Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 7: “Dr. Wendi: Coming to LA”
Original airdate November 13, 2015.
Symptoms: Ken’s sister Wendi (Margaret Cho), a physician with a nationally syndicated television program, is in town to tape a few episodes. The Welltopia gang is excited about being in her studio audience, while Ken’s family is thrilled for her success. Ken, who is largely responsible for Wendi’s becoming a doctor in the first place, is resentful of the attention everyone lavishes upon her, and a guest appearance on her program turns into a spat between siblings.
Diagnosis: Cho seems to have a lot of fun with her role, and it’s nice that Dr. Ken acknowledges her part in bringing Asian Americans to primetime television, but this episode is pretty awful. The acting is stiff, and it feels as if everyone delivering lines (except Cho, and Kate Simses in a few moments) is just waiting for his or her turn. When those turns come, the payoffs are unfunny disappointments. The regular cast is performing far beneath previously set bars, and the overly enthusiastic laughter of the studio audience is alienating. Everyone is still likable, but getting through this episode is like watching all your beloved coworkers do a poorly rehearsed song and dance at the holiday party. You want to like it, and you admire the effort, but you can’t wait for it to be over.
Prognosis: I’m big on character development, and there’s some good movement in that direction here. Ken’s parents are pretty cartoonish, but his sister gives the main character some history and context, important for the long-term health of the show. There’s a little bit of that with Clark and Julie, too. The trend is still upward, but oh, the slope is barely detectable sometimes.
RX: There was a chance here for just a little bit of edginess, either with Wendi and her history, which is played for comedy but stays clear of the edge (a shame, given Cho’s well-established talent for dancing there), or Molly and her shallow concern for how her peers see her (a noticeable but understandable shortcoming in a character who otherwise seems to have things together). The show chose not to go there, and I know it’s still finding its footing, but it would have been nice to have at least a little of that. Yes, it’s ABC and Disney, but come on. Simba watched his uncle kill his father; all I’m asking for is the acknowledgment of a demon or two.
Joz Wang’s Post Show and Tell for this episode features interviews with Ken Jeong and Jonathan Slavin. And I was unable to share a link last week because it hadn’t posted yet, but the installment for “Ken Teaches Molly a Lesson” includes an interview with Krista Marie Yu. Both are shot right on the Dr. Ken set!