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Here's How Kevin Can Wait Handled Erinn Hayes' Character's Death

They didn't make a big deal out of it. They made a really small deal.

Liam Mathews

Between Season 1 and Season 2, the creative team of Kevin Can Wait decided to do a soft reboot and replace female lead Erinn Hayes with star Kevin James' King of Queens wife Leah Remini. It was a surprising choice, and it got even weirder when the producers revealed that Hayes' character would be killed off, an inappropriately dark turn for the light family comedy.

Before the season, showrunners Rock Reuben and Rob Long told TV Guide that the show was going to pick up about a year later with the characters past the heaviest part of their grief. They'd be moving on. The show probably wasn't even going to explain how Donna died, and was going to focus on the creative reset. It kind of sounded like they were going to act like it never happened. And that's pretty much how it went.

In the first scene, Kevin was making the kids' lunches, which indicated something was amiss. His daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) got the kids off to school. These are jobs the mother would do, but there is no mother. There was a piece of mail from Donna's gym that said "we haven't seen you, we miss you." It's been over a year since she died and he's still getting mail for her, he said. He misses her, but also don't throw away that mail, he wants to take a kung fu class.

​Kevin James and Leah Remini, Kevin Can Wait

Kevin James and Leah Remini, Kevin Can Wait

Jeffrey Neira, CBS

Then the rest of the episode happened. Kendra and Chale (Ryan Cartwright) had to get married or else Chale would be deported. Remini's Vanessa Celucci helped out with INS, hired a stripper for the bachelorette party and did Kendra's hair. Kendra put on her mother's wedding dress. Kevin gave a little speech about how she used to be his little peanut and now she's getting married.

"We're just missing one thing, " he said.

"I know, I wish Mom was here too," she answered, which was kind of jarring, because, y'know, she could have been.

And that was it. And that might be it. Kevin and Vanessa are going to develop a will they/won't they relationship, and the world will keep turning.

Kevin Can Wait airs Mondays at 9/8c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)