The life of a sitcom wife is never easy, and it often isn't pleasant, either.
If she's not the butt of the joke, she's married to the butt of the joke, and has to put up with his shenanigans, or his parents, or his friends, or all three. Sometimes, she gets unceremoniously killed off in favor of bringing in another woman, like she never even mattered at all.
That's what happened on Kevin Can Wait back in 2017. In case you completely forgot about Kevin Can Wait, it was a CBS sitcom starring Kevin James as a man named Kevin (shocker) who had just retired from the police force but found that retirement was not all he dreamed it would be. Erinn Hayes played his wife, Donna, in season one. After a successful guest star run from James' former King of Queens co-star Leah Remini, Hayes was simply killed off, and Remini became the female lead of the show.
The second season picked up a year after Donna's death, with no explanation as to how she died.
"The goal was to give Kevin's character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy]," executive producer Rob Long told TVLine at the time. "Also, out of respect for the character of Donna—and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her—it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character."
The show was then canceled after the second season, and many people simply forgot about Kevin and his attempts to wait. But now, we've got a good reason to remember, thanks to the AMC dramedy Kevin Can F**k Himself.
The genre-bending show follows Allison (Annie Murphy), a beleaguered sitcom wife with a horrible husband named Kevin. Allison decides she has to kill Kevin in order to make her life better, and it was directly inspired by what happened with Kevin Can Wait.
Murphy had not watched the other Kevin show when she was cast, but she quickly caught up, as she tells E! News.
"When I got this part, I did go back and visit that infamous Kevin Can Wait episode, the first episode of the second season, when they so unceremoniously kill off Erinn Hayes' character by being like, 'Oh man, I miss mom since she died a while ago,'" she says. "And then they're all like, 'Yeah, I miss her, want to go play some baseball?' I was just like, 'Oh.' It really hit hard."
Mary Hollis Inboden stars as one of Kevin's friends, who becomes an unlikely ally to Allison, and she says Donna was not the only wife she was hoping to honor with this show.
"I always remember growing up watching Jill in Home Improvement, Patricia Richardson," she says. "Tim is constantly blowing up their lives, or threatening to, and by the end of 30 minutes, nobody learns anything and she's just like, 'We love you anyway.' I hope she watches, and I hope she likes it, and I hope she knows that Annie Murphy and I now see her."
Inboden says she'll now look at scripts differently when asked to audition for "that kind of show."
Kevin Can F**k Himself (which Murphy has no trouble calling by its uncensored name, no matter the setting) only shows Kevin in the form of a sitcom, which means we might not be able to see just how horrible he truly is. And because we only see him as a sitcom character, it's sort of easy to agree with Allison that murder is the only option.
Murphy says that while she doesn't blame her character's instincts, we should simply be rooting for Allison to "keep pursuing a better life for herself." For Inboden, she says there's some extra darkness there that's hidden by the sitcom format.
"I don't know that we can call him—because he only exists in the sitcom—abusive, but truly if you met him in a single cam, he constantly controls her, he's gaslighting her, he manipulates her, he's incredibly selfish, he almost always is putting her down," Inboden points out. "Also, we're talking about Allison as a character, but Annie Murphy as an actress, the combo of those two things, you cannot help but root for her as the hero because she is so damn likable."
It remains to be seen whether Allison gets to murder Kevin, but no matter what, Murphy is aiming to get at least a little bit of revenge for Donna and Hayes.
"I do a lot of glass smashing in Kevin Can F**k Himself, and there was actually one particular glass smash that I was like, 'This is for you, Erinn,'" she shares. "And I gave it an extra powerful shatter."
Hit play above for more from Murphy and Inboden. You can now watch the first episode of Kevin Can F**k Himself on AMC+, or catch it when it premieres on AMC on Sunday, June 20.