Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 18: “Dicky Wexler’s Last Show”
Original airdate March 11, 2016.
Symptoms: Ken’s “favorite patient,” an old-school standup comic named Dicky Wexler, approaches Ken for medical clearance so he can perform at the Friar’s Club. Despite a chart that indicates Dicky should be in the hospital, and against Julie’s advice, Ken signs the clearance. When Dicky is hospitalized soon after, Ken is forced to choose between loyalty to his friend and responsibility as physician.
In the subplots, Allison is upset over the discovery of a former patient who’s seeing someone else for treatment, and Clark is upset when he learns that the Welltopia staff has lied to him about liking the vegan food he’s recommended.
Diagnosis: In an episode like this, the subplots exist only to give the actors something to do, a decision I understand but wish the show’s producers wouldn’t find necessary. The supporting actors should understand that a strong episode makes the show better, which is better for them whether they’re in it or not. Despite the obviously extraneous subplots, the episode manages to pace itself well, and the emotional payoff is effective and earned, something that can’t be said of recent episodes. It saddens me to think about what could have been done with the minutes wasted on the Allison and Welltopia stories, because here was a plot we haven’t seen elsewhere, one that makes powerful use of Ken’s unique qualities as doctor and amateur entertainer. This is a good episode not merely because of its emotional heft, but because it’s a story that can be told only about this character.
Prognosis: I won’t pretend to understand how networks decide on series renewals, but with only three episodes left this season, I’m hoping ABC notices the recent upward trend in this show’s quality. There’s a lot of potential with this cast and these characters, and I think they’re earning themselves another year.
Rx: Truly great television series color outside the lines, and although this is a good episode, I wish it had been brave enough to swing for the fences in some line-crossing way. Without the usual constraints of the sitcom formula, what could have been done with these characters in this situation? So much more. Julie and Allison had more to offer, and some kind of exploration by Ken about how sucky (and lonely) his job is sometimes could have made the episode’s tag more than emotionally moving. It could have ripped our hearts out.
There’s no new episode of Post Show and Tell this week, but here’s an apology and explanation from host Joz Wang.