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Spoilers below for the Season 2 premiere of CBS' Kevin Can Wait.
Last night was a big night for CBS, with the Big Bang Theory Season 11 premiere, as well as that show's left-of-center spinoff Young Sheldon. But things took a downward turn when Kevin Can Wait Season 2 debuted and reset the status quo, with actress Erinn Hayes (and her character Donna) essentially getting replaced by Kevin James' former co-star Leah Remini. And had Donna's inexplicable death been handled respectfully, it would have been one thing, but viewers went berserk after the character's demise only earned a throwaway gag.
It was announced earlier this year that Kevin Can Wait's creative team would be using a death to explain Donna's absence, rather than using separation or divorce to keep her out of the picture, but there wasn't any clue how that would exactly go down. (Though there was talk that it would be handled "with dignity.") Well, in "Civil Ceremony," viewers got to learn that Donna died "over a year ago," without any further details. And then, after Donna's gym sent a postcard to the Gable household, daughter Kendra said she would call someone about it, to which Kevin advised her against throwing the postcard away, because there was a coupon for kung-fu lesson on it.
Not the classiest way to "explain" things -- Donna was also mentioned again later, sorta, when Kevin told Kendra that he wanted her to have a proper wedding where she could wear her mom's dress -- and audiences took to social media to rail on Kevin Can Wait for how Donna's death was handled.
To be expected, there were quite a few fans that hadn't caught the months-old news about Erinn Hayes' departure, so those were likely the people that were hit the hardest by the shrugged-off announcement that these characters were more than a year beyond Donna's death.
According to previous reprots, the family is also supposed to actually be coping with the death itself in Season 2, which wasn't at all the case in the episode. I suppose no one involved wanted to kick off a new season with a bunch of gloomy people getting existential about grief, but it's like nothing really happened. And some on the Internet were disgusted by this being used as part of the story.
Meanwhile, some fans reached out to Erinn Hayes herself to show support over her getting booted from the sitcom.
Some pointed fingers at Kevin Can Wait for unfairly affixing itself to the current trend of shows getting years-later revivals. And even though it's not super-likely that Kevin and Leah Remini's Vanessa will get romantic anytime soon, meaning there's a mild difference between the two shows, this was the kind of pondering that makes quite a bit of sense in the overall scheme of things.
And then, on the opposite side of the previous sentiment, one person predicted in a most amusing tweet that Kevin Can Wait would continue its original character purging to bring in more King of Queens actors.
What did you guys think about Kevin Can Wait's big shift? Check out what one of the show's stars told us about Leah Remini's presence this season, and don't forget to tune in every Monday night on CBS at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see all the other shows heading to primetime and beyond soon, head to our fall premiere schedule.