The biggest news in the history of Kevin Can Wait (not saying much), which broke this summer, is that Erinn Hayes’s character Donna (the wife of Kevin James’s Kevin) was being killed off so that the show could focus on Kevin’s life as a single father...and also reunite him with Leah Remini, thus giving viewers King of Queens 2.0.
The show’s EP Rob Long promised this was being done “out of respect” for Donna, who is a fictional character, and during the opening moments of last night’s Season 2 premiere, we got to see the extent of that respect: An exchange lasting less than 20 seconds in which the series’s minor time jump was noted (“It’s been over a year since she died,” noted Kevin’s daughter Kendra, played by Taylor Spreitler). The death came up as a topic of conversation because Donna’s gym had sent her a postcard: “Haven’t seen you. We miss you.”
“Ya know what? So do I,” said Kevin. He misses her so much, he punctuates the exchange with a joke: “But don’t throw that out, on the bottom is a coupon for a kung-fu lesson. I wanna go there.” You can tell it’s a joke because the audience (or laugh track) laughs after he says it.
And...that’s it (aside from a later passing reference to Donna being missed). For now anyway. The whole thing reminds me of the ‘80s sitcom Valerie, which returned for its third season without its titular character (Valerie Hogan, who played her, left the show after Season 2 after a salary dispute). The acknowledgement of her death in the show’s first segment was similarly brief:
At least they gave Valerie a cause of death (automobile accident). Donna, thus far, hasn’t been so fortunate. Valerie (renamed Valerie’s Family and then The Hogan Family) examined the emotional toll of Valerie’s death a few episodes later, and there’s obviously still plenty of time in the season left for Kevin Can Wait to do so. If Kevin can wait, we all can.
Meanwhile, Hayes has other things on her mind, per her Twitter: