When news broke that, in the interest of reuniting Kevin James with former TV wife Leah Remini, CBS’s Kevin Can Wait would kill off current TV wife Erinn Hayes, it was surprising. Very literally, it was overkill. The show, only entering its second season, could have been easily retooled. A simple retcon. A divorce. There are plenty of ways to write a character out of a 22-minute sitcom. To do so through death is usually only reserved as a punishment for problem actors or when the actor has actually died.
Hayes is very much alive, and by all network accounts, was very pleasant to work with. And, yet, this character, in the show’s universe a nurse and mother of three, was killed offscreen and the network’s proclaimed “respectful” handling of her story amounted to two mentions, neither referencing how she died or even saying her name (as I have never watched the show before this episode, I had to look up the character’s name—it’s Donna), let alone how anyone feels about or is any way affected by her loss.
The first moment was…so weird.
Opening his mail, Kevin reacts with muted annoyance. “It’s a postcard from your mom’s gym. ‘Haven’t seen you, we miss you.’ You know what? So do I.” When his daughter, in this show a young woman left motherless to essentially raise her siblings left in the incapable hands of a father who removes fruit from their lunchboxes in favor of beef jerky, offers to call the gym about the postcard, her dad then says “but don’t throw that out. On the bottom there’s a coupon for a Kung Fu lesson. I wanna go to it.”
And, uh, that’s it. Then there’s green card shenanigans (Kevin forgot to mail the daughter’s boyfriend’s visa sponsorship! Man-based hilarity!), a Civil War re-enactment, a burst appendix and a hospital wedding (forget it, Jake; it’s CBS town) that leads to the only other reference to THE DEAD MOTHER.
EVERYONE IS SO CHILL ABOUT HOW DEAD THIS WOMAN IS.
Here’s the thing: generally speaking, it should be frowned upon to kill a woman so you can date a different woman. Yes this is just television, but the idea of the Disposable Woman, an impediment that needs to be eradicated in pursuit of added pleasure or ratings, is a dangerous implication. Literally, of course, but also in terms of entertainment where well-written female characters are already at a minimum; do we really need to do a swap out? Is there seriously not room for two?
Here’s hoping Erinn Hayes moves onward and upward to a show more deserving of her talents. And that it turns out her character just faked her death to get out of replying to emails.