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Many shows experience some touch-ups when going from premiere seasons to second-year outings, from storyline updates to casting shake-ups and beyond. But CBS' sitcom Kevin Can Wait ushered in one of the more bizarre changes we've ever seen, as Season 1 star Erinn Hayes was booted from the show, with her character Donna being killed off, which made room for Kevin James' former King of Queens co-star Leah Remini to join the show. James had kept fairly mum on the female lead switcheroo, but now he's revealed the real reason why Donna Gable is no more.
I get that people are like 'Whoa, why would you do this?' But it really felt like a thing like this was needed for this show to drive forward. . . . The plot of the show didn't have enough drive. If we got through a second season, I wouldn't see us getting through a third one. We were literally just running out of ideas.
For the fans that are still lamenting Erinn Hayes' absence on Kevin Can Wait, Kevin James' answer will almost certainly not get them fully back on board with the CBS comedy. I mean, the show was created with the central concept of James' Kevin Gable figuring out how to coast through his life as a husband and father after retiring from the local police force. That's not exactly the deepest or most multi-threaded storyline, so did everyone involved just expect the show to get cancelled after its first year, saving the writers from coming up with ways to fit Donna into the story?
Ridiculous as that may sound, it's almost more baffling to consider any alternative ideas. At least, ones that don't sound like conspiracy theories that assume Kevin Can Wait's creative team was specifically aiming to bring in Leah Remini as a replacement for Erinn Hayes, in order to boost the show's so-so ratings and terrible critical reviews. After all, cozying up to TV audiences' nostalgia is almost always a good move for TV networks looking to score some more eyeballs.
Of course, it's definitely worth noting that Kevin Can Wait went through some behind-the-scenes issues earlier in Season 1, when co-creator Bruce Helford left the show over creative differences with Kevin James. Maybe Helford would have had a ton of Donna-centric ideas for where to take the story, and his absence could have sealed the deal for Hayes' future. Now, we'll probably never know.
And even if Kevin James' answer is perfectly honest and reflective of what the creative team was going through, it was still a mind-boggling choice to kill Donna off within the narrative of the show instead of going some other route. The cast and crew have talked about how Donna's death will lead to tougher struggles for Kevin as he deals with changes in his children's lives -- James himself told New York Daily News that the storylines would be "weightier" -- but that hasn't exactly been all that obvious on the show itself, which took a big time jump and explained away Donna's absence through Kevin quickly stating that she'd died, as combined with a cheap joke. Something that fans railed against, especially after it was previous claimed that the death was only fair, and would be handled respectfully.