Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. Kevin James is back. After a couple of years of inactivity on the television front, James has returned to what he does best – television comedy. This time, though, he is doing it for Netflix and his series, The Crew, has found its way to the number five most-popular spot on Netflix’s ledger.
The series finds Kevin James in familiar territory with The Crew. He plays Kevin Gibson much like he played Kevin Gable and much like he played Kevin Daniels/Doug Heffernan – an everyday buffoon who always wants to do right but usually takes the hard way to get there. In The Crew, James finds himself as the crew chief of a NASCAR garage having to deal with change that only makes his life more difficult. The owner of Bobby Spencer Racing and Gibson’s boss has decided to retire and have his daughter take over the racing team. This throws a wrench (pun intended) into the group that includes driver Jake Martin (Freddie Stroma), chief mechanic Chuck Stubbs (Gary Anthony Williams), chief engineer Amir Lajani (Dan Ahdoot), and office manager Beth Paige (Sarah Stiles). Bruce McGill is on board as Bobby Spencer and the little-known Jillian Mueller takes on the co-lead as Bobby’s daughter Catherine.
The comedy surrounding The Crew pretty much follows the old vs. new technique. By that, we mean old school vs new school. Gibson, as well as his chief mechanic Chuck, are most definitely old school, preferring a more hands-on approach to get things done in the garage whereas the younger blood, which includes Gibson’s new boss Catherine, prefer the millennial tech approach. Catherine sees it as the only way to move forward and make Bobby Spencer Racing what it once was. Both Gibson and Chuck are immediately at odds with the incoming changes and Catherine would love nothing more than to see Chuck follow her father out the door, but Chuck seems to be the only one who can coax a racing car back to life when it dies in the middle of the race.
Depending on how one looks at Kevin James as a comedian, will go a long way in determining if The Crew survives for a second season. Netflix released all 10-episodes for a binge on February 15, 2021. The series, though, looks very familiar if you’ve followed James’ other TV series, which will either help James or hurt him. The King of Queens was quite successful for Kevin James, allowing the rotund actor to cross-over to feature films with hits like Hitch, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Here Comes the Boom, Pixels, and sequels to both Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Grown Ups. But like his counterpart and frequent co-star Adam Sandler, James’ comedy is a take or leave kind of deal. The character’s he portrays are often mirror images and again, take it or leave it. To his credit, James understands his niche and doesn’t stray too far from it. Though, his latest feature, Becky, James went as far away from his every-man doofus as possible.
In Becky, Kevin James played Dominick, a Neo-Nazi prisoner who escapes a prison transport with his crew. They are in search of a key, which a young teenage Becky happens to have. Dominick and his crew take Becky’s family hostage in order to get the key from Becky. Blood, guts, torture, eyes being ripped out, and more blood follow as James goes over-the-top bad in this one.
This is not Kevin James’ first run-in with Netflix. His first film was the 2016 action-comedy True Memoirs of an International Assassin, where he played an author of a fiction novel about a deadly assassin. When his publisher changes the book from fiction to non-fiction, James’ author must take on the role of his novel’s lead character in order to survive. James also had a role in Adam Sandler’s Netflix dramedy Sandy Wexler as well as Sandler’s most recent Netflix comedy, Hubie Halloween.
Only time will tell if Kevin James and his crew will get another shot at making audiences laugh. James also carries the title of executive producer, so the 10 episodes are squarely in his hands. James brought on Andy Fickman to direct the series. Fickman’s credits include She’s the Man, The Game Plan, You Again, and Playing with Fire. He also has some history working with James as the two paired up for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
If you’re a Kevin James fan, The Crew will be right up your alley. If not, you may want to steer clear of it.