a nook of the web reacted poorly, saying man with seems to be like Wilson’s would by no means sleep with a girl like Dunham. The commentary, from each reviewers and social media customers, turned so vicious that Wilson’s spouse, the actress Dagmara Dominczyk, felt compelled to reply. “Funny, his wife is a size 10, muffin top & all, & he does her just fine,” she tweeted.
Sitcoms, and household sitcoms specifically, occupy fewer prime-time slots now, however streaming and reruns imply that the hole persists. Here are a couple of of the extra egregious examples.
‘The King of Queens’
Carrie and Doug
A paradigm of the schlubby man snags sizzling spouse trope, the present stars James as a UPS-style deliveryman, with Remini as his authorized secretary spouse. The Washington Post critic framed it this manner: “Hard-working shmoe put-upon and set-upon by life’s complications and his own relatives.” The present makes a degree of emphasizing Remini’s intercourse attraction. Conversely, as in a pole-dancing scene, James’s seems to be are often performed for laughs. (His tight shorts, too.)
Despite some fluctuations, James maintained a bigger physique dimension all through, whereas Remini obtained criticism for her real-life being pregnant weight achieve. During James’s follow-up sitcom, “Kevin Can Wait,” the sequence finally killed off a primary spouse, performed by Erinn Hayes, and changed her with Remini, proving that the sequence noticed slim brunettes with cute highlights as basically interchangeable, if not outright disposable.
Lois and Peter
Cartoon sitcoms together with “Family Guy” have likewise embraced the sexy-wife-schlubby-husband cliché.Credit…FOX
From “The Flintstones” on, prime-time cartoons have additionally engaged within the dishy spouse, slobby husband template. (“The Flintstones” was itself a riff on the primordial marital sitcom — and controversial schlub/hottie exemplar — “The Honeymooners.”) Think Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty, Homer and Marge, Bob and Linda. Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy,” which debuted in 1999, depicts dad Peter as an multichinned chucklehead whereas sketching mother Lois with the ha-cha-cha determine of a catalog mannequin.
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As a Season three flashback reveals, he fell in love along with her for her seems to be, whereas she beloved his questionable humor and ample intestine. Despite Peter’s incompetence and Lois’s occasional bodily abuse, the present insinuates an lively intercourse life between the 2, with some very area of interest function play. (She as soon as dressed up as Grimace.)
‘According to Jim’
Cheryl and Jim
In “According to Jim,” the actor Jim Belushi’s character appears satisfied of his personal charisma.Credit…Michael Ansell/ABC
The second-wave Blues Brother Jim Belushi stars reverse ’90s cutie-pie Courtney Thorne-Smith on this ABC present, which debuted in 2001. It has earned an astonishing 14 % score on Rotten Tomatoes and the marital mismatch impressed a whole lot of head-scratching. “If the wife is so damn smart, why did she marry such a boob?” a Variety critic wrote.
Belushi’s character — and possibly Belushi, too — appears satisfied of his personal charisma, even because the present offers him a halfhearted mullet and a wardrobe that matches him like a glove, a glove somebody has repurposed as a balloon. “I’m in great shape,” Jim says. “What shape is that,” Cheryl replies. “A circle?” Thorne-Smith, in fact, seems to be terrific all through. Here’s an alternate from a Season 2 episode:
Jim: I married her for her seems to be.
Cheryl: I married him for his cash.
Jim: Hah! I win!
Bill and Judy
Jami Gertz and Mark Addy as Judy and Bill in “Still Standing.” Bill tells their son in a single episode that Judy was “the hottest chick in our class” after they met in highschool. Credit…Monty Briton/CBS
Mark Addy, an English actor educated on the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art who later appeared as a chunky, dissipated king on “Game of Thrones,” stars reverse the ’80s pinup Jami Gertz on this CBS comedy that debuted in 2002. (The present is ready in Chicago, although Addy’s accent suggests in any other case.) A pre-“Gone Girl” Gillian Flynn, writing in Entertainment Weekly, referred to as it a drained iteration of the “Fatty-Gets-a-Family formula.”
The mother and father met in highschool and as Bill tells their son in a Season 2 episode, Gertz’s Judy was “the hottest chick in our class, she was way out of my league.” She stays so. Conveniently, Judy values chivalry over seems to be, telling her daughter, “Hot comes and goes but if you find someone who knows how to use a napkin, chain him down.” Unlike a whole lot of sitcom dads, Addy isn’t particularly humorous, although he does show real affection for his spouse.
Gloria and Jay
Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara in “Modern Family.”Credit…Karen Neal/ABC
In this zippy mockumentary, which debuted on ABC in 2009, starred Sofia Vergara as Gloria, a Colombian bombshell, and Ed O’Neill as Jay, a closet and blinds mogul, who seems to be a bit extra like a bomb fragment. (O’Neill’s earlier sitcom, “Married With Children,” additionally offered an attractiveness hole, although narrower.) The trope is deployed with some self-awareness. The Times critic, reviewing the pilot, complimented Vergara’s “tonally perfect sendup” of the fiery Latina stereotype.
The household assumes that Gloria has married Jay for his cash — the sequence fifth episode, “Coal Digger,” facilities on this premise. But Gloria disputes this, minimizing the distinction of their seems to be. In a Season 6 episode, she says, “A lot of people assumed that I married you for your money and that’s only a very, very small part of it. I married you because you’re sexy. You still are. Who knows how long that’s going to last for either of us?”
‘Parks and Recreation’
Gayle and Jerry
Christie Brinkley and Jim O’Heir in “Parks and Recreation.”Credit…Tyler Golden/NBC
Most of the couples on this affable sequence, which started on NBC in 2009, had equally beauty. (Though what Rashida Jones’s Ann ever noticed in Aziz Ansari’s Tom stays a permanent thriller.) There was, nevertheless, one deliberate exception.
Jerry (Jim O’Heir), the workplace supervisor of Pawnee’s Parks and Rec Department, is flatulent, paunchy and pathologically clumsy. In the second season, at a Christmas social gathering, his co-workers are launched to his spouse, Gayle, performed by the supermodel Christie Brinkley. As in “Modern Family,” the present deploys the new spouse trope self-consciously. The actual joke — a candy one — is that whereas Jerry stays the butt of each workplace gag, Gayle and three beautiful daughters worship him as a super husband and father.