Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 11: “Delayed in Honolulu”
Original airdate January 8, 2016.
Symptoms: The Park family, returning from its vacation in Honolulu, is delayed at the airport, where Ken meets Dr. Mehmet Oz. Ken hopes to trade seats with Dr. Oz in order for the whole family to sit together. Molly is frustrated about not hearing from her boyfriend, and Allison accidentally gets involved by sending him a text from Molly’s phone. Back at Welltopia, the post-holiday flu season finds the staff short-handed, leaving Dr. Julie with her first stint as physician in charge.
Diagnosis: I’m on record (multiple times) as being generally opposed to guest stars in sitcoms, so I won’t harp on it again. I do appreciate removing the family from its living room and kitchen, and having all four Parks in a new, different enclosed space is interesting, but there was a chance here to play with the dynamics, with different combinations of characters engaging in different conversations. We get a little more of this at Welltopia, where the staff carries on without Dr. Ken, and the results are mostly quite good.
Prognosis: Dr. Ken made a few worst-of-2015 lists, which is not a good sign, despite pretty good ratings. That seems a bit strong. I mean, I’m never wishing, while in the middle of an episode, that I was doing something else. Most of the characters continue to be likable, and there are good laughs in every episode. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t see what the critics see, but so far, the good and bad have kind of been equal. There may be more bad, but the good is strong enough to keep things in balance. There is still reason to be optimistic, and I remain optimistic.
Rx: This is difficult to write, because I know how popular the Pat character is with the actors on the program, but Pat needs some major adjustment. He’s so overwhelmingly unbelievable that he threatens anything meaningful the rest of the show tries to accomplish. I’m not saying he can’t continue to be bizarre (and he is so bizarre), but he’s almost completely unreal. Dr. Ken didn’t make those worst-of lists because it’s objectively one of the worst shows on television; it made them because there’s reason to expect so much more from such good actors. This difference between expectation and product is a problem, and it begins with the characters. Julie and Clark were horribly cartoonish in the show’s first several episodes, but they’ve maintained their quirkiness as they’ve developed into characters we can care about. Yes, I know we’re only eleven episodes in, but that’s half a season nowadays. All I’m asking for are genuine laughs from genuine characters; that can’t be too much to ask, can it?
Don’t forget to check out Joz Wang’s Post Show and Tell this week, which includes an interview with Kate Simses from the set of Dr. Ken.