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 V.13 No.13 | March 25 - 31, 2004 

Idiot Box

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

“Kenny vs. Spenny” on GSN

Following the “Great Blackout of 2004”—during which all Viacom channels were removed from the DISH Network service for a torturous 48-hour period—I found myself scraping the bottom of my satellite dish, looking for some small scraps of entertainment. At the time, there was every possibility that I would never see the likes of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon or MTV2 ever again. Since life without “Spongebob Squarepants” was far too dark to contemplate, I flipped channels searching for solace in some heretofore-undiscovered gem. I can't say I found very many of them, but I did spend a bit of time checking out some stations I'd previously remote controlled my way right past.

One of those was GSN, the Game Show Network. Once merely the festering repository for antique TV gameshow reruns like “Family Fued” and “Match Game '79,” GSN has been going through an overhaul of late. The network has added coverage of video games (“Game Sauce”), dating (“Fake-a-Date”) and gambling (“World Series Blackjack”) in a mildly successful attempt to seem hip. Recently, the network jumped into the “reality” genre with the Canadian import “Kenny vs. Spenny.” While I can't exactly say we're all better off for it, I can say that it may just provide the network its first breakthrough hit.

While it's hard to judge what will and will not fly in today's overstuffed “reality” marketplace, “Kenny vs. Spenny” does have a lot going for it. In it, two “best friends” and roommates, Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice, engage in a series of more or less knuckleheaded challenges to determine which of the two is the better man. One week, the boys might be fighting it out in a boxing match. The next week, they might be competing to see who makes the most convincing drag queen. A contest to see who can sit on a cow the longest might be followed by one to see who can cook better. The loser is required to perform some humiliating act at the behest of the newly crowned winner. (Streaking, eating cat food or dressing up as a baby are among the show's suggested penalties.)

Although it's all done in good fun, these boys take it awfully seriously. Kenny is the more devious of the duo, often resorting to outrageous or sneaky means to triumph. Kenny, for his part, wants to win without cheating. During the duo's contest to see who could stay awake the longest, Kenny took to eating coffee grounds, popping herbal enhancements, sucking oxygen and conserving his energy by tooling about in a motorized wheelchair. Spenny tried to do it “all natural.” He lost and ended up serving as Kenny's “toilet attendant.”

Though the show could easily degenerate into “Jackass”/“Fear Factor” territory, “KvS” remains low key and a little bit sweet. With their good natured rivalry and occasional slap fights, Kenny and Spenny seem like a couple of dorky eight-year-olds hanging out on the playground and putting each other through a list of double dog dares. The giddy pleasure they seem to derive from besting one another is both immature and infectious.

Ridiculous, juvenile and occasionally explosively funny, “Kenny vs. Spenny” is a cult hit waiting to happen.

“Kenny vs. Spenny” airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. on GSN.


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