4 stars out of 5
“Being Terry Kennedy” is the latest in a string of reality television shows. Like “Life of Ryan,” MTV’s reality show about professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, this one follows skateboarder Terry Kennedy. While Sheckler earned quite a bit of scorn from skateboarders and viewers for enforcing negative stereotypes of skateboarders and other “alternative” athletes, “Being Terry Kennedy” portrays Kennedy in a positive light that leaves viewers rooting for him, despite a lack of originality.
Kennedy is a well-respected professional skateboarder. He is sponsored by some of the most popular brands in skateboarding. He also has a sneaker line, owns a skateboard shop and has a rap group. “I have a lot going on,” he tells us in the opening segment of the show. Indeed he does.
The show kicks off with a short synopsis of his life. Kennedy is African-American and grew up in a rough part of Long Beach. His mom died from drugs and his dad left the family when Kennedy was just three years old. Kennedy was raised by his grandmother and credits her for being his anchor growing up. Kennedy later discovered skateboarding and started to make a name for himself in the sport. For reasons that are not explained, he was shot in 2006.
“I (then) started skating like my life depended on it,” he tells the viewers.
Kennedy appears to be successful thus far. He supports his grandmother and extended family. They left the old neighborhood in Long Beach behind and moved into a much nicer house in Winnetka. Aware that athletic careers don’t usually last long, he is trying to diversify and “grow his brand,” he said.
The first episode shows Kennedy interacting with his family. There are shots of a family dinner with conversation seesawing back and forth from funny to serious. Kennedy informs his family that he is flying to New York to participate in a skateboard competition in which $100,000 is at stake. He also wants to begin renovating his skateboard shop while he is away. Kennedy’s cousins offer to roll their sleeves up and do the renovations themselves. It’s an opportunity to keep the money in the family and support one of their own, they explain. As might be expected, things don’t go exactly according to plan and tempers flare along the way.
Kennedy’s extended family is likable and appears similar to many other families. There’s Reggie, Kennedy’s cousin, who is a college student. Lil’ Phil, Kennedy’s younger cousin, wants to be a professional skateboarder just like Kennedy. Big Phil is Kennedy’s older brother. Uncle Phil is Kennedy’s uncle and Lil’ Phil’s dad. Lastly, there’s grandma, Kennedy’s savior and anchor. His love and appreciation for her is obvious. He confides in her and she doles out her advice when she disagrees with a decision he makes.
The story of a kid of humble origins who uses his athletic talents to make something of himself is not new at all. What makes “Being Terry Kennedy” such an enjoyable show is the way Kennedy is portrayed. It is obvious that he loves his family. He is humble and appreciative of his good fortune. “I am blessed,” he said more than once. Unlike many other reality show subjects, there was relatively little whining on his part, just the drive to improve himself and to support his loved ones, and an appreciation for what he has.
Ryan Sheckler’s pettiness ruined “Life of Ryan” for me. Kennedy’s drive and positive attitude had me rooting for him and wishing him continued success.
“Being Terry Kennedy” premiers Oct. 12 on Black Entertainment Television (BET).