Kevin Can Wait Shocker: Erinn Hayes' Donna Will Be Killed Off

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.

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163 Comments
  1. Sarahii says:

    Ridiculous

  2. Zaz says:

    Lazy writing. They should have had her leave town with a circus or something funny. Killing off is dumb…….wait…….I forgot….I don’t watch this show and don’t care.

    • Michael Littlefield says:

      It’s worse than just lazy writing. It’s completely disrespectful to Ms Hayes. CBS should be ashamed of themselves. :(

      • TheDuck0 says:

        Letting Ms. Hayes go was disrespectful: she was often the best thing on the show (which, overall, is terrible). Better for her that she can find work on something decent.

      • Jim says:

        It would have been better…and funnier…to have her run off somehow in some crazy situation and divorce Kevin. Further down the road, have her show up again (Kevin and Vanessa’s wedding?)…even if they had to recast, or who knows…Hayes could have returned for a guest shot… stranger things have happened. The bottom line here was money…they could have trimmed the supporting cast (Kev’s buddies) to afford both Hayes and Remini full-time. It’s a shame the producers didn’t figure out a way to keep her.

        • J says:

          It is a shame they couldn’t find a way to keep her but the reason she’s leaving doesn’t have to do with money, it has to do with Kevin not wanting her on the show anymore. Or so I’ve heard.

      • luvprue2 says:

        I totally agree. They are trying to recreate king of Queens. But it will never work. The king of Queens was about a married couple , their jobs, their friends and taking care of her father. The episodes were all about them. So if this show is going to be all about Kevin and his partner then what is going to happen to the rest of the cast? Will they all be demented to background characters? Guest stars, what?

    • Mary Smythe says:

      Then why are you on here,

  3. Nope says:

    This is so insane. If people wanted to still be watching King of Queens, it would still be on the air.

  4. Mark says:

    Seems really disrespectful to treat her like Charlie Sheen…

  5. BRJericho7 says:

    I came into the show a huge fan of Kevin James. As the season went on, I found myself more drawn to his on-screen wife than him, when they decided to go in a different direction, I told myself to have hope, perhaps there’s a good reason, plus it’s the nature of the business. After reading this article however, the show has just lost a fan. Again I get it, shows change direction, characters change, Etc., but when this was a character that I enjoy and an actress that I have grown quite fondly of, that’s a deal-breaker to me. Plus they can claim all they want this is not a King of Queens knock-off but to me it most certainly does now, and they me as a fan because of it.

  6. iHeart says:

    why didn’t they just reboot King of Queens instead? because it almost sounds like this is what it’ll be minus Jerry Stiller

  7. Gabrielle says:

    How. Bad. Was. This. Actress. To. Work. With…Really?

    I didn’t think they had the world’s most perfect chemistry but I really didn’t like the episodes with Remini. I thought they were the worst of the season.

    That’s really kind of heavy once you get a season renewal to take the Mom character and off her to bring back Remini’s character. I don’t buy that they aren’t trying to remake KOQ. Will have to see to believe and I feel really bad for Erinn. What a slap in the face.

    • Robert says:

      If they wanted leah remini back so badly, why couldn’t they gave her play a love interest of Kevin’s brother or something and hav e Kevin go back to the force and have to deal with her again. It would hav e been funny. The chemistry was great with Donna, IMO, and if they are killing her off, they are doing the same to the show.

    • Ann Marie says:

      Agreed!! It was torcher to watch the two part season finally! I hate it and thought it was so “off”! Worst episodes of the season. I am a huge Kevin James fan but I do have to say this tanted my view a bit Leah does not fit into the show. And killing her off before the daughters wedding makes it even more tragic! If the 2nd season is like the two part season finally I likely will be deleting it from my DVR line up. Very sad! Such a fun LI show, I even went to the tapping once, such a great time!

    • Ruby Lang says:

      Completely agree

  8. Jenny Rarden says:

    Nope, I’m done. *sigh* She had such great chemistry with the whole cast. I’ve done King of Queens. I don’t need a repeat, even though I liked it well enough at the time. This will change the whole dynamic. Suddenly the kids have lost their mother? It can’t be that big a time jump or the two younger kids especially will need to be aged up. And what about the wedding? That was a huge premise throughout the entire first season–Kendra’s engagement at such a young age, her fiance who didn’t have a job and was mooching off the family, etc. If they are still at that place in their lives/relationship, that would be stupid, and if they aren’t, if they’re already married, etc, then the audience will feel cheated that they missed out on that story that was such a huge part of season one. Bleh.

    • Anne says:

      Agreed. And it looks like it’s not going to be a huge time jump. So these kids just get over the loss of their mother that quickly eh. Disgusting.

  9. Eva says:

    Well that doesn’t sound like a complete trainwreck AT ALL.

  10. Vee Bee says:

    Dang, that’s cold. Also entirely predictable. Not sure which is worse.

  11. Kristina says:

    I like Kevin James but I started watching for Erinn Hayes and she was definitely the most enjoyable thing about this series for me. Have never been a Leah Remini fan so I’m out. Hope the show does well for those that will enjoy this turn of events but the daughter and her fiancé are just not enough to keep me wanting to watch.

    • Kathy Lininger says:

      I really like Kevin James. Erin Hayes… Not so much. Can’t wait to see Leah back with Kevin. Sorry I missed the episodes with Leah. Hope they re-run those, so I can get a better idea of what transpired. Sad about Erin’s demise, but over joyed to see Leah and Kevin together again!

      • Kelly says:

        I agree also…I watched one episode when it started. Wasn’t a huge fan, but came back when Leah guest starred. I love those two together.Even better that they are different characters to KOQ and can go in any direction going forward.

        • Mia says:

          My wish came true.. Yeaa!! As much as I Do feel bad for the other actress, I am SO thrilled that Leah R. is coming back!! (and hey.. Nothing personal, that’s just show biz!).
          Wish Remni’s character’s ‘father’ cld be back on too! Cld care less if it turns back into the old KOQ!! Let them all grow old together and Don’t take them Off again! (If it ain’t broke STOP fixing it!!!). Anyway, Yeaa!

  12. I think this the worst way to handle it because from the reports we read it doesn’t seem like there was much hostility over her exit.

    Why permanently close the door on her making a guest appearance or something down the road?

    • Ethan says:

      possibly because they liked the character and don’t want to make her look like a villain which is the only way to go for a situation like that.

  13. Luis Roman says:

    1976 – John Amos’s character on “Good Times” was killed off. According to Amos, he objected to the emphasis on J.J.’s antics, which Amos referred to as “shucking and jiving,” and Amos admitted he “wasn’t the most diplomatic guy.,” Amos went on to say producers got tired of “having their lives threatened over jokes.”

    • Jason says:

      That was an example of bad blood with the producers. A similar situation happened in the late eighties with the show Valerie. Their was a salary dispute between the studio and Valerie Harper, so they killed her character off in a car accident, between seasons. The next year they brought in Sandy Duncan and renamed the show, “Valerie’s Family”. (And then renamed it, yet again, “The Hogan Family”) But this whole situation seems worse, because it didn’t stem from any apparent discord. They just dropped her without warning, witch kind of makes them dicks.

  14. Ernesto says:

    I’ve only watched the show a few times and I liked the character of Donna. Something about Leah Remini is abrasive. There was a show called The Exes and she was brought on but she played the abrasive character from King of Queens on there too. Not sure how this will play out. I think it’s a bad idea.

    • Jim says:

      Loved The Exes! I liked her on that show, even though she was basically a divorced version of Carrie Heffernan. She was added because Kristen Johnston was ill and missed some episodes…but at least Remini didn’t replace her.

  15. DORA says:

    After they fired Erin I think that was so very wrong!! I WILL NOT EATCH THE SHOW.Trying to relive King of Queens again is so dumb!!

  16. Brian says:

    If they were going to do this, they should go all in. Have Kevin find her corpse in a Doomsday Killers style ritual killing out of Dexter.

  17. Adam says:

    It sounds like Kevin CAN’T wait to replace his dead wife.

  18. RICK TEHANSKY says:

    If you folks believe this, I have some beach front property in Queens I might interest you in :0)

  19. Tracy288 says:

    Massive mistake.

  20. Katrinka says:

    I read a comment, I believe here on TVLine, when they first announced Erin was leaving & Leah was coming back. The person said they would find a complete flip acceptable only if they’d Bob Newhart the whole thing. Doug Heffernan wakes up in Queens & tells Carrie about his crazy dream where he’d been a police officer, his cousin was his brother, had a different wife, kids, etc. That would be far more preferable than this malarkey.

  21. How will they kill Donna off she seem really health in the show unless the way she dies in the show is getting by a moving vehicle or something bad like that

    • Joe says:

      Lot’s of people seem to be healthy, that doesn’t mean they are. If they don’t want to go the accident route she could have died from an aneurysm or a heart attack or she got pneumonia, all of those things do kill young people.

  22. Ryan says:

    I for one will no longer watch the show. I like the show just the way it was and Donna character made me laugh.

  23. Susu says:

    Funny guy with less than stellar looks has hot wife (??) he’d never get in life, unless he’s wealthy, which has been done to death on TV for ages.

    The dumbing down continues.

  24. Jack says:

    This is very cruel and dark for a situation comedy. Surely there had to be some other creative way to change the show’s direction? I feel bad for Miss Hayes.

    Change the show’s title to “Kevin Can’t Wait – For His Wife To Die!”

    • Ethan says:

      no kidding its not gonna be tasteful no matter how hard they try. Sitcoms and Funerals don’t mix unless the dark comedy vibe is intended. Just look at Two and a Half Men when they killed off Charlie Sheen.

      • Jim says:

        Or 8 Simple Rules when John Ritter died. I think this explanation is some sort of fakeout. Killing Donna will only force her to become a silent character the writers will have to continually deal with. If they attempt some sort of dream or reboot, you eliminate that. Make Kevin wake up… Donna actually died before the two younger kids were even born, years ago. Focus on Kevin, Vanessa and Chale opening a detective agency with the oldest daughter in the mix. Keep Gary Valentine, maybe add a new character. Donna recently passing away will hang over the show.

        • TheDuck0 says:

          To be fair, having John Ritter’s character on 8 Simple Rules die was the only way they could handle the unfortunate reality of his death. Anything else would have been disrespectful.

          • Jim says:

            They did an admirable job with Ritter’s death, given the circumstances. I took the point that whenever any character is killed off, it’s just not funny (with the exception of Chuckles the clown!). It takes the show out if its groove and it takes awhile to regain comedic momentum. For a show with so-so ratings, this is a big risk.

          • Anne says:

            And they handled it really well. It felt honest and raw in the show. It was a great way to honour his memory

  25. Jared says:

    That is such a ridiculous and lazy way to write a character out of a show. But then again this is CBS so…

  26. Chip Ramsey says:

    One thing is for certain: They’ve lost any viewers that practice Scientology…

  27. Jason says:

    That’s hilarious. The whole idea that they’re going this direction at all, sort of nullifies the notion that this is being done with “dignity and respect”. When they conceptualized this, I’m sure they said, “Certainly no woman would ever leave a guy like Kevin. That would be absurd! The only clear and tasteful choice is to murder her.” They can throw any new character they want, into the mix, but you can’t cast your way out of crappy writing.

    • qriffic says:

      What do you expect from a show that thought a woman like Hayes would be married to kevin James in the first place, I guess? Stupid is as stupid does.

    • Joe says:

      I actually think killing her off is the most respectful way to write her character out. The alternatives are simply not mentioning her anymore or a divorce which would make her the bad guy by necessity because she’s gone and Kevin is still there.
      By having the character die she can be remembered as a loving mom and wife, as Kevin’s partner he wanted to spend his life with etc., it certainly beats “she ran off with a circus”.

  28. AngelWasHere says:

    They really should just reboot King of Queens. Would have been a much better idea than to have this new show morph into it.

  29. Melissa says:

    I love Kevin James so we tuned in last year, and we enjoyed Donna’s character. Actually, Kevn James got kind of annoying as the season went on, but we still watched. The episodes with Leah Remini were the worst. I found her way too over the top and abrasive. Cannot believe CBS thought the chemistry was too overwhelming to ignore. (And I liked King of Queens too.) Sorry, Kevin Can Wait. We won’t be watching this fall.

    • Cheryl says:

      You express my thoughts exactly. Kevin actually was a detriment to the show, as far as I’m concerned. Others were much more fun and believable.

    • Yep says:

      Oh well. Hayes will find work again. Its clear from the ratings that people wanted this. I might ditch it as well though

  30. Ethan says:

    Lets be honest killing a character off in a sitcom is never handled tastefully even when its intended to be, its just not possible, you are trying have serious scene while still being funny.

  31. Elaine says:

    This is typical of CBS and Sony. It’s not the first time they have done it and it won’t be the last. The only way we can show our disgust is to not watch the new season come this September

  32. mary Schaeffer says:

    I have enjoyed watching this show but with the change of character’s I will not be watching it when it returns in September. I am not a big fan of Remini and I feel it will be just a pick up where King of Queens left off. I feel this was a bad mistake and the show will not last .

  33. TiredofTripe says:

    That move reminds me of how the producers of “Valerie” killed off Valerie Harper’s character after she had a dispute with them over the creative direction of the show.

    Even though, “Kevin Can Wait” may not be turned into the new “King of Queens,” I have a feeling that Kevin James’ and Leah Remini’s characters will be paired off.

  34. Rick says:

    I can understand the outrage over this. But lets be honest the show wasn’t working, I tuned in the beginning but found it lacking and stopped watching after a few episodes. In fact I am sure if CBS had better comedies it might have been a one and done type show.

    • Iris says:

      It applies to so many renewals this season. They didn’t have better, so they didn’t cancel. It’s likely we see many all time-lows in the ratings for returning shows this fall.

  35. Kelly says:

    So there going to kill off my favorite character who just happens to also be a wife and mother of three. Isn’t that what everyone wants to see in a light-hearted, family style, comedy? — My family watched every episode of season 1 and the episodes with Leah Remini were our least favorite. Killing off Donna just makes a bad decision worse. We will never watch this show again.

  36. T.W.S.S. says:

    Hardly a shocker, this very website predicted it a while back.

  37. Summer says:

    I mean, I spent most of the first season wondering how on Earth Donna settled for less in life and married Kevin, but this is not a fate she deserved at all.

  38. cosmoman11 says:

    Hopefully it will fail miserably.

  39. LMF says:

    don’t watch and wont. Bad choice. Why not just cancel and do a king of queens 20 years later or something. Being disrespectful is a bad choice. I was surprised it was even renewed it was so bad.

  40. V Yengst says:

    Just wrote this show off for next season. If I wanted to watch King of Queens I’d look for reruns.

  41. Pat Hinchliffe says:

    Rediculous!

  42. PL says:

    wont be watching, lost interested as soon as Leah came back.. Kevin Can Wait was funny because of the wife.

  43. J.Norman says:

    “Kevin, the studio [Sony] and the network wanted to keep that magic and chemistry going forward.””

    Well, the Kevin part is right. I think Kevin James wanted this change period.
    Hope it tanks.

  44. april-ann says:

    Big mistake. If they wanted the wonderful addition of Leah to work, then turning the wife into a sympathetic character is a big mistake. They don’t need the kids. They should have had Kevin wake up a la Newhart. Beginning a series with that would be just as funny as ending one with it, if done right.

  45. Peter MB says:

    I enjoyed Erinn’s portrayal very much. I thought she balanced Kevin’s over the top antics. Leah will be just another person to throw daggers at the Chale character. Passing on this season

  46. annieo53 says:

    Cold, that is just…cold. Buzzards! Rarely watched the first show and now certainly won’t watch any more of the current one. I wish all the best to Ms. Hayes.

  47. George H. says:

    I think the real death will be of the show with the way CBS has handled this whole thing. This kind of stuff turns people off.

    • april-ann says:

      I’m sure the actress who was let go knows she is in show business. People apparently are not turned off whenever the queen of vindictiveness fires someone. They heap praise on her for the awful way she handles things and vow to continue watching her silly shows. She is really the egregious terminator and no one bats an eye. (Shonda)

  48. Cobra says:

    I’m guessing mid season, the show gets moved to a death slot.