Erinn Hayes and Kevin James on "Kevin Can Wait."

Erinn Hayes and Kevin James on "Kevin Can Wait." Credit: CBS / David Giesbrecht

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “Kevin Can Wait” — the LI-filmed sitcom starring Kevin James as a retired Nassau County cop and devoted family man — will return to the CBS schedule for its second season in September, but as what?

James’ wife on the series, Donna — played by Erinn Hayes — was dropped by the series after the end of the first season. But . . . why? She seemed to be a fan favorite, and otherwise was a solid performer. No good explanation was ever given.

In any event the instant suspicion for this firing fell on another name: Leah Remini. After a highly rated two-episode guest arc in May, she’ll permanently join the show next season, leading to the obvious question: Is “Kevin Can Wait” about to become “The King of Queens 2.0?” (Remini played Carrie Heffernan, wife of James’ character, Doug Heffernan, on that long-running sitcom.)

But now we know how the show will handle Donna’s absence.

“The character will have passed away,” Thom Sherman, the network’s senior executive vice president of programming, told reporters on Tuesday at the TV critics’ summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California. “We will be moving forward in time, catching up at a later date.”

“I’m not sure we can make that hilarious,” CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl added, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “It will be treated with dignity and respect, and the show will move forward. It’s something that will have taken place in the past.”

Meanwhile, Sherman assured the writers that the series will not “morph into ‘The King of Queens.’”

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