Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 22: “Ken Tries Stand-Up”
Original airdate April 22, 2016.
Symptoms: When Ken is visited by a stand-up comic he knows from college (Jeff Ross), he’s persuaded to give stand-up a try at an open mic. He gets off to a rocky start, but he finds a groove, connects with his audience, and is presented with a chance to attempt the next step. Dave has his sights set on a new, violent video game, but when his parents refuse to buy it for him, his grandfather challenges him to a push-ups contest with the game as a prize. The Welltopia gang deals with some bullying by the HMO’s surgeons, who’ve claimed the lunchroom table normally occupied by Damona, Clark, and Julie.
Diagnosis: It makes sense for the show to make a move in this direction, since it’s inspired by Ken Jeong’s own life. This is season one’s conclusion, and it serves as a cliffhanger for the summer hiatus. Because it’s a possible transition for its main character (and his family), it feels sort of like an origin story, even in its 22nd installment. It’s not a bad way to finish the season. Ken’s family is more than supportive, and because the seeds have been planted in earlier episodes, none of this feels like it’s out of the blue. Its premise is solid and its execution is fairly believable. It does feel somewhat less than satisfying, as cliffhanges often do, yet for the most part it’s a nice, pleasant episode.
Prognosis: I can’t back this up with anything substantial, but I have a good feeling Dr. Ken will be back for a second season. Although its reviews have been a mixed bag (here and elsewhere), it’s definitely attracted some goodwill and hit a few strong notes, not unlike Ken’s performance at the open mic. Friday night TV tends to lean safe and harmless, which Dr. Ken certainly does, yet it is doing so with a few elements pretty much unheard of just a few years ago. Add its status as a normalization of Asian American representation in a still-underrepresented space, and the balance tilts in favor of another season for Ken, Allison, Molly, and Dave. Here’s hoping.
Rx: I prescribe some small amount of bed rest for everyone involved. They worked hard, accomplishing a few meaningful, hopefully lasting things. Then, with plenty of off-season time for reflection, consider the validity of the show’s positive and negative reviews. It’s easy to look at the positives and say “they get it,” and to look at the negatives and say “they don’t,” but what if there’s something to be done about the show’s shortcomings, and what if a few adjustments could nudge the needle upward?
In this week’s Post Show and Tell, Joz Wang and her guest co-host Captain Lavender talk about representation, dog-eating jokes, and video game violence. Albert Tsai delivers another nice Tsai-nopsis.