As a kid who grew up in the 00s I am no stranger to the garbage that is American reality TV. It began with programs about failed celebrities marrying prostitutes, teenagers fucking each other, and obese whores with their whore families. The Kardashians remains a testament to the failure of my generation and truTV is an abomination that must be scourged and crucified. Thankfully, I checked out a long time ago, but the only reality show I cherish to this day is one you have never heard of: Kenny Vs. Spenny (KvS).
Kenneth Joel Hotz and Spencer Nolen Rice are Canadian Jews that have been friends since childhood. In the 90s they failed to break into showbiz before they realized the potential that was each other. When you are friends with someone it is natural to be competitive. It can be anything from who can score the most phone numbers to who can pound the most shots. And so was born KvS, a half-hour program where the boys got into a different competition each episode, and the loser would endure a humiliation by the winner.
What make the competitions work are the boys’ dueling personalities:
Spenny is the archetypical Canadian, a neurotically self-conscious individual fixated on how he appears and what people think of him. If he feels you are defaming his character, he will either correct every transgression or call his lawyer. He is also quick to anger and will lash out if threatened. He is fervently politically correct, doing everything in his power to avoid using hurtful vocabulary, and offensive behaviors. He is so terrified of engaging the world for fear of doing something wrong he resorts to seclusion.
Kenny, on the other hand, is the absolute antithesis. He is arguably the most levelheaded where he does not worry about how people see him and acts in an extroverted manner. Making jokes are his forte, jumping at the chance to twist someone’s words into a gag, but his intent is never malicious. He is able to enjoy life and people because he does not take anything seriously.
Both personalities come to a head in the show. There is always a set of rules for each episode and Spenny, being a good citizen, follows them without question. Kenny does not care in the slightest, a cheater through and through, and is clever enough to exploit Spenny’s anxieties. Some times he jokes about being god or the better of the two just to get a reaction. Since he cheats, Kenny technically loses a lot of competitions, but he is so good about hiding it, Spenny does not find out until the editing process. Their competitive interplay is cathartic as you witness two radically different people going after the same goal. One is easily offended and the other is a self-proclaimed diabolical genius. Even without exploiting Spenny’s issues Kenny can come up with a ploy to win the moment there is an opportunity or rig the competition entirely.
In “Who Can Put on a Best Concert,” the boys had to form a band to play original music before judges that would decide the winner. Kenny took the sympathy route and organized a children’s choir to sing about dead kids, while Spenny put together a generic rock group. Since Kenny’s tactic was not a guaranteed victory, he called Spenny’s band using edited audio that told them not to show up. Come the day of the concert, the only group to make it was Kenny’s. The ending was hard to watch as Spenny got up on stage, alone, and walked the judges through the structure of his song. It made me cringe because you see this poor guy, who wanted to be a rock star for a day, trying his best to salvage the situation.
One of my favorite episodes is “Who Can Sell More Bibles.” What begins as a simple competition turns into a Hollywood story where Spenny receives a call from producers about adapting a script he wrote. Little did he know, Kenny engineered the ploy to build up his arrogance and trick Spenny into buying his Bibles. When the competition ended, Spenny was stranded at LAX waiting for a ride that never showed up.
Sometimes Kenny will use his cleverness just to watch Spenny suffer.
In “Who Can Handel the Most Torture,” the boys competed in a number of mini competitions that involved pain and Kenny lost them on purpose. The challenges included drinking Tabasco sauce, a full body duck tape wrap, and how far can you stick a sausage up your own ass (I am not kidding). Another was who can take hardest whipping from a pair of dominatrices that Kenny paid off to only beat Spenny.
In “Who Can Stay Blindfolded the Longest,” Kenny used Spenny’s gullibility to basically torment him as he wore a blindfold, throwing pop-rocks at his head, moving furniture, and writing on his face with marker. The whole time, Spenny thought it was Kenny’s friend who he supposedly bribed to harass him in the three days the competition took place.
Some times cheating does not work and it backfires.
In “Who is the Better Rapper,” Kenny faked a gang threat on Spenny’s life using props, a phone call, and an actor as a detective. Spenny, however, saw right through it and was able to get the win after Kenny, confident in his plan, gave up on the final rap event before the judges.
In “Who Can Stay Handcuffed the Longest,” the boys were bound and at each other’s mercy. Though extremely annoyed, Spenny remained steadfast before Kenny invited their obnoxious friend Wolfish to stay at their house. Spenny hated being around him more than anyone and after a day, even Kenny found himself at his wits’ end and conceded to a draw, which he turned into a victory by exploiting the rules.
KvS lasted six seasons before it was unceremoniously canceled in 2010. The only way you can watch it is buy the DVDs, download episodes online, or look them up on YouTube. Kenny himself had the entire series on his channel until the site’s copyright system had them blackballed. The links I used are from other sources that work around the systems to avoid a takedown.
I have always wanted to tell people about Kenny Vs. Spenny because it deserves recognition. The Kardashians and MTV may have ruined reality TV, but in Canada two men, an idiot and a crazy person, knew how to do it better than anyone. Kenny and Spenny are cult legends worthy of veneration. If more people knew what I know about the greatest show ever, we would get a seventh season, and perhaps others.