Kevin Can Wait is sending Donna six feet under.
At CBS’ portion of the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Tuesday, Thom Sherman, Senior Exec VP of Programming, was asked how the fledgling sitcom will handle the absence of leading lady Erinn Hayes, who over the summer was dismissed and (essentially) replaced with Kevin James’ former TV bride Leah Remini.
“The character will have passed away,” Sherman revealed, before adding that Season 2 will begin with a time jump (but not too much of a time jump; daughter Kendra is still in the wedding planning stages when show returns.)
CBS’ entertainment president Kelly Kahl later added that Donna’s death “will be addressed tastefully” and “with dignity and respect.” He called Hayes “a terrific actress,” but added, “when everybody collectively saw how Leah and Kevin worked together in those last couple of episodes, there was just an undeniable spark there. Kevin, the studio [Sony] and the network wanted to keep that magic and chemistry going forward.”
Regarding speculation that the show is essentially turning into The King of Queens, Sherman said, “No, I don’t think so. I think the show speaks for itself and stands for itself. Obviously, the chemistry [between James and Remini] was amazing in the stunt episodes.”
In the Season 1 finale, retired cop Kevin temporarily returned to the force as part of an ongoing undercover op with former partner Vanessa Cellucci (Remini). After the case was closed, Kevin returned home to learn that Donna had quit her job as a school nurse after being passed up for a promotion, meaning both of them were now unemployed.
“True, I’ve been let go from the show,” Hayes wrote on social media shortly after news of her exit broke. “Very sad, I had a great experience season 1. Thank you for all the support from our wonderful fans.”
Kevin Can Wait returns with its second season on Monday, Sept. 25 at 9/8c.