Back when the Game Show Network was trying to reinvent itself (after all, how many times can you show the same six seasons of Match Game and retain your demographic cool?), they did something that viewers could not have predicted. Looking for unusual 'competition' content, they called upon a little known Canadian series entitled Kenny vs. Spenny and added it to their Saturday late night programming. The premise of the reality-based show was simple. Every week, lifelong friends Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice would invent a head to head contest. Cameras would film them as they tested their mantle against each other's fluctuating will. The winner would taste the spoils of victory. The loser would end up performing a completely gratuitous humiliation. Naturally, the blue hairs who frequented the Family Feud/Lingo heavy programming didn't much care for the show. Now Comedy Central has revived the concept, bringing the boys to an even bigger audience. Thankfully, nothing about this gonzo gross out has changed.
Under the added production tutelage (and commercial cred) of South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it's brazen business as 'unusual' in the universe of Kenny vs. Spenny. This two disc DVD contains 10 episodes from the series initial run on Comedy Central (representing the fourth season of shows overall). There are no repeats from years one through three and the same format as the Canadian version is followed. Perhaps the only difference between what aired and what is offered here is that all the curse words and other expletives are left intact. Nudity and other naughty bits do remain pixilated or blurred however, so you'll have to get those sensationalized jollies somewhere else. Here is a breakdown of each installment presented:
"First Guy to Get a Boner Loses" - In a test of sexual skill, Kenny and Spenny are constantly tempted to see who best controls their 'libido'.
"Who Can Blow the Biggest Fart" - It's pure flatulence fun as both boys try to produce the biggest, most methane-filled bottom burp.
"Who Can Make the Best Viral Video" - Stressing the popularity of YouTube, the guys give in to their inner filmmaker and see whose creation gets the most web recognition.
"Who Can Eat the Most Meat" - It's pure carnivorous chaos as Kenny and Spenny pile on the animal flesh.
"First Guy to Get a Stain Loses" - Dressed in white from head to toe, the boys try to avoid getting dirty.
"Who Can Be Tied to a Goat the Longest" - Pretty self explanatory, really. The guys compete to see who can tolerate being close to livestock 24/7.
"Who Can Handle the Most Torture" - It's brains, brawn, and guts as our heroes put up with every kind of abuse imaginable.
"First Guy to Stop Singing Loses" - Like an opera starring two slackers, Kenny and Spenny must continuously vocalize, or else.
"Who Can Be Obese the Longest" - When they add 80 pounds to their already ample mass, the guys must try to live through the life of an overweight person.
"Who Can Commit the Most Crime" - It's time to get some illegal kicks as the boys add possible jail time to their already sizable list of social faux pas.
Since starting in 2003, Kenny vs. Spenny has been one of the consistently better Jackass knock-offs on TV. It bests those one note Dudesons and surpasses that recent addition to ridiculousness, G4's horrid Hurl! There is just something so satisfying about watching oblivious Caucasian cretins purposefully injuring and abusing/embarrassing themselves for the camera. While set up as a pure competition with rules and restrictions, each episode often devolves into how Kenny can cheat and how Spenny can be so ignorant to such deception. They rarely play fair, and when they do, the premise seems to fail the comedy. These shows are not done to prove human endurance - they are here to make people laugh, and when both men really try to outsmart and outlast each other, there's not much fun to be found. Indeed, when you listen to the DVD commentary track offered as part of the bonus features, you get confirmation of the 'dishonesty = laughter' ideal. Spencer, who should be livid over each and every instance of urine drinking, medicinal manipulation, false pretense, and outright lying he is subjected to, instead admits that it adds to the show's irreverent appeal, and he accepts it (along with his paycheck) with ersatz professionalism.
Kenny on the other hand believes himself to be some kind of misguided superstar, and his "aren't I special" shtick can grow very tired, very fast. Perhaps the last comedian in all of North America to realize that nonstop toilet humor is no longer uber-cool, he continually plays the 'gay' card on his pal, getting more and more graphic when Spencer doesn't respond. At other times, he invests so much time in the infantile and the genital that you wonder where Freud would place him on his infamous stages scale. And yet his antics can be very amusing. During "First Guy to Stop Singing Loses", he actually comes up with three of four very witty songs. Similarly, in sitting back and letting Spencer take all the punishment (in the " Who Can Handle the Most Torture"), he shows that his planned deviousness can be put to very amusing purposes. But most of the time, he's a tad overdone. After all, how many times can you get enjoyment out of seeing an animal take a piss, your butt blowing a big fake fart, or various foodstuffs falling from of your mouth. Spencer can be a major league whiner as well, his pro-PC stances and enabling nobility enough to make you equally uneasy. Indeed, it's often a war between the prissy and the petty.
And yet somehow it all works. In rare instances, the premise and the personalities mesh to create a true bit of inspiration. Take the classic "Who Can Commit the Most Crime". While Mr. Hotz is running down a list of municipal ordinances and minor laws to violate, Mr. Rice reflects on the nature of lawlessness. Soon, while Kenny is spitting on sidewalks and vandalizing city landscaping, Spenny is dealing drugs and assaulting people in public. The ending may be an unlikely comeuppance for one of the participants, but it comes as such a natural shock that we celebrate the surprise. Similarly, during the fart episode, Kenny goes to an Asian doctor (who Spencer considers a quack) and has his bowel massaged. The sight of this amiable foreign man pressing down on Hotz's blubbery belly is worth the price of admission alone. Even when the joke is one note (the viral videos, for example) we enjoy the energy and invention the competitors bring. While Kenny vs. Spenny does have some authenticity issues (see below), it can frequently make for a fine entertainment.
Offered on DVD from Comedy Central and parent company Paramount, the 1.33:1 full screen image looks fresh from TV terrific. While some have complained about the aspect ratio (apparently the show is seen elsewhere in widescreen), the sharp and colorful transfer is indeed very good.
There is nothing very special about the Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix. It captures the dialogue well, and while sound engineers and recorders work on the series, the off the cuff nature of each episode can frequently thwart the best tech spec intentions. Since there is minimal musical scoring and limited ambient elements, the sonic situation here is of minor importance at best.
Spread out over both discs, the added content provided for the Kenny vs. Spenny show is interesting, if not necessarily definitive. There are only two commentary tracks provided (one on "Who Can Blow the Biggest Fart" and "Who Can Stay Tied to a Goat the Longest"). There is also a look at all the viral videos made, and there are music videos attached to the "First Guy to Stop Singing Loses". Elsewhere, Disc 1 finds Kenny answering viewer mail, a man on the street segment with both gentlemen, a mini-competition ("Who Can Pick the Biggest Booger") and various trailers. Disc 2 contains a series of deleted scenes and the aforementioned songs. Perhaps the biggest piece of information we learn here is that Kenny and Spenny do not share a Toronto townhouse together. The place is rented for the series, with each man living somewhere else. They only get together to tape the episodes, and their production offices are out back in what appears to be a converted garage. So while the friendship is clearly honest, the premised living arrangements and claims of 'everyday interaction' appear questionable at best.
Kenny vs. Spenny is one of those shows that starts off strong and then slowly diminishes over time. Since every episode routinely revolves around one guy cheating and the other getting unadulteratedly hosed, long term expose creates limited continuing enjoyment. Still, for what it is, and for how often it finds a way to work well, this DVD receives a Highly Recommended rating. Not everyone will find the fallacies inherent in the premise that problematic, and when they click, both men are incredibly funny. Still, don't be surprised if one day, when you least expect it, someone comes up to you and asks what you think of this Canadian cavalcade - and don't be shocked when your opinion has soured, if just a little.