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LI's biggest TV story of 2018: 'Kevin Can Wait' flops

Killing off a key character may have doomed the sitcom, which was shot in Bethpage.

Kevin James at SiriusXM Studios to promote

 Kevin James at SiriusXM Studios to promote 'Kevin Can Wait' on Sept. 19, 2016, in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Cindy Ord

Nobody knows anything in Hollywood, but surely Long Islanders know a few things. They know, for example, that TV sitcom wives are as important as TV sitcom husbands. They know that TV sitcom "deaths" are a last resort — the result of a busted contract negotiation, or due to the behavior of a star that is so opprobrious, and so disruptive, that "death" becomes the only option.

(By falling piano in one famous instance, if memory serves.)

So what happened to "Kevin Can Wait?" What didn't it know that you know? Obviously the obvious. After "Kevin" killed off Erinn Hayes' Donna Gable at the prompting of star Kevin James, the most successful freshman sitcom of the 2016-17 season became one of the least successful sophomore sitcoms of the 2017-18 season.  Doom was both ensured and deserved.

Hayes — a gifted comedian ("Childrens Hospital") and by no account a "disruptive" presence on set — was gone, and soon "Kevin Can Wait" would follow. James' long-awaited return to primetime ended in fiasco, and the only primetime series ever produced on the Island (at Bethpage's Gold Coast Studios) ended in ignominy.

How ignominious? Well, AMC is developing a series (co-created by Rashida Jones) entitled "Kevin Can [Expletive] Himself." It's about the mistreatment of sitcom wives. Apparently "Kevin Can Wait" is Exhibit A.

The demise of "Kevin" was unfortunate for a few reasons. Mineola-born James had always wanted to make Long Island the "star" of the series, and while Long Island was mostly reduced to a few name-checks ("All-American Burger"), a Billy Joel shoutout, and the occasional B-roll footage of a landmark or two, viewers still knew this was set on Long Island, and not in some sitcom-sanitized hometown that could be Anywhere or Anyplace, USA.

James also insisted on the LI-based production venue too — a boon for Gold Coast, for local talent, and for especially for local business. With the cancellation last May, that went away.

Then there's James himself. Unlike the vast majority of stars who have come from here, he never disavowed his roots, but embraced them. He was defiantly proud of his home turf, and used his considerable clout in support of it. That's not only commendable but unprecedented.

A pity that one dumb casting move would scuttle his best of intentions.

What's up with James now? His L.A.-based spokeswoman says he's involved in no TV or movie projects at the moment.

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