Kevin Can Wait debuted on CBS last fall, and Kevin James' return to primetime comedy was enough of a hit with fans that it scored a renewal for a second season to debut this fall after a summer hiatus. As it turns out, however, this was no typical summer hiatus. Less than a month after the Season 1 finale aired, news broke that the show was replacing leading lady Erinn Hayes with Leah Remini. Then, we learned earlier this month that the show was closing the door on Hayes ever returning by killing off her character, Donna. Now, executive producer Rob Long has revealed why the show has decided to kill off Donna, saying this:
The goal was to give Kevin's character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy]. Also, out of respect for the character of Donna -- and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her -- it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character.
Well, one thing is evident: Rob Long and Co. didn't replace Erinn Hayes because of any bad blood toward her. His comments indicate that he respects his former leading lady, and they follow up on CBS' Entertainment President Kelly Kahl's statement that Hayes "did a great job," but was ultimately replaced because Leah Remini's appearance as a guest star proved that she and former King of Queens co-star Kevin James still had tons of chemistry together. I'm not entirely clear on how killing off Donna will pay respect to Erinn Hayes' portrayal, but it may be much more straightforward once the second season kicks off in September. A lot depends on how the show handles Donna's death right off the bat in the new season.
Rob Long went on in his chat with TVLine to reveal that the idea behind killing Donna rather than simply writing her out is part of the plan for the show to explore Kevin discovering how to move on as a single father who must learn how to do everything his wife managed when it came to their family. His struggles might not feel quite as desperate if we knew that Donna was off visiting family alone or if they were going through a divorce. There's an extra layer of tragedy in Donna's death that could add some poignancy to Season 2.
All things considered, Season 2 of Kevin Can Wait isn't sounding all that funny. The casting of Leah Remini likely means that viewers will get some laughs out of scenes that pit her up against Kevin James, but the show may need to get pretty creative to make Kevin's maneuvering of single fatherhood amusing in the wake of his wife's death. We'll have to wait and see. Fortunately, Erinn Hayes has landed a new gig for herself, so she'll be keeping busy even without Kevin Can Wait.