Many shows go through a period of transition in the early seasons. Working out the kinks is natural, and the cast and creators have to find their footing in this new setting. For CBS’s sitcom Kevin Can Wait, they decided that the best way to make their formula work after the first season was to kill off Kevin James’s wife, played by Erinn Hayes, and replace her with guest star Leah Remini. By basically recreating King of Queens, CBS is banking on ratings gold.
The calloused move drew hilarious ire from the internet, with many speculating how Hayes’s Donna would be shuffled off of this mortal coil. Well, in true sitcom fashion, there isn’t a lot of time spent agonizing over her untimely demise. In the show’s second season premiere, a time jump of over a year has happened and while Donna’s death is mentioned, no major details are provided. She is mentioned a second time before their daughter is married, but everyone is awfully chill about their dead mom/wife.
Cast member Gary Valentine explained that Hayes had to go in order to liven up the formula of the show and make room for Remini, but that they “never actually make fun of the actual death,” although there are “jokes around it.” Instead, her death provides “some nice moments between Kevin and the kids.”
Fans of the show were not fans of how Hayes’s exit was handled, however, and made their frustration clear on Twitter.
CBS has been called out for the problems with diversity, and killing off your female lead to “make room” for another is not a great move.