Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kenny vs. Spenny Season 1

24 episodes

“Kenny vs. Spenny” is a show originally broadcast in Canada that made its way to the states via GSN – originally known as the Game Show Network. Putting what was obviously a comedy show on a network supposedly centered around games meant outcry from diehard fans, but a lot of them missed a funny show in the process.

The show depicts two friends since childhood, Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice, in a series of competitions. While both into their years, the competition and antics play like a pair of 13-year olds. Whoever loses the competition is subject to an act of humiliation as chosen by the winner. Examples include drinking a glass of tea brewed with the underwear of the winner and peeing your pants on camera. The show is shot like reality TV with side interviews and the like. Most of the action takes place in the home of Kenny and Spenny, which has Spenny’s accoutrements on the second floor and Kenny’s up top on the third.

For simplicity’s sake, Kenny is the schemer and the cheater and Spenny in the nice guy who tries to stick to the rules and persevere. Here are the episodes aired as part of season 1 on the CBC. If you’ve never read one of my TV reviews before, each episode gets graded as thumbs up, in the middle or thumbs down.

Who is the best fashion designer? – I got to know the episodes by watching scattered repeats on GSN first, then really getting into the show via the internet. As such, I find this to be a weird choice for an opener. Spenny decides to makes men’s clothing out of flags to make a statement about the world under the label “Humen.” Kenny slaps together some random household objects and real clothes, putting them on skinny models under the name K-os. The complete deadpan seriousness of Spenny when he’s dressing grown men in a tie made of flags and Kenny being Kenny make this episode a thumbs up.

Who can stay awake the longest? – This is more like it – a competition not unlike one you and your drinking buddy might come up with to pass the time. Spenny says staying awake is just a mind game and Kenny tries to use beeping nap minders, coffee and other supplements to go the distance. He also takes a wheelchair around. Always leery of what cheating he’ll do when his back is turned, Spenny chases after him, which expends valuable energy when the two are tired. Thumbs up.

Who is the better chef? – Because Kenny is such an excellent chef, this turns into a role reversal as Spenny tries to find a way to cheat. It’s odd placement in my book, since I caught this one maybe twelfth, and thus the idea of Spenny trying to cheat made sense and was humorous. The competition itself is kind of boring, but since he’s so learned in cooking, Kenny spends the episode getting free meals at area restaurants. So, thumbs up.

Who can stand up the longest? – This show essentially becomes “what is the definition of standing” as Kenny sees leaning as standing and some who they poll disagree. Just the arguments alone and all the contraptions each makes to ensure they stand when doing everything (including going to the bathroom) make it a thumbs up.

Who can sit on a cow the longest? – How they conceived of this I’ll never know. Most of the episode is spent talking about and preparing for the competition, and it’s all so silly it’s funny. Thumbs up.

Who is the sanest? – The two go through a series of evaluation by different types of doctors trying to determine who’s more sane. Has its moments, but overall not one you’ll remember. Thumbs in the middle.

Who can earn the most money in three days? – Spenny’s solution to the problem is taking a number of odd jobs, as well as the smart idea of trying to sell art (which he paints in the garage with a number of nonsense techniques). Kenny’s main strategy centers around getting friends to buy ads on the show. Pretty funny stuff, with classic Kenny antics trying to sabotage some of Spenny’s plans. Thumbs up.

Who does she like better? – Both date the same girl and she picks who she likes better. Except Kenny switches dates on Spenny to a woman who Kenny knows and will pick him in the end. Just wanted to save you the trouble of watching half the show then realizing there was basically no competition. It’s funny, but that alone made me feel down about the episode. Thumbs in the middle.

Who can stay blindfolded the longest? – Another one where the competition is done before it starts, because when they put the ‘folds on, Kenny simply…doesn’t. Only this one is very funny as a result. And the ending is pretty nice. Thumbs up.

Who can win a beauty pageant? – One of those episodes that defines the series if only because it features each player in their element. Spenny goes full throttle into an honest competition by trying to learn tap dancing for the talent portion. Kenny switches shoes on him to a smaller size and has a makeup artist draw on a six-pack for the swimsuits among other things. Extra bonus for Kenny working in his “Spenny looks like David Schwimmer’s brother with down syndrome” joke a few times. Thumbs up.

Who can win a series of mini-competitions? – It’s a big series of games that wouldn’t take up a whole episode: bowling, peeing longer, 100-meter dash, etc. It’s pretty good. Thumbs up.

Who can lose the most weight? – This I would’ve picked as the premiere; another one that defines the two characters well. Kenny wears lead in his hair at the initial weigh in and tries everything from steam baths to other hokey methods to lose pounds. Spenny exercises hard and collects all his spit in a bucket so he can lose water weight. Will honesty or Kenny prevail? Thumbs up.

Who can stay handcuffed the longest? – Another great competition and another one of those archetypal episodes. Kenny throws everything at Spenny – bad breath, robot voices and a man whom Spenny owes $10,000 to. Who wins? Thumbs up.

Who can put on the best concert? – Each has to write a song and perform it for a panel of judges. Spenny writes a rock song, which I really like personally, and Kenny just makes a quick song about children sung by children to pull at the judges heart strings. Another one you’ll remember. Thumbs up.

Who do kids like most? – Each has to entertain a group of children for a couple hours and they vote who they liked the most. Kenny spoils them and Spenny tries to make an interactive pirate treasure hunt. I liked watching this one, but it wasn’t all that funny on the whole. Thumbs in the middle.

Who is the strongest? – Something different happens here, because Kenny gets out of the competition, and says his sister Miriam will face Spenny because she’s been training and all of that. It’s more or less a hoax, although she has a respectable bench press. Does Spenny fall for it? The process of finding out as well as the end are both great. Thumbs up.

Who makes the most convincing woman? – Kenny and Spenny throw a cocktail party for a panel of four women who decide who made the better woman. This is probably one of the more purer competitions of the series, as the only thing Kenny does to Spencer is invite his uncle to try to make it more embarrassing for him. Funny stuff, though. Thumbs up.

Who is the better actor? – They get some sort of acting anus to judge them both on acting ability. Spenny writes a monologue and Kenny tries a myriad of roles before finding a method to cheat. Dumb. Thumbs down.

Who is the best figure skater? – Spenny picks this competition because Kenny can’t skate. During their first times on the ice, Kenny breaks his leg. Or does he? He gets Spenny to wait on him for days trying to get out of the humiliation. This is like cow sitting in that they ended up with a great episode from a bad competition. Thumbs up.

Who will use their arms first? – This starts out like any great episode would. Kenny and Spenny make a host of contraptions so they don’t have to use their arms for a three-day period. Then Kenny cheats and pisses the whole episode away. Usually his cheating makes it very fun, but this time it just destroyed the first two-thirds of the episode. In fact, it was so bad I’ll go thumbs down.

Who can survive in the woods the longest? – The two hike to a random spot in the woods and make camp. Funny and fun-to-watch stuff from top to bottom – one of my personal favorites. Thumbs up.

Kenny takes Spenny to court for money owed – Over the years of their partnership, Kenny has picked up the tab for flights, hotel rooms, etc and now he wants to see if he could win judgment to get it all paid back. I believe this episode has one of the most, if not number one, best way of screwing with Spenny too. Kenny’s legal team is hilarious. Thumbs up.

Who can live in a van the longest? – Another one of my personal favorites. Spenny drives while Kenny makes a second home in the back of the van. Just in case, Spenny employs a bunch of devious thinkers for ways to block Kenny’s advances. It’s great, another perfect competition. Thumbs up.

Boxing – Kenny doesn’t want to box Spenny, so he sets up his closet as a place to lock Spenny for a few days and calls it his “training room.” When Spencer comes up to see it, he locks him in and goes to Niagara Falls, planning to win on forfeit. I have mixed feelings about some of it, but it is one of the most entertaining episodes they did. Thumbs up.

The count (up-middle-down):

Of course all these counts and opinions are for naught if you can’t get into the general humor of the show. If you like an immature set of pissing matches, then it’s great. Watch one of the ones I describe as character defining for the two to see if you want to dive in. Probably not for everybody, but for someone like me who enjoys immature and trashy stuff now and again (more often than not, but hey) then this gets a solid…


…out of five. You can pick it up in its entirety on DVD with some extras. And here’s hoping they get seasons 2 and 3 out in quick fashion. I am jonesing for some new episodes!

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