Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 2: “The Seminar”
Original airdate October 9, 2015.
Symptoms: Someone files a complaint against Ken (his third), so he is required to attend sensitivity training, which prevents him from being home while his parents are over for dinner. This leaves Allison, Molly, and Dave to deal with interminable silence and stone-faced expressions at the table. Without Ken to serve as conversational go-between, the other members of the family finally warm to one another when they unexpectedly find common ground: a mutual acquaintance they can openly mock while he’s not around.
Diagnosis: Mean humor in the premiere had me concerned, but that’s nearly gone in the second episode. There are a few plot elements we’ve seen multiple times before: the everyone-bonding-by-laughing-at-a-common-acquaintance thing and the read-this-letter-I-wrote-to-someone-else-so-you’ll-know-how-I-really-feel-about-you thing have been done better, but the grandparents handing out money in the last scene is pretty creative, and although the all-pantomimed scene tilts over into preposterous, it’s not the kind of thing you see every night in primetime. This scene’s resolution is unobnoxiously funny and it makes up for a maddening reaction by the studio audience to the climactic action immediately before. The loudness of the audience laughter is a huge liability throughout the episode and I beg the production team to bring it down. It’s an uneven episode that gets a little cliche, and office relationships are more told than shown, but a couple of freshly funny moments, a decent in-laws plot, and strong performances in the household bring it up to a C.
Prognosis: Rare is the sitcom that comes out of the gate sprinting, so while my expectations remain tempered, my hopes remain high. The trend is upward, and I still love the pieces even though gameplay has been mostly valleys with a few good peaks.
Rx: Be a lighter touch with the studio audience laughter. It’s a crutch that should never have been prescribed. I still don’t know what to make of the entire gang at work (except Pat, played by Dave Foely, whose chracter is right out of the cliche factory–someone please rethink him because he could be an important foil for Ken), but some of the good character development happens when Ken’s not there, so more of that, please. The playful banter between Ken and Allison continues to be a huge strength, so much more of that, too. Meditate on these things every day and see me again next Friday.