This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Best For Ages: 6-8, 9-12
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell of ALL THAT star on their own show, KENAN AND KEL, a rambunctious sitcom about a scheming student and his loony, loyal best friend.
Educational Value: Kenan is constantly getting into trouble with his schemes, but usually learns some lesson from his choices.
Entertainment Value: Witty onstage improv and hip-hop performances surround sitcom-type stories about school and family. Rap star Coolio wrote and performed the KENAN AND KEL theme song.
Profanity: Some name-calling parents might find objectionable.
Questionable Behavior: In typical sitcom style, parents act like children and throw tantrums. Kids lie and deceive one another, blame other people for their mistakes, avoid doing work, ridicule one another over clothes and appearance, get involved in potentially dangerous pranks, and show disrespect toward authority figures.
Sex/Nudity: Kenan's sister has a crush on Kel. Some of the other characters make mild jokes about dating.
Violence: Occasional half-hearted fights break out among characters. People fall from ladders and trip over countertops.
KENAN AND KEL are a couple of guys with big dreams, but little patience for planning and thinking things through, meaning they spend a lot of time running from trouble they themselves have caused. Fortunately, it's generally things like bothering their families or being dishonest with their friends. Since they're big softies underneath the cool exteriors, they cause more grief for themselves than anyone else.
Kenan, for instance, spends half of one episode trying to avoid going to geeky Mark's birthday party, then the other half becoming increasingly depressed and bitter because Mark didn't even invite him...which, it turns out, is because of Kenan's lying about being unavailable for the event. So in revenge, he designs a "birthday present" that sprays motor oil all over the guests. It's played for laughs, but since Kenan never apologizes, the situation remains uncomfortable when the show ends.
A six-year-old viewer found Kenan and Kel's naughty behavior hilarious, but was confused by the abrupt ending of the story sequence to show the actors improvising on the stage where the show begins and ends. A nine-year-old had less trouble following the show, but thought Kenan was too silly for not paying more attention to the trouble he could cause.
As is typical of sitcoms like THE COSBY SHOW and SANFORD AND SON, many recurring characters play stereotypes - the geek, the popular girl, the tough guy, the clueless parents. Much of the acting is over the top, and the actors sometimes laugh at their own jokes. But the energy and wit make it fun to watch, particularly since the dissolves between scenes are clever and well-paced.
Children's Television Reviews