Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 4: “Kevin O’Connell”
Original airdate October 23, 2015.
Symptoms: The new Welltopia head of plastic surgery is Allison’s ex-boyfriend (Will Yun Lee, as Dr. Kevin O’Connell), and he turns out to be hotter than she ever let on. Ken, feeling deceived, turns what’s supposed to be a comedic routine at a banquet honoring Kevin into a personal roast.
Diagnosis: Yay for more character development. We learn that Allison’s maiden name is Kuromata, and we learn that she went to medical school at Cornell. We learn that Julie’s social awkwardness extends beyond the walls of Welltopia. But the studio audience laughs too exuberantly at stuff that’s barely giggle-worthy, a major annoyance.
Prognosis: This is an episode that rewards repeat viewings. Ken Jeong’s physicality, perhaps his greatest comedic strength, gets a few (appropriate, which hasn’t always been the case) chances to shine, especially during Dr. Ken’s performance at the banquet. While much of the physical humor is exaggerated, the really good stuff is in the transitions. There’s a thinking actor there, and it’s easy to miss it because he distracts you with cartoony stuff. But look at the way he responds to his audience in moments between gags: this character is experiencing this awkwardness in real time, not merely reciting a script and moving from one blocking direction to another. Some of this bodes well for the overall quality of the show, especially since ABC this week ordered the full season.
RX: The continued development of Ken’s relationships with his family continues to be the best thing about the show, and it would do well to focus plots in that direction. Allison and Ken are a lovable couple and admirable parents, two qualities that can carry the show. The scripts need to tone down the office wackiness, though. If I were working with Clark, Julie, Pat, and even Damona, I’d agree to have lunch with them every day, but actually working alongside them would drive me insane and I’d need to transfer out.
I hate to say this, but there are things about this show that suck, and they’re mostly the stuff in Welltopia, and they don’t have to be this way. The characters are likable enough, and that’s huge, but everything in that office is wacky or zany or some other silly sitcom descriptor. Compare Clark and Julie in the Welltopia office to Dave and Molly at home. Which characters do you want to see more of? Dave and Molly are funny (usually) without being outrageous, each carving out a different kind of coolness in the family space. I was really worried about the Dave character after seeing the pilot episode, but he’s turned into a kind of bemused observer, almost a Snoopy to Ken’s Charlie Brown (or maybe a Woodstock to Ken’s Snoopy). Molly’s persona seems still to be taking shape, but the constant with her has been her interactions with her parents, none of which is the least bit outlandish. I am begging the writers on Dr.Ken to settle the office staff into some kind of meaningful groove one might conceivably see on this planet.
See also: Joz Wang and J.D. Brown discuss this episode on Post Show and Tell, interviewing Suzy Nakamura and Kate Simses.