UPDATED: CBS’ Catholic-Family Comedy ‘Kevin Can Wait’ Returns Monday, Plus Leah Remini

UPDATE:

This post was written without having seen the season-two premiere of “Kevin Can Wait,” which apparently upset many viewers in how it dealt — or didn’t — with the demise of Donna, the wife character played by Erinn Hayes.

From Entertainment Weekly:

 In June, CBS president Kelly Kahl had promised, “It will be treated with dignity and respect, something that will have taken place in the past.”

Well, how it was handled was in 20 seconds with a postcard from Donna’s gym and a kung-fu joke. There was no explanation or insight into her demise, only that it had been over a year since she died. On Twitter, many fans expressed outrage about how quickly the death of the show’s female lead was glossed over.

“Wow,” wrote one Twitter user. “Really. #KevinCanWait just casually mentions his wife ‘died over a year ago.’ Just to bring Leah Remini back. Sad and distasteful.”

I’ve been around show business long enough to know that there is probably a lot more to this than appears on the surface, but this is very disappointing. We’re pleased that the Kendra/Chale wedding finally took place, and that dad Kevin (Kevin James) got a priest to perform it, but as to the rest …

Very disappointing indeed.

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When CBS’ comedy “Kevin Can Wait” returns on Monday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, retired Catholic cop Kevin Gable (played by Catholic Kevin James) is facing life with a new job, a new boss and …

SPOILER ALERT!

…and as a single father.

That’s right, the producers have killed off Kevin Gable’s wife, but they’ve added in Kevin James’ TV wife from an earlier sitcom, “King of Queens.”

In season one, Long Island resident Kevin was married to nurse Donna (Erinn Hayes), mother of their three children: law student/waitress Kendra (Taylor Spreitler); tomboy Sara (Mary-Charles Jones); and hypochondriac Jake (James DiGiacomo). Living in the family garage was English tech developer Chale (Ryan Cartwright), Kendra’s fiance.

As the season ended, Kevin’s former police partner, Vanessa Celucci (Leah Remini), reappeared as Kevin came out of retirement to pair up with Vanessa as fake spouses on an undercover assignment.

Remini played James’ wife for nine seasons on the hit CBS sitcom “King of Queens,” when she was still in the Church of Scientology. Now, she’s out of Scientology, back in the Catholic faith, and host of an Emmy-winning Tuesday-night reality show about her former religion on A&E, called “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”

Between the seasons, in what was described as a “creative reset,” the producers let Hayes go and decided on her character’s demise. Some time has passed since the event — no so much time that Kendra and Chale have gotten married yet — Kevin is now a single dad, and he’s going to be working at a security firm — with Celucci as his boss.

Considering the howls of joy from the studio audience when James first slid into a booth with Remini, there are probably a lot of people — both TV types and fans — thinking about rekindling the actors’ romantic chemistry. Back during the summer, when the announcement was first made about Hayes leaving the show, I wondered if they would use a divorce to split the couple up, or whether they Donna would pass away somehow. Since James is a serious Catholic, having his character divorced would mean either no romantic involvement, or an annulment plotline that might puzzle the non-Catholics in the crowd, who’d just go, “Hey, he’s divorced. What’s the problem?”

So, I wasn’t surprised when the decision was made to make Kevin a widower. But we don’t yet know whether Vanessa and Kevin will be anything more than old friends and colleagues (at least not for a few episodes).

From an interview in the TVInsider:

Vanessa and Kevin go way back. What’s their dynamic?

Leah Remini: Like family. Nobody lets anything go—they hurl insults, but underneath it they care for each other.
James: They have that love/hate thing. It’s nice that we don’t have to build history.

Sounds like a recipe for some Moonlighting-esque chemistry…

Remini: We can only hope! But on the show, Kevin is adjusting to a new normal. There are so many stories to tell just around that right now.
James: We don’t know where it will go. Maybe they will get together, maybe they won’t, but we wouldn’t want to lock in on anything yet.

The season-two premiere is called “Civil Ceremony,” and here’s how CBS describes it:

KEVIN RUSHES TO THROW KENDRA THE PERFECT WEDDING WITH VANESSA’S HELP WHEN CHALE IS ABOUT TO BE DEPORTED, ON THE SECOND SEASON PREMIERE OF “KEVIN CAN WAIT,” MONDAY, SEPT. 25

“Civil Ceremony” – Kendra and Chale must get married immediately when the Gables learn that he is about to be deported. As Kevin chases down Father Phillip (Jim Breuer) to officiate the ceremony, Vanessa helps Kendra put together the last-minute affair, on the second season premiere of KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Sept. 25 (9:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Leah Remini joins the cast as Vanessa Cellucci, and Jim Breuer returns as Father Phillip.

And here’s a preview:

Here’s to hoping that Kendra and Chale finally tie the knot. There aren’t too many clean family comedies on network TV, but “Kevin Can Wait” seems to be one of them.

And, BTW, Remini seems very happy at her new gig, if her Instagram account (which she also used to announce the Catholic baptism of her daughter) is to be believed:

Image: Courtesy CBS

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