FUNNY OR DIE, SIt­COm StYLE

Kevin Can Wait isn’t the first comedy se­ries to have a main char­ac­ter killed off

Calgary Sun - - SHOWBIZ - BetHOnIe But­ler

In a grim twist, Donna Gables, the wife and mom on Kevin Can Wait, will no longer be with us when the CBS sit­com re­turns this fall. Fol­low­ing CBS’ con­tro­ver­sial plans to re­place ac­tress Erinn Hayes with Leah Rem­ini, the net­work has an­nounced that Hayes’ char­ac­ter “will have passed away” be­fore the start of the show’s sec­ond sea­son.

Killing off a sit­com char­ac­ter is un­usual, but it’s not without prece­dent. Here are some other ex­am­ples of sit­com char­ac­ters that were writ­ten off shows in less-than-comedic (or in some cases, macabre) ways.

Su­san Ross (Heidi swed­berg), Se­in­feld

Cause of death: Ge­orge Costanza’s long-suf­fer­ing fi­ancee died af­ter lick­ing toxic en­velopes in­tended to mail out the cou­ple’s wed­ding in­vi­ta­tions.

Off-screen rea­son: In a 2015 in­ter­view with Howard Stern, Alexan­der said Su­san was killed off be­cause the show’s main cast found it dif­fi­cult to work with Swed­berg. “I couldn’t fig­ure out how to play off of her,” he told Stern. “Her in­stincts for do­ing a scene, where the comedy was, and mine were al­ways mis­fir­ing.”

Alexan­der said the cast was dis­cussing these chem­istry is­sues when Ju­lia Louis-Drey­fus, known for play­ing Elaine, asked, “Don’t you want to just kill her?” Cre­ator Larry David was on board. Af­ter the Stern story went vi­ral, Alexan­der apol­o­gized for his de­liv­ery. “(Swed­berg) was gen­er­ous and gra­cious, and I am so mad at my­self for retelling this story in any way that would di­min­ish her,” he wrote on­line.

Ernie ‘Coach’ Pan­tusso (Nicholas Co­lasanto), Cheers

Cause of death: Un­ex­plained, but an­nounced in the Sea­son 4 pre­miere.

Off-screen rea­son: Af­ter strug­gling with heart disease, Co­lasanto died of a heart at­tack dur­ing pro­duc­tion for the show’s third sea­son. Woody Har­rel­son was brought in as a friend of Coach’s, who is of­fered a bar­tend­ing job af­ter learn­ing of his death. The sit­com hon­oured Co­lasanto in the se­ries fi­nale when Sam (Ted Dan­son) lov­ingly straight­ened out a por­trait of Geron­imo, which the late ac­tor had kept in his dress­ing room.

Char­lie Harper (Char­lie sheen), Two and a Half Men

Cause of death: Crushed by a fall­ing pi­ano.

Off-screen rea­son: Amid strug­gles with drug ad­dic­tion and other self-de­struc­tive be­haviour, Sheen had a very public and drawn-out melt­down, which be­gan dur­ing the show’s sev­enth sea­son and fea­tured re­cur­ring ver­bal at­tacks lobbed at cre­ator Chuck Lorre. Sheen’s re­al­life drama led to his get­ting writ­ten off the show, yield­ing the char­ac­ter’s first “death” from be­ing hit by a train. Lorre got the last laugh in the sit­com’s se­ries fi­nale, which was filled with thinly veiled in­sults and the rev­e­la­tion that Char­lie Harper was alive af­ter all — un­til, you know, he wasn’t.

Dan Con­ner (John good­man), Roseanne

Cause of death: Heart at­tack.

Off-screen rea­son: Dan suf­fered a heart at­tack at his daugh­ter’s wed­ding near the end of Sea­son 8, but ap­peared to be im­prov­ing his health in the show’s fi­nal sea­son, which also found the Con­ner fam­ily cel­e­brat­ing a win­ning lot­tery ticket. The show’s last episode cru­elly re­vealed that Dan’s re­cov­ery and the fam­ily’s new­found wealth were both a prod­uct of Roseanne’s imag­i­na­tion — on over­drive thanks to her new writ­ing ca­reer. Ul­ti­mately, it’s hard to say why Dan died, but we know it made for one of the most ma­nip­u­la­tive se­ries fi­nales in TV his­tory.

Va­lerie Ho­gan (Va­lerie Harper), Va­lerie/ Va­lerie’s Fam­ily/The Ho­gan Fam­ily

Cause of death: Car ac­ci­dent.

Off-screen rea­son: Harper was dis­missed from the show amid an ugly con­tract dis­pute. Ac­tress Sandy Dun­can was hired to play Va­lerie’s sis­ter-in-law, re­cruited to help take care of Va­lerie’s three sons. The drama es­ca­lated into du­el­ing law­suits be­tween Harper and pro­duc­tion com­pany Lori­mar Tele­vi­sion, whose ex­ec­u­tives al­leged she was dis­rup­tive on set. Harper was later awarded $1.8 mil­lion in a wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion law­suit.

Paul Hen­nessy (John Rit­ter), 8 Sim­ple Rules

Cause of death: Col­lapsed at the gro­cery store dur­ing a morn­ing milk run.

Off-screen rea­son: Rit­ter died sud­denly at 54 due to an un­de­tected aor­tic dis­sec­tion. He had been on set when he fell ill. The show later paid trib­ute to him in an emo­tional twopart episode ti­tled Good­bye.

Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean steven­son), M.A.S.H.

Cause of death: His plane was shot down over the Sea of Ja­pan.

Off-screen rea­son: Steven­son asked to be let out of his con­tract dur­ing the third sea­son. In the sea­son fi­nale, Blake learned he could be dis­charged and re­turn to the United States. The episode’s un­ex­pected end­ing found a dis­traught Radar (Gary Burghoff ) de­liv­er­ing the news that Blake’s plane had been shot down. “There were no sur­vivors,” he told the unit.

James Evans (John amos), Good Times

Cause of death: Car ac­ci­dent.

Off-screen rea­son: Cre­ative dif­fer­ences. Amos, who played the beloved Evans fam­ily pa­tri­arch, felt his char­ac­ter’s el­dest son J.J. (Jim­mie Walker) was be­ing por­trayed in a stereo­typ­i­cal way — and tak­ing screen time away from the fam­ily’s other two chil­dren. “I felt too much em­pha­sis was be­ing put on J.J. and his chicken hat and say­ing ‘dyno-mite’ ev­ery third page,” Amos ex­plained in a 2015 in­ter­view with the Ar­chive of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion.

The char­ac­ter’s sud­den death — which prompted his wife, Florida (Es­ther Rolle) to break down say­ing “Damn, damn, damn” — re­mains a sore sub­ject (and fre­quent meme) for Good Times fans.

Clock­wise, from top left: Kevin Can Wait; Dan from Roseanne; Henry Blake from M*A*S*H; and Su­san from Se­in­feld.

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