Sit­com Kevin Can Wait killing off wife, tak­ing dark turn

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - EMILY YAHR

It was the strangest twist of the TV sea­son: In June, shortly af­ter the first sea­son fi­nale of CBS’ Kevin James sit­com “Kevin Can Wait,” the show’s cre­ators de­cided to get rid of the char­ac­ter played by Erinn Hayes, who starred as James’s wife. Then, they announced they would re­place Hayes with Leah Rem­ini, best known as James’ wife on “The King of Queens,” the lon­grun­ning CBS com­edy that ended in 2007.

Swap­ping TV wives is al­ready bizarre -- and so is ax­ing the wife and mom char­ac­ter on a fam­ily sit­com. Now, CBS has announced an up­date for those wondering how Hayes’ char­ac­ter will be writ­ten off the show: They’re go­ing to kill her.

“The char­ac­ter will have passed away,” Thom Sher­man, the net­work’s se­nior ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pro­gram­ming, told re­porters on Tues­day at the TCA sum­mer press tour. “We will be mov­ing for­ward in time, catch­ing up at a later date.”

A time jump af­ter a char­ac­ter’s death isn’t un­usual -- on a grisly crime drama, that is. It hap­pens far less fre­quently on shows with laugh tracks.

“I’m not sure we can make that hi­lar­i­ous,” CBS En­ter­tain­ment Pres­i­dent Kelly Kahl added, ac­cord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter. “It will be treated with dig­nity and re­spect, and the show will move for­ward. It’s some­thing that will have taken place in the past.”

When the news broke about Hayes’ de­par­ture two months ago, var­i­ous re­ports as­sured every­one that the re­cast­ing was noth­ing per­sonal, and the show was “head­ing in a new cre­ative di­rec­tion.” “Kevin Can Wait” av­er­aged about 9.1 mil­lion view­ers per week, making it the most-watched new com­edy of the 2016-2017 TV sea­son. The two-part sea­son fi­nale fea­tured a re­union be­tween James and Rem­ini, who guest-starred as James’ for­mer part­ner and ri­val on the po­lice force. Kahl noted that Rem­ini wasn’t orig­i­nally brought in to see if she might re­place Hayes; but af­ter see­ing the dy­namic be­tween her and James, the net­work and stu­dio “wanted to keep that magic and chem­istry go­ing for­ward.”

“When every­body col­lec­tively saw how Leah and Kevin were to­gether in those last cou­ple episodes, there was an un­de­ni­able spark there,” Kahl said. Va­ri­ety con­firmed that when Rem­ini re­turns, she will play the same char­ac­ter that she did in the fi­nale.

The whole premise of “Kevin Can Wait” is that James is a re­tired cop who’s try­ing to re­lax but still has to deal with his wacky fam­ily. It looks like things are about to take a much darker turn in the sec­ond sea­son. Hayes’s publi­cist has not yet re­turned a re­quest for com­ment about how she felt about her char­ac­ter be­ing killed off.

“True, I’ve been let go from the show,” she tweeted back in June. “Very sad; I had a great ex­pe­ri­ence sea­son 1. Thank you for all the sup­port from our won­der­ful fans.”

MICHAEL PARMELEE, CBS

Erinn Hayes and Kevin James in "Kevin Can Wait." CBS has de­cided to get rid of Hayes’ char­ac­ter.

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