The premiere of the second season of Kevin Can Wait revealed how the show would handle the departure of Erinn Hayes as Kevin James’ wife on the series, spending a minute discussing her off-screen death before hopping right into the comedic high-jinks between James and his TV family. Hayes was removed from the show to reportedly make room for Leah Remini’s character that was introduced at the conclusion of the first season. When the announcement was made, CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl said the death of Hayes character “will be treated with dignity and respect, and the show will move forward,” but fans felt that the show skipped the first two parts to make way for the latter point rather quickly. The moment came right at the start of the show, with another small moment near the end, involving James reading through the mail according to the Chicago Tribune:
“It’s from your mom’s gym,” Kevin told the kids, reading the card out loud: “Haven’t seen you. We miss you.” He paused. “You know what? So do I.”
“Okay, you know what?” said Kevin’s older daughter, Kendra (Taylor Spreitler). “Give me that. I will call them right now. It’s been over a year since she died. They shouldn’t still be sending this.”
This was then followed by a joke about not throwing out the notice and then immediately jumped into the plot of the episode. As the reactions made clear, folks were not happy that a character that appeared on the series for the entirety of the first season was just wiped away from potato chip crumbs on Kevin James’ Mets jersey. And while they were venting their frustrations into the void on Monday, fans were also taking aim at Leah Remini for joining the show full time and accusing her of “pushing” Hayes out. There’s no evidence that was the case besides reports that Hayes was let go to make room for Remini’s character due to audience reactions, but it was enough for angry fans of the CBS sitcom. And it was also enough for Remini to let loose on a few of them, defending the show and her role:
Remini was also quick to take up for Hayes on the other end against fans that supported her joining the show and didn’t enjoy the deceased wife in season one:
While it definitely seems to be a case of misplaced rage by fans of the show, Hayes has kept relatively silent about the decision and has indeed moved on to star in the upcoming The Dangerous Book for Boys on Amazon. But while she didn’t pay too much attention to her former show, she did notice when she got some praise from fans online according to Indiewire. A few of her favorites included fans upset by the show’s decision and missing her character’s presence on the show. The site also notes that a few were in praise of Remini, putting to rest any hint that the two actresses would have animosity.
So as it stands, there is no word on if this controversy will continue or if it will affect the show going forward. Monday’s premiere pulled in 10 million viewers with some help from The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon premieres — both pulling over 16 million viewers themselves. If the show continues on that path, you’d have to expect it to stick around for quite a while. So maybe we’ll get a deeper explanation, a guest appearance, or a revelation that she faked her death to take a year off from being a mother.
Who knows? We’re all already in far too deep for a sitcom on CBS. Why not go a little deeper?