I’ll say this upfront.
I previewed Dr. Ken with low expectations. I’ve had mixed feelings about star Ken Jeong. His comedy can be described as modern day slapstick. He’s silly, his jokes can be crass and filled with sexual innuendo, and he makes some Asian Americans cringe with fear that he makes Asian men look like buffoons. It’s not the type of comedy I’d rush out to see, but it works for others including some Asian Americans, and I suspect, it’s those people who will tune into the program.
If you don’t like jokes using Asian accents as a source of laughter, then Dr. Ken may not be right for you. Both episodes I previewed parodied the accents of Ken’s parents. I count myself as those uncomfortable with such jokes. I guess I have too many memories of other kids derisively mimicking the way they think I’m supposed to talk-reality be damned. Ken’s parents make an appearance in episode two-Alexis Rhee as In-Sook Park and Dana Lee as D.K. Park. Trust me, their portrayals are fine.
Jeong plays Dr. Ken Park, an arrogant doctor with poor bedside manners. His patients in both episodes I previewed were the target of Jeong’s cutting humor. His wife Allison is played by Suzy Nakamura as a therapist. The children are Albert Tsai as Dave and Krista Marie Yu as the oldest child and teenager Molly.
The program is the second featuring an Asian American family on television this season. The first of course is Fresh Off The Boat. I was pleasantly surprised to see the show fairly evenly divided between Dr. Ken’s home life and his work life. That’s what you call work-life balance. It’s rare to see doctor shows spend so much time at home, but then again, there haven’t been too many comedies centered around a doctor either. This work-life balance, if it continues, will allow the doctor to be developed into a well rounded character.
Dr. Ken features an ensemble cast who each get their moments to shine. Tisha Campbell Martin plays the blunt receptionist Damona (we haven’t seen that character before), Jonathan Slavin as the gay nurse Clark, Kate Simses as the high pitched nurse Julie, and Dave Foley as the cranky boss Pat (that’s a new one, not really).
Make no mistake, this show is about Jeong. He’s in every scene. It plays like a series of stand up bits weaved together to form an episode.
The pilot definitely had its moments with one chuckled-filled scene after another. The second show not so much. Episode two fell into cliched comedy episodic writing.
Dr. Ken follows Last Man Standing with Tim Allen and airs Friday night at 8:30/7:30c. It’s a good pairing. The shows are fairly similar with Last Man Standing a showcase for Allen and Dr. Ken a showcase for Jeong.
Of the other characters, Clark has the most potential. The young Tsai’s bit as a mime in the pilot is entertaining. Margaret Cho has been cast as Dr. Ken’s sister, but she did not appear in the episodes I have been allowed to preview.
The best thing going for Dr. Ken is that the characters are interesting. Each is distinct and it’ll be interesting to see how each is developed. If the characters aren’t allowed to move forward, this show is DOA.