CBS has canceled its Kevin James sitcom Kevin Can Wait after two seasons. A lot of the cancellations that have come so far this year have been somewhat expected, but this one did leave a lot of fans surprised.
So why is it that CBS decided to end this show? Well, the answer seems to come down to a number of factors — some that you would probably expect and others that you wouldn’t.
Here’s a look at the fall of Kevin Can Wait and what CBS says was the main factor in its cancellation (page 6).
1. The showrunner left after half a season
Kevin Can Wait got off to a fantastic start in 2016, with its premiere episode drawing an impressive 11 million viewers. But just two months later, it looked like the series might be heading towards trouble when its showrunner, Bruce Helford, left. At the time, Deadline reported that this was due to creative differences with Kevin James.
That news came as Kevin Can Wait was already beginning to decline in the ratings a bit; it started off with The Big Bang Theory as a lead-in, but when CBS moved it to 8 p.m., the ratings began to decline significantly.
Next: The show made a dramatic change for a surprising reason.
2. The show killed Kevin’s wife off, and fans were outraged
In June 2017, it was announced that Erinn Hayes, who played Kevin’s wife, would be leaving the series. This was shocking, especially because it quickly became clear that it wasn’t Hayes’ decision; she said on Twitter that she was let go.
We soon found out that Leah Remini would be joining the show as the co-lead in order to replace Hayes, and Hayes’ character would be killed off. Remini was James’ co-star in his previous sitcom, The King of Queens. So essentially, the show seemed to be killing off its co-lead in order to set up a King of Queens semi-reboot. Online, fans were outraged by this decision.
So why did the show get rid of Remini? James said in October 2017 that it was because they were “running out of ideas.” Needless to say, that’s not a good place to be in just one season into a show.
Next: This was one factor that could have led to the show’s cancellation.
3. CBS didn’t fully own the show
One factor to consider here is the fact that Kevin Can Wait was not actually produced entirely by CBS Television Studios. Instead, the show was a co-production between CBS and Sony Pictures Television.
Co-productions in television aren’t uncommon, but if a series is on the bubble and its network is on the fence about keeping it, studio executives would be more inclined to keep a show going if they own it outright. If a network is the main distributor of a series, selling its rights to other places like streaming services can be quite profitable, and this has increasingly become just as important — if not more so — than live TV ratings.
But since CBS didn’t distribute Kevin Can Wait, its ratings were especially important in ensuring its survival.
Next: This didn’t help matters.
4. The ratings were not great in Season 2
Kevin Can Wait took a hit in the ratings during its second season. The Season 2 premiere actually drew an impressive 10 million viewers; it seemed that everyone wanted to see how the show handled the departure of Erinn Hayes.
But evidently, those viewers weren’t satisfied with what they saw, as almost four million fewer people tuned in the following week. That was a 35% decrease; for comparison, there was only about a 4% drop between the premiere and second episode of Season 1. Online, there was quite a bit of negativity among fans over how the series handled Hayes’ departure, with many saying they wouldn’t watch anymore.
By the end of the season, Kevin Can Wait reached a series low with 4.9 million viewers for the penultimate episode.
Next: Another big issue that could have led to the cancellation.
5. The show was expensive to make
Another issue with Kevin Can Wait was the show’s high cost. Although we don’t know exact figures, according to Newsday, it was fairly expensive to produce, and this was likely another reason for its cancellation.
Kevin James’ salary was a decent chunk of that production budget. According to Variety, James was making $200,000 per episode, i.e. nearly $5 million per season. For some perspective, John Goodman is making $250,000 for Roseanne, but that show is doing a lot better in the ratings than Kevin Can Wait.
Next: CBS itself names the main reason the show was axed.
6. CBS says ratings were the main factor
Now, the president of CBS Entertainment, Kelly Kahl, has weighed in on why the network decided to end the show.
Kahl told Deadline, “The numbers. 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.”
CBS did actually renew some other shows with similar ratings as Kevin Can Wait like Man with a Plan. But it sounds like with Kevin Can Wait, CBS had no reason to think the ratings wouldn’t keep declining in Season 3. And part of that is probably because they saw how badly the decision to kill off Kevin’s wife was received.
CBS EVP admitted to Deadline, “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.”
Next: Kevin James and Leah Remini react to the news.
7. The cast and crew react to the news
The cast and crew of Kevin Can Wait have now weighed in on the show’s cancellation.On Instagram, Kevin James thanked the show’s fans, plus its cast and crew. He also wrote, “I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world…Okay, maybe a season 3. Love to all.”
Remini also weighed in on Instagram, thanking the show’s cast and crew for welcoming her in with open arms. “You don’t always get a second chance at something that meant so much to you and I did, and I am so grateful for it,” she wrote. “It came at a time when I needed to laugh. So thank you all. I am so happy that it happened and I will miss seeing all of you.”
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