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CBS admits 'Kevin Can Wait' plot change doomed the LI-set sitcom, report says

"The show made a choice at the beginning of this year; we agreed to go along with it, and unfortunately the audience did not respond to it," CBS executive vice president Thom Sherman said.

Erinn Hayes and Kevin James in a scene

Erinn Hayes and Kevin James in a scene from the first season of CBS' "Kevin Can Wait." Photo Credit: CBS/Richard Boeth

Yup, it was Donna's death that killed "Kevin Can Wait."

CBS executives conceded to reporters Wednesday that the abrupt departure of Erinn Hayes' character from what had been the highest-rated new sitcom of the 2016-17 season effectively ended its brief run. "Kevin" — produced entirely at Bethpage's Gold Coast Studios — was axed Saturday after just two seasons.

“The show made a choice at the beginning of this year; we agreed to go along with it, and unfortunately the audience did not respond to it,” CBS executive vice president Thom Sherman said, according to a report in Deadline.

Donna Gable, the wife of James' Kevin Gable, died during the offseason after the show's freshman year. Viewers never learned how, although James later explained that the show had run out of story ideas for her character. In a "King of Queens" nostalgia play, "Kevin" had also cast Leah Remini in a guest star role in the two-part freshman season finale. She was added as a full castmember in the second.

Donna's departure sparked a viewer backlash that was pronounced in social media but also in the ratings. Viewership during the second season dropped more than 16 percent.

“The numbers,” said CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl, when asked to explain the cancellation. “It was a strong show for us; it’s had a lot of decline this year; it was heading in the wrong direction. The numbers were going down as the year went on and looking forward, it didn’t look like a show that was going to be strong enough to anchor a night for us going forward.”

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