Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 19: “Ken’s an Expert Witness”
Original airdate March 18, 2016.
Symptoms: When Ken is asked to testify in court as an expert witness, a grueling cross-examination leaves his confidence shaken and threatens his effectiveness as a diagnostician. At home, Ken and Allison refuse to buy Molly a very expensive gown for the spring formal, so Dave volunteers to sew one just like it. When he struggles with the task, Allison is touched by the gesture, so she works all night to make one for Dave to give Molly. And Juan Julio, Welltopia’s valet, invites Julie and Damona to see him perform a lip-sync concert in which he dresses as Prince singing a Beach Boys song. Julie senses sparks between her and Juan Julio.
Diagnosis: I’ve been wanting to write about this all season, but haven’t found a good place to put it, so I’ll do it now. Krista Marie Yu, who plays Molly, is a thoughtful actress who generally responds really well to the flow of dialogue (keep an eye on her when other characters are conversing and you’ll see what I mean), but where she really stands out is in the way she moves. Most of the time, it’s a very chipmunk-like motion from one posture to the next. She’ll be still one moment, and in the next, she’s in a different position almost too quickly for you to have noticed the transition. It’s a good choice for the character, who’s clearly inherited her father’s quickness of wit and sharpness of tongue. But when Molly asks her parents to buy her the gown, she wriggles into a spot on the couch between them in a way that asserts herself as the center of the conversation as well as the center of the frame. It’s a fluid, graceful, endearing movement that hightlights what’s been her greatest skill all season: a complete awareness of the space her body occupies and an understanding of how its movement is as critical to communicating her character as her delivery of lines.
I’m not finding much else to love about this episode. Allison gets some pretty good physical comedy too, but she and Ken reveal all kinds of insecurity that their characters don’t wear very well. I’m completely fine with Juan Julio getting a bigger piece of the action, but the Prince-Beach-Boys thing is bizarre even for this show. Because it gives Julie a chance to peel back a few layers, it’s almost excusable, but consider this: Juan Julio reveals something really important about Julie when he talks about the appearance of her vehicle, exposing him as more than the stooge he’s been so far. What if in some contrived situation other than a karaoke bar, he gets Julie’s attention by connecting with her in some similar way that’s not too foreshadowing? Some quick, meaningful insight where he notices something nice about Julie right where she’s vulnerable (and she’s got a lot of vulnerabilities) could really have paid off when he’s forced to let her down at the episode’s end. This would also have made Julie’s sparks more believable, since it comes as kind of a surprise when she mentions them to Damona.
Prognosis: I happened to catch Last Man Standing, the sitcom that airs before Dr. Ken on ABC, and although I love Tim Allen (and was a big fan of Home Improvement), it was pretty terrible. It was as bad as the worst Dr. Ken episode, and tonight’s episode was its 105th. While I didn’t care much for “Ken is an Expert Witness,” Dr. Ken has been getting better as its season draws to a close. All I could think when Last Man Standing was over was, “If this show can last five seasons, Dr. Ken should have no problem getting renewed for a second.” I sincerely hope this is true.
Rx: I am not recommending that a half-hour sitcom like Dr. Ken make moves toward becoming The Wire, but some sense of continuity would really strengthen these episodes. The Damona-Pat thing really helped; now that it appears to be over, almost anything that would make these half-hour bites less self-contained could make a big difference. After Ken’s reflective moment last week, his wacky loss of self-confidence is difficult to accept.
In this week’s Post Show and Tell, Joz Wang and her guest co-host relive the glories of their youth with tales of high school gowns, fake letterman jackets, karaoke in costume, and of course, the racist camera. Albert Tsai delivers another great Tsai-nopsis of “Ken is an Expert Witness.”