Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Kenan & Kel

Laurel and Hardy. Statler and Waldorf. Martin and Lewis. Abbott and Costello. Penn and Teller. Siegfried and Roy. Batman and Robin. The infamous duo that you simply can't think of one without the other. Whenever you see one of them alone, it doesn't look or feel the same. In some way, they seem to coincide and work with each other beautifully with their different strengths. In the 90's, two members from All That were forming to be the next dynamic duo: they were Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell.

They have performed many skits together in All That from Good Burger to their duo performances as the old, grumpy man Mavis and Clavis. At the time, many people regarded them as the next “Abbott and Costello”. On July 14, 1996, Kenan & Kel, the first spin off of All That, debuted on TV.

The show was about Kenan and Kel playing two teenagers named Kenan Rockmore and Kel Kimble who always think of outrageous plans to make themselves rich or famous. However, due to many circumstances, they always mess things up and end up getting caught. The episodes always started and ended on stage as Kenan and Kel would talk to an audience and explain what the episode would be about. Kenan would always come up with some crazy idea that involved with gathering a few objects and asking Kel to meet him somewhere. Kel tries to call Kenan back and would always leave the stage saying his infamous catchphrase “Aww, here it goes!” Kenan works as a cashier in a grocery store called Rigby's under a supervisor named Chris Potter (played by Dan Friechman). Kel always enters into Rigby's and snags a bottle of orange soda. Kel loves orange soda more than anything in the world. Whenever he sees a bottle of orange soda, he would say the following catchphrase: “Who loves orange soda? Kel loves orange soda. Is it true? Mmm-hmm. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do-ooooh.”

We were also introduced to Kenan's family: Sheryl (played by Teal Marchande) is a kind, sweet, and patience mother. Roger (played by Ken Foree) is a tense, impatient, father. He's the only one in the family who hates Kel due to his sarcastic humor and making fun of his bald head. He gets angry whenever Kenan and Kel gets into their crazy scenarios. You might recognize Ken Foree in the 1978 zombie horror classic George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Kyra (played by Vanessa Baden) is Kenan's younger sister who always had a huge crush on Kel. You might recognize Vanessa in the Nick. Jr kid's show Gullah Gullah Island.

The show was created by Kim Bass, who was also the co-creator of Sister Sister. She had the idea of creating a show similar to The Honeymooners in which Ralph Kramden would try to reach for the moon and try to be rich while partnering with his dimwitted best friend Ed Norton. An interesting thing to note about Kenan & Kel was that it was the first teen series in which it launched well-known actors among the network. All the previous shows that Nickelodeon aired had a different premise with actors and actresses we've never seen before. But with Kenan & Kel, we were already well established with Kenan and Kel from All That and Vanessa with Gullah Gullah Island. Also it was the first teen series since My Brother and Me that starred a mostly black cast.

''One of the breakthrough elements is the uniqueness of making a show that is based on the talent rather than the other way around. This idea came out of the fact that these two had such great chemistry together”, said Cyma Zargahami, general manager/senior vice president of programming at Nickelodeon in a 1996 article from Orlando Sentinel.

They truly thought that Kenan and Kel were going to be the next Abbott and Costello. So much so that the intro to the show sung by Coolio compared them to other famous duos like Abbott and Costello, Penn and Teller, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Siegfried and Roy. At the time, they were. Kenan was the straight man of the duo similar to Hardy, Abbott, and Kramden while Kel was the funny, goofy character of the duo similar to Laurel, Costello, and Norton. They knew that they could play on each other in a way that made them in sync.''When we get together, it's chaos, it's hilarious,'' said Kel Mitchell in the interview with Orlando Sentinel.

The show was hugely popular among many Nickelodeon fans calling it the best teen sitcom of all time. It had huge ratings praising them for their sense of humor, their ability to act in funny situations, and their timing of expression. Whenever a plan wouldn't work and Kenan would yell “Whyyyy?” or when Kel was expressing how much he loved orange soda, it always cracked a smile on people's faces. The episode that most people remember is when Kenan was eating a tuna fish sandwich and he chokes on a screw. He plans on suing the tuna fish packaging company for almost dying from eating their tuna. The company begs them not to sue them, even bribing them with a million dollars, but Kenan says no. On the day of the trial, Kenan asks Kel to the stand to explain what happened on that day. When Kel finally confesses that it was him who dropped the screw in the tuna, he reacts in such a hilarious way that still gets me laughing to this day. 

When Kenan and Kel starred in Good Burger (which I'll interview next week), Kenan and Kel fever was spreading among fans everywhere. They couldn't get enough of them. You couldn't talk about one character without the other. The first two seasons was filmed in Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, FL in front of a live studio audience while the remaining two seasons was filmed in Los Angeles to get more celebrity guest stars.

The show ended on July 15, 2000, four years exact on the same day it aired. Some of the actors went on to do different things while some faded into obscurity.

Ken Foree has been in other movies such as the remake of Dawn of the Dead, The Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie's Halloween, Zone of the Dead, Water for Elephants, and The Lords of Salem.

Teal Merchande quit acting after Kenan & Kel ended.

Vanessa Baden went to Florida State University in 2004 and graduated with a degree in Sociology in 2007. She's returning to acting in an upcoming movie The Magic City.

Dan Frischman has appeared in other movies such as Masked and Anonymous, Lessons for an Assassin, Hard Four, and Tramps and Ramblers.

As for Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell, they went their separate ways after the series finale TV movie Two Heads are Better than None. The duo that people had people had regarded as the next Abbott and Costello were no longer together. Kenan had been in other movie and TV shows such as Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, hosting Oh Yeah! Cartoons, The Parkers, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Master of Disguise, Love Don't Cost a Thing, Fat Albert, Snakes on a Plane, Psych, The Magic of Belle Isle, and currently hosting The 90's Are All That. He's currently married to a woman named Christina Evangeline.

Kel had been in other movies, TV shows, and voice acted in shows like The Parkers, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Mystery Men, Clifford the Big Red Dog, City Guys, The Proud Family, Half & Half, One and One, Honeydripper, Dance Fu, Battle of Los Angeles, Motorcity, and Wild Grinders. He's currently married to a woman named Asia Lee and has two children from a previous marriage.

In 2003, both Kenan and Kel auditioned to be in the new season of Saturday Night Live. Only Kenan was accepted in the bunch as being the first cast member to be younger than the show itself at 29. Who would have thought that out of the infamous duo Kenan would be the superior one. I always thought that Kel should have been the top dog. He was the funny guy who came up with the jokes, catchphrases, and slapstick humor. Overall, does this modern take of 50's classic duo sitcoms still work? Well, yes it does. Watching Kenan & Kel is always a blast! Seeing these two comedic actors work well with each other is so fun. Sure, the show can be a little redundant and monotonous with the same plot of trying to make it big ending up getting in trouble. Not to mention the same catchphrases and the same fourth wall jokes. Also, the acting can get a little hokey and over-the-top, some of the characters are not memorable and pointless, and the sets can look a little cheap. Besides these minor gripes and nitpicks, this show is an undeniable Nickelodeon classic that you should really check out if you've never seen it. I highly recommend it.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


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