A trio of celebrated actors guest star on the newest episode of Wendell & Vinnie. Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!) all appear on the Nickelodeon show tonight, making for a “very surreal” time for Jerry Trainor, who plays Vinnie.
“It’s weird… I wish I could tell my younger self, ‘Yeah you’re gonna work with her one day. You see what they’re doing? You’ll be doing that one day, and it’ll be really great. It’ll be super fun.’ But then where’d the surprise be?” Trainor told EW, adding that Kudrow is “super sweet and super nice and effortlessly funny.”
Wendell & Vinnie creator Jay Kogen has known Kudrow since the two of them were in junior high school, and they finally had the opportunity to work together when Kogen wrote this guest role for the Friends alum. In tonight’s episode, Kudrow plays Natasha, a rival memorabilia collector to Vinnie. When the two collectors fight over a movie prop at a storage unit auction, Vinnie gets his young nephew Wendell to tell a lie to the prop’s owner about how much the prop and the movie it’s in means to him. Wendell — a well-behaved kid who’s much more mature than his goofball uncle — wants Vinnie to realize that he shouldn’t make him lie, so to get his uncle’s attention, he sells a prized possession of Vinnie’s to Natasha.
Ultimately, Wendell learns that it is okay to lie occasionally, especially when telling the truth could hurt someone’s feelings. It’s a lesson that Kogen says Nickelodeon was initially “very concerned” about.
“They’re a kids network, and they don’t want to teach the wrong lesson to kids,” said Kogen, who wrote tonight’s episode, called “Swindle & Vinnie.” He said it was “pretty tricky” to find a way to get that lesson across effectively, but he feels he and the rest of the Wendell & Vinnie team found a way to teach kids about white lies without the lesson being misconstrued.
Since its first episode, Wendell & Vinnie hasn’t shied away from topics that could be heavy ones for a younger audience — the pilot deals with issues of custody after Wendell’s parents die and he comes into Vinnie’s care. Kogen tells EW that he hasn’t been hesitant to tackle these types of stories head-on because he believes kids can handle them, but also because the show was conceived with an adult audience in mind. (It was originally scheduled for a Nick at Nite timeslot before airing its premiere on Saturday evenings, and then moved to Thursday nights.)
Kogen says that if Wendell & Vinnie is renewed and remains in a kid-geared Nickelodeon slot, he might create more kid characters or bump current young characters who are recurring up to regular status to adapt the show to a younger audience.
The chance to work on a show that’s a family-friendly sitcom but still deals with complex and sometimes dark subjects is one thing that attracted Trainor to Wendell & Vinnie. The actor considered following up his long-running role on Nickelodeon’s iCarly with something more “edgy” on a broadcast network, but when he read the pilot script for Wendell & Vinnie he liked how the writers tackled subjects “that are complex and kind of nuanced,” he told EW. “That was the thing that drew me to the script, and that it had so much heart that I don’t see in a lot of comedies these days. [Many current comedies are] really surface-y.”
He explained that on Wendell & Vinnie, their characters “are just trying to figure it out as they go, and that’s the way people kind of deal with tragedy and struggles. They make the best of it. They get through it. They laugh, and they find the humor and they kind of move forward, and that’s kind of what the show’s all about.”
In tonight’s Wendell & Vinnie, Lennon plays a down-on-his-luck celebrity, and Spiner plays himself. “Swindle & Vinnie” airs at 8:30 p.m. PT/ET on Nickelodeon.
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