Tv Review: Kenan Season 1 Episode 1

kenan s01e01 indexThe fact that with The Unicorn there’s already a sitcom about a single father bringing up his kids on right now hasn’t stopped NBC from repeating the format, this time with SNL star Kenan Thompson in the lead role. His father-in-law Rick (Don Johnson) and brother Gary (Chris Redd) also live with Kenan and his two supposedly adorable children Aubrey (Dani Lane) and Birdie (Dannah Lane), in this comedy which has so many cheesy moments that I’m surprised it doesn’t come with canned laughter.

It starts in a fairly clumsy manner as it rushes to introduce Kenan’s family in the opening three minutes where Kenan wakes them all up before heading off to work, and the two daughters parrot the self-help advice book that he’s reading and comment that “Remember no one can ever replace your deceased parental figure”. After some dated looking credits we’re then at Kenan’s workplace, the tv show that he hosts “Wake Up With Kenan”, which is a tiresomely saccharine magazine programme filled with painful nonsense like “Cake Vs Pie”, with Kenan suggesting that a combination of cake and pie is the best combination, and we also hear about a segment where a man who ate sweets for a year lost forty pounds “when they amputated his legs”. Then co-host Tammy (Taylor Louderman) mentions his dead wife, Kenan gets his strop on, but recovers quickly at least, though after the show his producer Mika (Kimrie Lewis) suggests Kenan hasn’t processed his grief, and is concerned about the dropping ratings, to the extent that this is clearly going to be an ongoing theme.

The two kids are of the sitcom variety who are beyond precocious, when Kenan makes a joke about the dead mother the ten year old Aubrey comes out with “Honestly it was nice to hear you talk about mom like a real person again and not a character from one of your grief books”, and after an anecdote about how Kenan met the mother on a sitcom where she played his mother despite only being three years older, Aubrey chimes in with “All women over twenty one play mom’s because Hollywood is sexist AF”. Which is undoubtedly true, but the dialogue feels incredibly unnatural, even if the ten year old was supposed to be the smartest child alive.

A segment on “Wake Up With Kenan” about childbirth sees Kenan get arsey as he feels the expert thought his wife took the lazy way out when it came to taking prescribed drugs, and the rest of this bit sees him puts his foot in his mouth over and over again as he plays down the seriousness of C-sections, claims stay at home moms have it easy, and then flip flops on the subject and says working moms have it the easiest, and on and on it goes until he starts rambling about 9/11 first responders. It’s maximum cringe and it is not funny at all, and that also applies to the scenes afterwards where his family are appalled over what happened, how Kenan’s then forced to give a pre-written apology, but naturally goes off script and delivers a genuine, heartfelt and painfully trite bit of sentimental and syrupy shit which everyone loves.

Created by David Caspe (creator of Champaign ILL, Happy Endings) and Jackie Clarke (a writer on Happy Endings and Superstore), both have written fare which is much, much better than this, and it’s a surprise they’ve produced something so weak. That it covers similar ground to The Unicorn really highlights how poor it is, sure, that show doesn’t have the daytime tv aspect but otherwise this is far too similar, and The Unicorn does it so much better than Kenan that it’s embarrassing. Thompson’s undoubtedly a great comic actor and did some sterling work on SNL, but this is very unlikely to be a success, not unless it’s retooled in a major way and very quickly too.

★1/2

Alex Finch.
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