Erinn Hayes has a lengthy list of credits on her résumé, including guest appearances on Parks & Recreation, New Girl, The League, Two and a Half Men, and Parenthood. But most fans probably know her as the actress who was fired over the summer from the CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait. Hayes’ character, Donna, was killed off during the off-season in order to turn her onscreen husband, played by Kevin James, into a widower — a twist meant to give him more “drive” this season. And then, by total and complete coincidence, James’ former King of Queens costar Leah Remini joined the cast full-time after a well-received guest turn in the first season. With Remini now a series regular in season 2, the stage is thus set for an all-but-inevitable rekindling of that James-Remini connection — he, now a single dad just trying to keep it together, and her, now a hard-boiled detective and his new boss. The flirty banter writes itself!
But hey, listen — maybe the romance won’t happen, right? Maybe Kevin can wait to rebound. Maybe he and Vanessa (Remini) won’t do exactly what the executive producer says they’re “not trying to” do. Maybe the characters will just stay work partners, as James insists they are “at this point,” and maybe they won’t eventually mirror the romantic working-class-couple dynamic of King of Queens! And look, maybe there really won’t be any spark between the two, despite the CBS president lauding the “undeniable spark” between the two when Remini first guest starred last year!
Maybe they won’t, but they almost probably certainly definitely will.
All season long, I volunteer as tribute to keep a watchful eye on Kevin Can Wait. Out of respect for both the Ghost of Donna™ and for the millions of curious Americans who don’t watch Kevin Can Wait but still want to know how long the show will try to pretend that Kevin and Not-Carrie-Heffernan aren’t love interests, I will report back. Will Kevin and Vanessa share their first tender moment of vulnerability by the time the Thanksgiving feel-goods roll around? Will their first skin-on-skin contact — a stolen hand hold, a sustained hug — arrive with the festive coziness of Christmas or the lovelorn woe of Valentine’s Day? Which week of 2018 sweeps will betray the pair’s first kiss, or at least their wacky first attempt at it? Or will none of this come to pass and we’ll once again be forced to turn to Fuller House as TV’s best display of largely sexless situational comedy?
Kevin Can Wait‘s season premiere alone proves that our journey is not for naught, given that the premiere tilts wildly in favor of an eventual romance for one key reason: Kevin has one year of grief already under his belt. Following the off-screen demise of Donna (whose cause of death was rudely not even mentioned), the premiere finds Kevin scraping together a quickie wedding for his daughter Kendra when her boyfriend Chale’s visa expires; Vanessa gets involved by helping Kevin out and throwing Kendra an impromptu bachelorette “party,” etc. It’s exactly the kind of “You were there for me when I needed you most” situation that we could easily find ourselves referring back to later in the season. And by then, we’ll have had enough time pass in addition to the year time-jump that will thus give Kevin the benefit of the doubt that enough clocks have appropriately ticked by for him to begin the TV tango of how to tastefully rebound when the network unexpectedly kills off your wife.