Kendra: The Complete First Season:
Hard to imagine it, but there are Girls Next Door fans such as yours truly who have waited this long to see if Kendra has what it takes to make it on her own. All due respect to Bridget and Holly, but Kendra was always my favorite Girl; yet without the balancing effect of those more mature playmates, would Kendra be able to continue manufacturing Reality Gold? Would the lack of a bizarre manufactured environment and seemingly unlimited funds hamper the fun? Would Hef continue to lurk in the background?
Taking into account your own personal love of K-Dub, you can likely answer the above questions: yes, no, and yes. Striking out on her 'own,' Kendra brings just as much goony charm as before, if not more. Since she doesn't have to share the stage as much, more of her personality shines through. However it's not all fun and games. Ridiculous amounts of idle time are gone, meaning there aren't two lavish parties per episode, as became the standard on Girls Next Door. In fact Kendra spends time dealing with domestic chores, learning how to grocery shop, and dealing with the feelings of her family and fiancé Hank Baskett of (at the time) the Philadelphia Eagles. And yes, since a Very Special Wedding is in the offing, Hef's presence is definitely felt - could we expect any less from the boyfriend-father-grandfather-figure who gave Kendra her start?
Kendra is sincerely downscale compared to Girls Next Door: the woman has her bridal shower in the community room of a condominium development, for crying out loud. This endears Kendra to us even more. Without the fantasy lifestyle (except, you know, having your own TV show and marrying an NFL star) Kendra becomes real. I mean, she's surreal in her tomboy naiveté and explosive guffaw, but she also lets her guard way down. Perhaps she and her producers are pulling the greatest reality prank ever, but on Kendra, Wilkinson seems ... normal. She actually seems sweet, caring and a little innocent, and the show rarely feels scripted. Photo-op setups from the previous series, wherein the Girls simply slipped into their chirpy spokes-model roles are gone. At times, when Wilkinson and Baskett are just sitting around on the couch talking about Kendra's mom, you feel like a fly on the wall, as if the pair were so comfortable with the cameras they simply forget about them, letting the good, the bad and the ugly just hang out.
And yes, Kendra's twins do plenty of hanging out too, and her sexy friends brighten things up considerably as well. The one who looks like Paris Hilton's double might even be up for a reality show of her own. Even more of a revelation is Hank Baskett himself, a man who seems so considerate, sweet, and grounded it's hard to imagine he's real. Perhaps the revelation is one of a new NFL robotics program - there's no way Baskett could be this good a man. Or maybe Kendra signals a new type of celebrity, and a new type of reality show - a tinsel world in which decent people who work hard (whether said jobs including being naked or catching balls) manage - with a little luck - to rise to the top, where they then continue to be decent people despite the insanity. Maybe there's hope for humanity yet.
1.78:1 widescreen presentation should put cathode ray TVs on final notice. No one needs 4 x 3 ratios anymore, not even Kendra. The picture is sharp, if not a little harsh in a shot-on-the-fly DV kind-of way. Colors are bold, and compression artifacts are a no-show - maybe a little aliasing on Baskett's razor-thin beard line, but nothing else really. This is a solid-looking TV on DVD package.
Dolby Digital Stereo in English certainly gets the job done in unspectacular fashion. With the emphasis simply on catching audio, there's not a lot to be done in post other than to make sure you can hear everything Kendra and the others say. At least her laugh better come through loud and clear, since each time Kendra laughs, I usually join in.
Kendra sadly lands solidly in rental-land with the inclusion of only one extra, a reminiscence Bonus Episode: Keepin' It Real, that if anything at least spells out the plans of this 20th Century Fox Productions. The two-disc, 250-minute set comes in a standard clear-plastic keepcase with a flipper, and also includes functional extras like Closed Captioning and English SDH. Spanish and French Subtitles are also part of the deal.
Without Bridget and Holly, Kendra actually improves in many ways. With her own theme song by Too Short, she's established as a girl striking out on her own - no great shakes, until you consider her connection to Playboy, her propensity for getting topless, and her engagement to NFL powerhouse Hank Baskett. The result is a step down in luxury from The Girls Next Door, but a step up in terms of realism and emotional engagement. This set, including 9 24-minute episodes (two doubles, plus a bonus episode, but not the December 2009 special episode) is still a fluffy, frothy, fun mixture, but with some real drama thrown in. If Kendra was your favorite part of The Girls Next Door then you'll thoroughly enjoy her new show. However with a distinct lack of extras, this first season DVD earns but an enthusiastic Rent It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com