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Anyone who has seen an episode of Kenan and Kel all the way through knows that it was film in front of a live audience at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida.  So why does the show take place in Chicago?  It’s not that a show has to take place where it was filmed but I just wonder why specifically Chicago?  Was creator Kim Bass from Chicago?  No, she was born in Frankfort, New York.  Kenan was born in Atlanta, Georgia and Kel…was born in Chicago Illinois.  But that doesn’t mean anything.  It’s my reaction right now that the location of the show being Chicago has something to do with Kel being born in Chicago but that doesn’t make any sense.  He’s just an actor in the show.  It is possible, however that that has something to do with it.

A lot of Nickelodeon shows back then were filmed in Orlando.

Slime Time Live

Double Dare

What Would You Do?

But by the time I was able to visit around 2001, most of the filming had been transferred to Los Angeles.  Now Universal Studios Florida is just an amusement park to entertain these people:

But the only time it was really ever important that I know of for Kenan and Kel to be in Chicago is in the episode where Kenan climbs to the top of the Sears Tower in order to impress a girl.  One of my readers commented that Kenan and Kel live in Anytown, but I don’t think of Chicago as Anytown.  When I think of Anytown, I think of Mayfield, the fictional town that the show Leave it to Beaver takes place in.

It does work best that Rigby’s Grocery store is so small, it seems like it would be in an urban, down town area.

But I don’t think that it’s important what town the show takes place in because the world the show takes place in is not our own.  It is a fictional world and a parallel universe.  It’s a universe where a theatrically released movie can be called Nasty Puppy and where a television can be so powerful that it can cripple viewers in it’s brightness.  It’s a place where someone’s insides can turn orange from drinking several gallons of orange soda per day.  It’s a world where crazy old women wander into the same grocery store everyday and ask obvious questions and a concoction made out of marshmallows and orange soda can cure the common cold.  And it’s a world that still exists in the hearts of anyone who remembers the show fondly.  

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Who Loves Orange Soda?

Perhaps the single most common and memorable aspect of Kenan and Kel was Kel’s obsession with orange soda.  There was a recurring motif of Kenan asking Kel “Who loves orange soda?”  to which Kel would respond “Kel loves orange soda” to which Kenan would respond “Is it true?” to which Kel would respong “I do, I do, I do-oo.” and then usually drink some orange soda.

In one episode, Kel inadvertently creates an elixir which was the cure to the common cold which has the main ingredient of orange soda.

In one episode, Kel receives a giant bottle of orange soda from a secret admirer.  He shakes the bottle as he is exclaiming how much of a great gift it is to Kenan and Chris and then begins to open it.  Kenan and Chris warn Kel not to open the bottle because he had just shaken it, but Kel opens it anyway and it shoots out all over the place.  But Kel is not disappointed.  He loves getting the orange soda all over himself and starts prancing around in it.

But would this motif be around today?  Soda is probably the least healthy thing out there, besides maybe Bright and Early brand orange drink, which is essentially uncarbonated orange soda with hydrogenated oils added (trans fats).

But with the childhood obesity rate being what it is today, would Nickelodeon be promoting such an insulin spiking drink?

Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster has recently been changed to more of a veggie monster.

I think this makes sense because I could totally see some very young kids imitating Cookie monster and gobbling up cookies.

Kenan and Kel caters toward a much older audience of kids though, sesame street being, I think maybe 0-5, and Kenan and Kel being more like 7-12, and it doesn’t look to teach kids lessons in the same way as a younger kid’s show (although the two are always punished for their wrongdoings.)  So, would orange soda be a feature if the show had been known today?  The world may never know.

 

My Encounter with Kenan and Kel

When I was younger, I was in the Cub Scouts.  I would wear those scarves around my neck and earn belt loops and compete in pine wood derby races.  My mom was our den mother and she would always think of cool things for us to do.  There used to be this place in Atlanta or somewhere near and I think it was called Hands On Discovery Zone or something.  I did a search for it but I can’t find it, I guess because I can’t remember exactly what it’s called, but there were little educational games and stuff like one of those balls that you put your hands on and it makes your hair stand up.

And once when I was there, someone had made a hovercraft out of a leaf blower.

And it was always really fun.

One day my mom the den mother decided to take the den to the discovery zone.  I had a good time as I always did but towards the end, I don’t remember how exactly I heard, I must have been seven or eight years old, but I heard that Kenan and Kel were going to be doing an autograph singing.  I waited in line forever and then got autographs from a bunch of people who I don’t even know who they were, I think a bunch of R & B groups or something but then, finally I got to Kenan and Kel.  They weren’t sitting right beside each other; Kenan was sitting next to some woman who it seemed like he was maybe going with and she was signing autographs too but I don’t know who she was and I was excited but Kenan didn’t even make eye contact with me.  He was just muttering to the woman beside him, saying “just keep on signing, keep on signing,” and he was just signing piece of paper after piece of paper, one after the other.  I grabbed one of them and moved on.  But then I got up to Kel and he didn’t seem stressed at all about signing autographs.  He said something to me like “Hey, how you doing” and then posed with me in a picture.

I don’t know if Kenan had anything going on in his life that made him not be able to be polite, I know that crazy stuff can happen sometimes but I’ve always liked Kel better on the show, I liked him more when I met them, and I like the projects that Kel is doing right now better.

Kenan is still, by far, my favorite character on Saturday Night Live though.

what up with that

The Problem with Originality

Of course, something being unoriginal doesn’t make it a rip-off.  Rip-off implies that it was purposefully done.  But is there a true distinction there and what is it?  Let’s look at an example from Kenan and Kel:

I think that the character Chris may be a rip-off of Principle Skinner from The Simpsons.  

Chris is Kenan’s boss on the show.  He always has something super-goofy to say and is constantly talking about his mother.

Skinner is Bart and Lisa’s school principle.  He always has something super-goofy to say and is constantly talking about his mother.

The biggest difference is that Skinner’s mother is featured in the show and Chris’s mother is only talked about kind of like Oneida, Barney’s love interest from The Andy Griffith Show.  

And, this may be a stretch, but Dan Frischman, the actor who plays Chris looks a little like Harry Shearer, the actor who plays principle Skinner:

But, okay, being obsessed with your mother is not something that The Simpsons invented.  That could be a coincidence.  But here’s something from another Nickelodeon show that looks like more than a coincidence:  I can’t find a video of this but towards the end of the Nickelodeon show, All That, there was a character named Percy Flavin who acted exactly like Professor Fink from The Simpsons.  I had hoped to find a video so that it would be really obvious but I’ve looked so extensively and concluded that a clip of the sketch must not exist on the internet.  

Then again, Professor Frink was just a rip-off of Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor.

But maybe it’s not a rip-off.  Maybe it’s an homage.  But in any case, the fact remains that All That is the show that Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell got their start on before Kenan and Kel.

 

Skunkator vs. Mothman

I do do feel a little guilty about one part of my script.  In the beginning, when Kenan and Kel are arguing over which superhero is better, there is some unoriginality.  I don’t think that it was a purposeful thing, I just needed a comic book to put the Dim Mak ad in and I needed for the characters to have a conversation about it and what else do people talk about but which superhero is better?

But the point where this is unoriginal is that there is another episode where the characters have an argument about two fictional superheroes.  The episode is entitled Skunkator vs. Mothman which was written by Alex Reid who went on to produce the Fox show Malcom in the Middle.

The thing that I always thought about Malcom in the Middle was that it was funny but the writing didn’t seem very hip.

One example that comes to mind from the show is a situation where for some reason, Malcolm’s younger brother, Dewey, has some dirt on Malcolm and in order to humiliate Malcolm, Dewey makes Malcolm where a big Mexican hat to school, which Malcolm really takes hard.  I think that may have been something that would embarrass kids years ago but today, it seems like something that is so over the top that a kid would just find it goofy.

The reason I bring this up is because I think that it is kind of old fashioned to think that kids as old as Kenan and Kel where in that episode (around 15) would be interested in comic books unless they were some kind of aficionados.

This reminds me of another show where a kid was into comic books and I thought it was the show Boy Meets World.  Early in the series, the 11 year old lead character always talks about liking comic books and I always thought it was strange that such a seemingly normal boy at that time period would be into comic books.

I guess sometimes grownups just have a hard time writing for kids!

 

Where are they now? Kel

Now, with Kel, this question is more applicable.  Most people could probably answer ‘where is Kenan?’  They’d say ‘He’s on Saturday Night Live and making movies.”  But where is Kel Mitchell?

He acted in Mystery Men which was released in 1999 theatrically and it’s one of my favorite movies.  It has a 5.9 on imdb.com and grossed  $29,655,590.

Since then, he’s been doing a lot of voice work in children’s cartoons like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Pink Panther and Pals.  He was also in the Adult Swim special Freaknik about the Atlanta Spring Break meeting among college students from historically black colleges.

One of the most interesting things that he’s done lately is to be in a movie called The Battle of Los Angeles, a movie made by a company called The Asylum, which specializes in releasing movies that have similar titles to theatrical releases that are advertised a lot and generate a lot of interest.  I think it’s so that people will accidentally buy the Asylum version.  In the case of The Battle of Los Angeles, it has a very similar title and story line to the movie Battle: Los Angeles.  

                                              

Battle of Los Angeles has a 2.0 rating on imdb.com and I think maybe Kel was in it because he thought it would be funny to be in such a bad movie.  Other “mockbusters” released by Thee Asylum include The Da Vinci Treasure, AVH: Alien vs Hunter, and Transmorphers.

 Kel currently has two movies in production: Caught on Tape, and Dance Fu.  Now, I kept reading Dance Fu and “Dance F.U.”  but it’s not, it’s “Dance Fu” like “Kung Fu.”   Here’s a clip:

And here’s the trailer.

To me, that movie looks totally ridiculous and pretty funny.  Kel is also given writing credits for this movie.

In my opinion, while Kel is less in the public eye than Kenan, he’s doing a lot more cool and interesting stuff.

Where are they now? Kenan

Many people have have seen Kenan Thompson around from the past few years.  In 2004, he starred in Fat Albert, a movie that was advertised a lot and I think is pretty well known but I don’t know if it was very successful.  On imdb.com, it has a rating of 4.1 but according to the same website, it had a worldwide gross of  $48,551,322.  I don’t know if that’s a lot in terms of worldwide movie gross but I feel like it probably is.  According to imdb.com, Avatar made $2,782,300,000, Couple’s Retreat made  $109,176,215, and Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny made $8,319,186.   So I figure Fat Albert did okay.  But I don’t that it will really be remembered.  I don’t think it really is right now.  Although I think it’s remembered more than the 2005 movie The Honeymooners based on the tv series, which has an imdb rating of 2.8 and grossed $12,834,056.  Anyway the movie was basically what I would call all show and no go whereas Kel on the other hand was in a straight to video release called Ganked that had a $50,000 budget but which he also has writing credits for.  Kenan’s writing credits consist of one Kenan and Kel episode.  Anyway, Kenan has since gone on to become a regular on Saturday Night Live which is a show that is pretty well known and iconic but how good is the show?   In my opinion, it’s not very good.

 

It’s my speculation that the show’s current success is based on its reputation and just how long it’s been around.

Kenan’s most recent project is acting in the new Rob Reiner movie, The Summer of Monte Wildhorn.  Here’s a description from imdb.com:  “In an effort to tap into his original talent, a wheelchair-bound author moves to a rural town, where he befriends a single mother and her three kids, who help reignite his passion for writing.”   From the summary, it looks like either Kenan is expanding from comedy or this movie’s gonna be real funny.

Tomorrow, I will talk more about Kel.