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SHOCKER -- CBS Confirms 'Kevin Can Wait' Will Kill Off Erinn Hayes' Donna

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Written Asking Why Fix What Wasn't Broken by Bridger Cunningham

Per Deadline, Kevin Can Wait's recent firing of Erinn Hayes (Donna) will result in the character being killed off for storyline dictated reasons.  That direction, of course, opens the door for Leah Remini to assume the lead as Vanessa, opposite Kevin James' Kevin.  CBS sparked controversy when it confirmed weeks ago the popular Hayes was fired as the show was being retooled.  The move is questionable, as it is either CBS' shameless grab as nostalgic chemistry between Remini and James from their King of Queens history.  Or it could be a creative maneuver to shake up its dull Monday lineup.

The problem is that KCW was performing just fine before the drastic change.  It rated a hair above the average CBS sitcom.  Hayes was welcome and praised.  No backstage dust-ups occurred (which the audience knows of).  Hayes was not a huge marquee star making outrageous demands or asking to leave the series.  This is all on CBS.  This is indeed a bold stroke which places the show's future in risky territory.

KCW's creative decision is a risky one, as sitcoms of the past have fared with mixed results after killing off a beloved character early in the run.  A contractual dispute led NBC to fore Valerie Harper from her flagship sophomore show, Valerie, in 1987.  Thankfully, Sandy Duncan emerged as a welcome fit when Valerie's self-titled character was killed off.  The show performed modestly for three more seasons after being rebranded Valerie's Family, then The Hogan Family.  The same fortunes could not hold at 8 Simple Rules when lead John Ritter died prematurely of a heart attack in fall 2003 at 55.The show continued for two more seasons, but the tone soured, and it was cancelled after 3 seasons.

Both referenced instances were necessary, as one involved a firing due to a dispute and a death.  A character's death mid-series on a sitcom can alter the tone of a show.  A death before a show starts does not allow an audience to invest in a character like Donna, yet doing so mid-season may alter ratings patterns.  Either the show will garner initial bumps from the headlines, or viewers will tune out as the feel is gone.  Will you tune in for the change?