Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 12: “Ken’s Physical”
Original airdate January 15, 2016.
Symptoms: Allison is upset when she learns that Ken hasn’t had a physical examination in twenty years, reminding him that his family needs him to be healthy. When Ken asks Julie simply to sign the form without actually performing the exam, she insists on examining him legitimately. Damona and Clark get into a little bit of a prank war. Molly, hoping to pay for a snowboarding trip, takes (and loses) part-time jobs.
Diagnosis: I watched this episode three times (that’s normal when I write episode reviews), and although the jokes never got funnier, the relationships got more interesting. The best thing about this episode is the continued development of the Welltopia characters. Even Pat, whom I have been very critical of, comes across in this episode as more of a goofball than a bizarre cartoon character. It’s still not quite the right note, but it’s the closest it’s been since the boat-on-land episode. More Ken-Julie interaction, this time on level ground as physicians, is also good for development, leaving Damona and Clark to get more time together. All of this is good.
Ken and Allison are at their TV best when they’re arguing with each other, or when they’re teamed up against their kids, and we get both in this episode.
What we have this week are all the signs of a show finding its stroke. The skeleton is there, and that’s important, and it’s evidence of actors who have a good sense of their characters, and writers who have some kind of meaningful purpose in mind. But man, the flesh and skin attached to this lovely bone structure is not pretty. The jokes just aren’t funny. There’s definitely some nice situational humor, mostly in Julie’s examination of Ken, but the writers seem to think they have to point right at every funny situation, highlight it, color it, and dot it with a little heart. Clark in oversized scrubs is funny; Clark’s scrubs falling down around ankles is just dumb. I wouldn’t have been surprised if immediately after, he’d whipped out a bicycle horn and honked it a couple of times. This is one example, but there are many equally bad instances.
Prognosis: I’m so glad I watched this episode more than once, because I’m encouraged by a lot of what I saw the second and third times, when I was able to let the bad jokes just kind of wash over me without causing me to choke.
Rx: I complained about Pat last week, and this week he was actually bearable. Hoping my mojo will work again, I’m going to complain now about Molly. Krista Marie Yu has established Molly pretty well as a smart, shallow, affectionate young woman with a few misplaced values. But she likes her annoying younger brother and appreciates the boundaries her parents set for her, even if she tests them whenever she gets a chance. This is not a character who thinks taking an “advance on her paycheck” from her employer’s till is okay, or anything less than criminal. The writers seem to think of her not as a character, but as a plot device, and this is poison to a television show. This has been going on for several episodes now, and it’s not a good sign. We aren’t getting to know her better; we’re merely getting to laugh at her occasionally funny zingers. If Ken’s family life is to be believable, his kids have to be believable, and that’s becoming less so each week.
Check out this week’s Post Show and Tell. Joz Wang interviews Suzy Nakamura from the Welltopia offices, and Nakamura gets into some really interesting actory conversation.