Kevin Can Wait viewers couldn’t wait to get on social media to blast the show’s handling of the death of a major character. While most fans knew that the Donna Gable character played by Erinn Hayes would be killed off the CBS comedy amid a creative rest that included the permanent addition of Leah Remini to the cast, many were stunned by the way the plotline was brushed over in the Season 2 premiere.
Kevin Can Wait viewers tuned into the Season 2 premiere to find out how Hayes’ character would be written out only to see her death reduced to a 20-second joke about a gym coupon. As Kevin Gable (Kevin James) rifled through the mail, he came upon a postcard from his late wife’s gym and revealed how it said she hasn’t been there in a while.
“We miss you,” he said of the gym mailing. “Yeah. I do too.”
The now widowed dad’s oldest daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) chimed in that it’s been “over a year since she died” and that the gym shouldn’t be sending mailings anymore, but Kevin told her not to throw out the postcard because there was a coupon for a kung-fu class he wanted to use. There was no further explanation or insight into Donna’s demise in the opening Kevin Can Wait scene, and the characters quickly moved on to a storyline about Chale’s (Ryan Cartwright) deportation. You can see the brief mention of Donna’s death in the Kevin Can Wait clip posted below.
In all fairness to Kevin Can Wait, producers and series star Kevin James himself warned fans that there would be a time jump when the show picked up and that Donna’s death storyline would not be shown onscreen. In June, CBS president Kelly Kahl told reporters Donna’s death “would be treated with dignity and respect” and that it would be “something that will have taken place in the past.”
Kevin Can Wait executive producer Rock Reuben even revealed up front that the way Donna died wouldn’t be mentioned in the Season 2 premiere and would only be brought up in future episodes if it made sense for the story.
“We’re coming up about a year later, the family is pulling itself back together,” Reuben told TV Guide of Kevin Can Wait. “If it becomes necessary for a story, we’ll do it, but otherwise, we’re going to kind of — the show is about moving forward.”
Still, the warning from producers didn’t stop Kevin Can Wait fans from blasting the show for its “cold” and “distasteful” handling of the death of Erinn Hayes’ character.
Wow. Really. #KevinCanWait just casually mentions his wife “died over a year ago”. Just to bring Leah Remini back. Sad and distasteful— Nathan Reed (@nathanreed001) September 26, 2017
Was that it just mentioning she died over a year ago? That was kinda cold #KevinCanWait— Diana (@diiana_rob) September 26, 2017
Ahead of the controversial premiere, Kevin James explained the decision to kill off his TV wife, telling Entertainment Weekly Kevin Can Wait was originally supposed to be about him as a single dad.
“The show was originally going to be about a single dad, but the way the story started going, we went with the great Erinn Hayes,” James explained.
“But then it felt like a very familiar family sitcom again and it kind of went down the track where we felt like the show needed a little emotional weight to drive the character…It had nothing to Erinn’s acting ability or her comedic talent. This is what they needed to do to give this show some weight, to take this show in a different direction.”
James also defended the show’s handling of Donna’s death, saying that while it was “a tricky situation,” he feels like the writers “did it in a very classy way.”
Kevin Can Wait airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.
[Featured Image by Jeffrey Neira/CBS]