February 21, 2015

KID 'N PLAY

By request of my friend Miranda, we bring you...


KID ‘N PLAY
(NBC, September 8, 1990-August 31, 1991)

Chris Cross Inc., Gordy de Passe Productions, Saban, Motown, Marvel Productions



MAIN CAST:
Christopher “Kid” Reid – Himself (live)
Christopher “Play” Martin – Himself (live)
Christopher Hooks – Christopher “Kid” Reid
Brian Stokes Mitchell – Christopher “Play” Martin
Alaina Redd-Hall – Terry Reid
Tommy Davidson – Jazzy, Acorn
J.D. Hall – Pitbull, Mr. Reid
Cree Summer – Marika Martin, Downtown Patty
Martin Lawrence – Wiz, Hurbie
Dawnn Lewis – Lela
Danny Mann – Hairy
Rain Pryor – B.B.
Dorian Harewood – Old Blue


            They were just two guys named Chris, but after meeting in high school they became a hip-hop sensation.


Kid 'n Play.

            Christopher “Kid Coolout” Reid and Christopher “Playboy” Martin were part of rival high school hip-hop groups: The Turnout Brothers and The Super Lovers. Meeting during a competition, the two hit it off and after their respective groups broke apart they formed their own in 1986. Initially called The Fresh Force Crew, they had recorded two songs before officially changing their name to Kid ‘n Play in 1987 comprised of shortened versions of their respective nicknames.



            Kid ‘n Play teamed up with Hurby “Love Bug” Azor, also a former member of The Super Lovers, who became their manager and producer. Azor also managed rap trio Salt-N-Pepa, for who Kid ‘n Play were once popular background dancers for. Signing with Select Records, the duo produced three albums between 1988 and 1991: 2 Hype, Funhouse and Face the Nation (which was co-produced by Elektra Records). Each album featured positive lyrics backed by pop-friendly instrumental tracks. Their stage show was a hit with the teenage crowds, utilizing specialized dance moves dubbed the Kick Step and the Funky Charleston. But, the most well-known trademark of theirs was probably Kid’s hi-top fade haircut, which at one point rose as high as ten inches from his head.



            In 1989, Reginald Hudlin wanted to reproduce his award-winning Harvard University student film on a bigger scale and turned it into the 1990 movie House Party, released by New Line Cinema. Originally written for DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince and offered to them by New Line as part of a settlement over the copyright infringement case of their single “Nightmare on My Street.” Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince weren’t thinking about movies at the time and passed (ironically, The Fresh Prince, aka Will Smith, would eventually go on to make a very lucrative career in the movie industry). Kid ‘n Play ended up taking the lead roles, as recommended by Azor, and using their energetic performances to propel the movie to a box office hit. Made for a modest $2.5 million, the film would go on to gross over $26 million. A less-favorably reviewed sequel, House Party 2, was made and released in 1991. Produced on double the budget of the original, it became a financial success by grossing over $19 million.


Kid 'n Play animated.

            With their fame riding high, it was decided to bring the duo to Saturday mornings with their own animated series developed by Cynthia Friedlob and John Semper. While providing the theme song and appearing in live wraparound segments, Kid ‘n Play didn’t voice their animated counterparts. Instead, their roles were played by Christopher Hooks and Brian Stokes Mitchell respectively. In order to attract the pre-teen audience, the duo was portrayed younger but with their current career intact. Azor, renamed “Hurbie” for the series, was still their manager, albeit goofily portrayed, and played by House Party co-star and then-relatively unknown comedian/actor Martin Lawrence.



The series has often been compared to Fat Albert, in that it featured kids in an urban setting engaging in adventures that had a positive moral message for the viewers. Joining the duo were their backup dancers Lela (Dawnn Lweis), Marika (Play’s sister) and Downtown Patty (both Cree Summer); their DJ Wiz (Lawrence); Kid’s tomboy little sister Terry (Alaina Reed-Hall); and rivals Acorn (Tommy Davidson) and Pitbull (J.D. Hall), who would engage in practical jokes and sabotage of the duo out of jealousy. 


Ad for NBC's 1990 Saturday morning line-up.

Premiering on NBC on September 8, 1990, the show only lasted a single season of 13 episodes before it was cancelled. A major contributing factor was it was scheduled opposite two ratings powerhouses on the rival networks: CBSTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and ABC’s Beetlejuice. Interestingly enough, Kid would go on to say NBC offered them a sitcom, but the duo turned it down in anger over their cartoon being cancelled. That show instead went to Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith, becoming the career-launching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Marvel Comics would publish a series based on the cartoon in 1992 that ran for nine issues.



In 1995, after their third House Party outing, the act split up to pursue their own ventures. Kid continued to act, guest-starring in numerous sitcoms and hosting several specials. Play became a born-again Christian and spent time working on Christian-based hip-hop projects before founding HP4 Digital Works and Brand Newz. He also became a professor at North Carolina Central University. Beginning in 2009, the duo would reunite on several talk shows and for the BETHip Hop Awards, and engaged on a House Party anniversary tour where they performed with various acts, including Salt-N-Pepa. In 2012, Kid 'n Play returned to the House Party franchise with House Party: Tonight's the Night, which served as a direct sequel to House Party 3. In 2014, they appeared in Radio Shack’s “The 80s Called” Super Bowl commercial.


EPISODE GUIDE (currently unavailable):

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