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Kevin James: Still the 'King'

Kevin James (search) admits he admires his friend, Ray Romano, but not enough to follow him off the air.

"I'm still enjoying it. I love doing it. We have such a blast doing it. It's a great time. So as long as everything's going well, we'll continue to do it," says James as he awaits the start of the seventh season of his own show, "The King of Queens." (search

Originally scheduled to premiere this Wednesday night at 9 on CBS, the series is now slated to have its season premiere - followed by John Goodman's new comedy series, "The Center of the Universe" - on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

Last week, the premieres were pushed back twice, first from this Wednesday to Oct. 6, and then from the 6th to the 20th. The changes are due to the scheduling of upcoming televised debates between President Bush (search) and Sen. John Kerry (search).

"Everybody Loves Raymond" started its ninth and final season last Monday night (the finale's in May). After it's gone, "The King of Queens" becomes the longest-running sitcom on CBS.

"I remember it just like yesterday," the beefy comedian recalled on the phone from Hollywood the other day, "peeking over your shoulder waiting to be canceled. But for some reason, we've escaped it."

While "The King of Queens" is not nearly the phenomenon that "Everybody Loves Raymond" has been, "The King" has performed consistently and reliably for CBS. Last season, it was ranked 35th out of all primetime shows and drew an average weekly audience of more than 11 million, according to Nielsen. ("Raymond" was ranked 10th last season with nearly 17.4 million viewers per week.)

"Replacing 'Raymond'? I don't think that's us," said James, 39. "We've never really been the big kahuna. We've always been that little show that could, in a way. We just kind of continue to do decently well and have a nice fan base. We're not the shiny show. We get it done, though, and we have fun doing it."

This season, James said his show will largely stay the course.

On "The King of Queens," James plays Doug Heffernan, a Queens resident who drives a truck for a delivery service similar to UPS. He lives with his wife, Carrie (played by Leah Remini (search)), and her father, Arthur (Jerry Stiller (search)). The Heffernans have no children, and James says they're not likely to have any.

"That's the one I want to stay away from," he said, "and I promise you we will. ... But the reason I'm averse to it is because I think it can steal the focus of what the show is. What makes us different is that we're a middle-aged couple that doesn't have kids, and there's plenty of people out there who don't."

Despite his "no kids" rule, James feels there are still plenty of storylines left to explore. "There are a couple of story ideas that we're going to try, and do some arcs where Doug may take on a second job [to make] a little extra money," James said. "It doesn't feel like the show [has] necessarily run its course, but that's always determined by the ratings and the people watching."