Welcome to Millennial Misremembers, home of nostalgia. Can I take your order? That’s right, this month, I’m misremembering Kenan & Kel. This show debuted with S01E01 (“Pilot”) on August 17, 1996. Its stars, Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson, were originally on another Nickelodeon classic, All That. Their Kenan & Kel characters, who shared first names with the actors, ended up on many shows in crossover events.
What I misremember
“Who loves orange soda?”
“Kel loves orange soda!”
What else do we need to know?
Oh, I’d forgotten that Coolio did the theme song. The funny thing is that I can rap along as soon as it starts. Music memories are weird like that.
The show opens in front of a curtain, breaking the fourth wall. Omigosh! Baby Kenan’s voice! It even cracks! Kenan introduces the show to the studio audience, but then Kel comes flying in on skates in magician’s garb. The show tonight is apparently about the most important time in a young boy’s life — they have different opinions about what those milestones entail. For Kenan, it’s getting a car. For Kel, it’s girls.
Kenan is late for work at the bodega, and his boss (Dan Frischman) is annoyed. Kenan tells him he was having car troubles, aka not having a car. But the boss-man tells Kenan he’s too young to drive anyway.
Then Kel comes in with some stuff for them to sell and put toward their car fund. Even still, he’s worried that they’ll get in trouble for buying a car. Kenan tries to butter him up by reminding him of all the good things a car means, like going on dates. Kel #NoHomos until Kenan clarifies he means dates with girls.
A mom and kid buy some Google Puff cereal, and the little brat can’t wait to get home to open it because there’s some $10K competition involved with the cereal boxes.
Our dudes open all the store’s cereal boxes in an effort to find some golden monkey worth tons of money. They open 700 boxes. Boss-dude is not happy. He takes the money out of Kenan’s paycheck and fires Kel (who doesn’t even work there).
The boss dude, Chris, has a twitching tick, and Kenan points it out. Rude. Then, Chris comes upon some comic books within Kel’s old items. Scratch – n – sniff Skunkator. They’re worth thousands of dollars. Kenan tells Chris that he’ll give him five percent if he can sell them.
At Kenan’s, he and Kel get ready to pick a car. Kenan’s little sis, Kyra (Vanessa Baden), is spying on them. (She was hiding in the closet because of her crush on Kel.) She’s gonna tattle about the car until Kel asks her pretty please with a cherry on top.
Kenan creates a post on an unnamed Craigslist asking people to bring cars to his house on Saturday, which means he has to get his parents out of the house.
At Family Dinner, Kyra exposes Kenan for having been sent to the principal’s office. Except she didn’t know for sure. She was only guessing, and she’d been right. His parents (Teal Marchande and Ken Foree) ask him why he got in trouble. Well, Kenan accidentally glued his substitute teacher’s butt to her chair.
Meanwhile, Kel’s in the kitchen. He’s pretending to be “the radio” calling to offer three circus tickets to Kenan’s family for Saturday if they can correctly tell him what time it is.
It’s Saturday … There’s a funny bit where Kel just comes on through the front door sans knocking or anything. Kenan’s dad asks if the doorbell is broken. Kel takes this literally. Love it.
With the family gone, the boys start fantasizing about what having a car will be like. Mostly it’s being rude to pedestrians and singing with the radio.
The doorbell rings. It’s a stranger selling a car, so they invite him in. Shortly after, two more people come in. Soon, there’s a whole house full of people, but no Chris with the money. When he finally shows up, it’s empty-handed. He’d overly scratched and sniffed the oh-so-stanky books and depleted their value. The people in the house are furious. Then, Kenan’s family comes home.
At the bodega the next day, Kenan’s dad grounded Kenan and Kel (not his son) for six years. Kenan wants a new plan for a car; Kel tells him it’s time to give up. He’d rather drink his 2L of orange soda.
Just then, a shady-looking dude comes up to them in his denim-on-denim and says he couldn’t help but overhear them — and would they like to buy a car for the exact amount of $400 they have to spend? The dude just randomly points to a car outside and asks the kids for money 🤦.
Kenan pulls down his pants and hands the dude the money he’d had strapped to his thigh. Or at least $200 of it.
The guy hands them the keys. Hmmm … THEN a police officer (Michael Egan) comes in and wants to know whose car is parked outside. The boys say it’s not theirs — they’re not even old enough to drive. Chris claims the vehicle. Too bad it’s stolen.
Shockingly, the white police officer doesn’t believe Kenan & Kel. He offers them a deal — they help him catch the real criminal, and maybe he’ll let them off the hook. UGH. And even get their money back.
The following day, the kiddos are outfitted with a wire. As soon as the dude gives them the title, Kenan is supposed to say, “The chipmunk has pneumonia.” Then the cops will come in and arrest the man. That makes zero sense, but whatever. The guy comes back, and our dudes can’t keep their cool.
They spill things, spit out soda and talk loudly like they’re Karens talking to non-native English speakers. It’s so awkward. Then they can’t remember the code line after the exchange is finished.
Some slapstick ensues when Kenan throws the money up to save time while he tries to remember the line. Kel starts singing “Karma Chameleon.” Kenan’s family comes in to buy pistachios, but luckily, they mention pneumonia and trigger Kenan’memory.
The police come and get the guy. The officer tells the boys to remember not to buy a stolen car next time, thus ensuring Kenan’s family finds out about the whole thing.
There’s a coda at the end of the show, where they recap it. The cop did lie, apparently. The boys did not get their $200 back. And the cop returns to steal their Chinese food.
Does it live up to the nostalgia?
I think so! Though my favorite catchphrases weren’t in the pilot, it’s telling that they’re so enduring. I also believe this is a show that families could have enjoyed together. And maybe still enjoy (as long as they discuss why #NoHomo moments aren’t cool!).
Kenan Thompson was always my favorite on All That, and it’s easy to see why after having rewatched Kenan & Kel. I cannot say I can even remotely tolerate Saturday Night Live of late, but he does always get a giggle out of me. Maybe I’ll just watch Kenan & Kel all over again instead.