‘Dr. Ken’ Review: Great Comedians Can’t Save Bland, Rigid Material

     October 2, 2015


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It’s worth taking note of just how many funny people are in Dr. Ken, which takes a “humorous” look at an alternate universe where Ken Jeong continued on in his initial calling as a doctor. There’s Jeong himself, who leads the show and has proven to be a talented comedian in Community, Role Models, and, well, at least the first Hangover film, but he’s honestly only the tip of the iceberg. Dave Foley, one of the core members of the hugely influential and, yes, brilliant Kids in the Hall and the lead of News Radio, has a supporting role as the administrator and boss figure of Ken’s practice, and Tisha Campbell-Martin, of Martin fame, plays one of his nurses. In the role of Allison, Ken’s wife, is Suzy Nakamura, who had some very funny moments on The West Wing, and Jonathan Slavin, a familiar veteran of television comedy, plays another nurse in the practice. This isn’t even accounting for guest stars, such as the great Stephen Tobolowsky, who show up for quick arcs or exchanges. So, it’s a bit of a surprise that Dr. Ken ends up being so stunningly unfunny and formulaic, following the well-accepted rules of sitcom writing as if the writers and creators were copying the plot turns and gags from a manual.


Image via ABC

Within the first three episodes of the series, there’s already a good 15 minutes spent making in-law jokes that were old and dull by the time Family Matters got on the air, and the entire first episode is dedicated to Ken acting overprotective when his daughter (Krista Marie Yu) gets her driving license. The sheer lack of personality and intimacy in these jokes, and the show on the whole, is frankly staggering, executed with bland imagery and with a tone that clearly identifies that the bad jokes are held in higher regard than the unique and proven deliveries and gestures of persona of the cast.

The fact that there’s no daring, no insight embedded in the humor puts Dr. Ken in stark contrast to more recent sitcoms from ABC, most notably black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, but also, for that matter, Modern Family. The series’ sense of modernity is limited strictly to talk of cell phones, Molly, and online apps, which hardly makes the show feel timely or, god help me, hip. The absence of even the faintest guffaw, or even a fleeting amusement, not only makes the series feel like a waste of time, but also highlights the tremendous waste of talent on display in Dr. Ken.

★  Poor — A waste of time; clear your DV-R space


Image via ABC