The third time appears to be the charm for Kenan Thompson’s long-gestating NBC sitcom, “Kenan.” Formerly titled “Saving Larry,” “Saving Kenan,” and “The Kenan Show,” the new single-cam comedy is set to make its NBC debut Tuesday, February 16, and the first full trailer is now available to watch below.
NBC dropped the extended look at “Kenan” during the show’s TCA panel on Tuesday, January 26, as part of the ongoing 2021 Winter Press Tour. Joining Thompson on the virtual panel were fellow cast members Don Johnson, Chris Redd, Kimrie Lewis, Dani and Dannah Lane, as well as executive producers David Caspe, Ken Whittingham, and Jackie Clarke, who wrote the pilot.
“It was a long process, starting with finding someone to settle on the idea with,” Thompson said. “Jackie and I had a similar idea for what kind of show people hadn’t seen before — how to put a new twist on the ‘uplifting father figure’ kind of show.”
“Kenan” follows a widowed dad (Thompson) who’s juggling a high-profile job as the host of an Atlanta morning show while raising his two girls. As Kenan tries to move on, his father-in-law (Don Johnson), brother (Chris Redd), and co-workers all have strong opinions on the best way to live his life. The show centers on the familial relationships as Kenan tries to reclaim his life after his wife’s death.
Thompson originally made a deal with production company Universal Television in late 2018, with plans for his single-dad comedy to air on NBC the following year. Chris Rock joined as director and EP in January 2019, before dropping out later on. “The Kenan Show” got a series order in May 2019, before being retitled and released as “Kenan” this year.
Andy Garcia and Punam Patel also left during the elongated development process and were replaced by Don Johnson and Kimrie Lewis (“Single Parents”). Thompson, Dani and Dannah Lockett, who play his young daughters, are the only cast members from the original pilot who will be in the version that makes it to air next month.
“Three different ideas, three different teams of people,” Thompson said of the series’ long development process. All revolved around Thompson playing a single father, but originally, his character had a different profession. “Then we pivoted into a morning show idea, and it had a similar energy to what people might expect, given my ‘SNL’ energy,” Thompson said.
Some speculated the series commitment would force Thompson to leave “SNL,” which he’s been a part of for 18 seasons, but the longest-running cast member said there are no plans for his tenure to end.
“I think we’re living in a different time,” Thompson said. “There was a time when people would leave the show to go into their career. But I’m of a different kind of thinking. I think you can do both.”
So far, Thompson has only had to film episodes of each series back-to-back once, when “SNL” did its Christmas show in December 2020. He and fellow joint cast member Chris Redd showed up in New York on Friday for rehearsals before shooting, and then returned to Los Angeles for “Kenan.”
“We’ll see how exhausting it gets when it’s a more regular thing, but I’ll be rushing back to my [‘Kenan’] family, so it won’t be exhausting. They’ll be holding me up,” he said.
Watch the trailer below.
“Kenan” premieres Tuesday, February 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.