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‘Kenan’ Is A Heartwarming Family Comedy That Tackles Dealing with Grief – Review

Kenan Thompson. Legend. Icon. G.O.A.T. Thompson has been a fixture in comedy for decades, and for good reason. I don’t want to age myself, but I vividly remember growing up watching All That, Kenan & Kel and Good Burger. He has been a staple of my childhood, and he must have been in yours too. Thompson has been with Saturday Night Live since 2003, making him the current longest-running cast member in the show’s history. And despite having a new sitcom, he has no plans of stopping his run anytime soon.

Dani Lane as Aubrey, Kenan Thompson as Kenan, Dannah Lane as Birdie. (Courtesy of Casey Durkin/NBC)

Although Thompson has been in the game for a while, his new show Kenan is his first starring TV role since he began SNL. The show follows the life of Kenan Williams, a recently widowed host of Atlanta’s #2-morning show, Wake Up with Kenan! As Kenan tries to move on, his father-in-law, Rick (Don Johnson), and brother, Gary (Chris Redd), along with his co-workers, all have strong opinions on the best way to live his life. He thinks he’s adjusted to life as a busy single parent but after everyone confronts him about denying his grief, he realizes it’s time to make some changes. Gary suggests it’s time for Rick to move out of the house.

The show centers on familial relationships as Kenan tries to reclaim his life after his wife’s death. It’s difficult to address hard topics such as grief and depression while still trying to keep the tone light for all audiences, but Kenan seems like it’s found the right formula. It’s almost like a lighter version of This is Us – which is referenced a couple of times since both are NBC productions.

Kenan Thompson as Kenan, Dannah Lane as Birdie, Dani Lane as Aubrey, Don Johnson as Rick, Chris Redd as Gary. (Courtesy of Casey Durkin/NBC)

I was not surprised at all with how well Thompson can carry the show from start to finish. Although he’s known for his comedy, I thought Thompson was able to show how serious and vulnerable he can be when it comes to some of the heavier moments in the show. Especially in the scenes regarding his grief.

Redd is hilarious as Kenan’s free-spirited brother. The two work well off of one another. Their improv chemistry from SNL shines through. Kimrie Lewis as Kenan’s career-driven executive producer, Mika Caldwell, was pleasant surprise in the pilot episode.

Kimrie Lewis as Mika, Kenan Thompson as Kenan. (Courtesy of Casey Durkin/NBC)

Despite the show focusing on Kenan processing the loss of his wife, it does not forgot other who feel the loss too. Rick (Johnson) still dealing with the death of his daughter while trying to help with his grandkids and be a supportive rock for Kenan. It’s clear he hasn’t moved on either which is something I’m sure will unravel as the series progress. Dani Lane and Dannah Lane as Kenan’s young daughters, Aubrey and Birdie are absolutely adorable and are hilarious as well.

Comedies are hard to do and even harder to nail down in the pilot, but Thompson and the creative team behind the show did an incredible job and I can not wait to see where the show goes. Probably helps that the executive producing team has a history of producing great comedies, which includes Lorne Michaels himself.

Sidenote: Kenan Thompson is 42 but still looks like he could pick up his role on Kenan & Kel with no hesitation. He is the epitome of Black don’t crack.

4.5 / 5 (based on pilot episode)

Kenan airs every Tuesday at 8:30/7:30c on NBC and is available to stream on Peacock the next day!


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