‘Dr. Ken’ Episode Review: “Allison’s Career Move”

Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 1: “Allison’s Career Move”
Original airdate September 23, 2016.

dr_ken_s02e01-29What seems to be the problem?

  1. Allison is offered a position at Welltopia, something that appeals to neither her nor Ken, although’s Allison’s current practice is causing her and her family all kinds of stress.
  2. Molly’s SAT scores are lower than she expected, so she recruits Dave to help her hide them from her parents until she can take it again.
  3. Clark admits to Damona that although he has been with his boyfriend Connor for months, he has no idea what Connor does for a living.


Big changes in season 2:

  • Dr. Julie (Kate Simses) appears to be out, as Ken explains to a patient.  She’s accepted a pediatric fellowship, and her name is not in the show’s opening credits.
  • Allison brings her talents to Welltopia.
  • Ken’s father D.K. (Dana Lee) moves in with the family while his wife is away in Korea, and Lee’s name appears in the opening credits.

I’m disappointed, but that Welltopia staff, as much as I like it, felt crowded last season, and I complained multiple times that there wasn’t enough story to go around for everyone.  If I were cynical, I’d say of course they got rid of Julie because they weren’t going to lose the black woman or the gay man, but personality-wise, she is the easiest character to lift out, especially with another woman doctor joining the staff.

Allison’s moving to Welltopia also makes it easier to write stories that don’t feel so compartmentalized.  I complained last season that we weren’t getting enough of Allison the doctor, and this adjustment will fix that immediately.  Next week’s episode is titled “Ken and Allison Share a Patient,” so already we’re seeing some good ideas in this area.

I’m not as thrilled about D.K. moving in, a decision that may have something to do with Allison going to Welltopia.  It creates a new dynamic at home for Molly and Dave, but they did that a couple of times last season, and I wasn’t fond of the story ideas, as when D.K. challenges Dave to get into shape.

dr_ken_s02e01-17I have an appointment at 8:30.

I welcome Ken Park and his family back for their second season.  Dr. Ken‘s inaugural season was all over the place, but a strong cast and likeable characters, not to mention the R word for an Asian family in network prime time, had me rooting hard on its behalf for another shot.  The show had problems, but they were fixable problems, mostly with the writing.  Episodes went too easily to zaniness and obvious jokes, but when the writers allowed the comedy to emerge from truthful, believable moments, it had a cast who could stick the landing.

In this episode, Ken is a much better anchor than he was through most of last season.  That SAT story with Molly is believable as heck, and when Ken tells his daughter that he’s been there, that’s believable too, and Ken handles it with a gentle aplomb that’s half unexpected.  Molly’s worry is understandable, but so is Ken’s compassion, and their scene together in the kitchen is a nice reminder that Molly’s third-generation Asian American experience is different from Ken’s second-generation experience, the kind of thing Dr. Ken handles deftly when it takes the opportunity.  Krista Marie Yu’s delivery of the line, “Everything’s always come so easy for me.  What if it doesn’t anymore?” is perfect, a small heartbreaking moment a lot of Mollys can relate to.  I was so intimidated by the SAT, despite years of practicing for it, that I waited until March of my senior year to take it, long past the application deadlines for all the schools on my bedroom’s College Wall.

dr_ken_s02e01-19Cleared for physical activity.

Parts of this episode feel like that first day of all your college classes, where you get a syllabus and an explanation of the course, but no meaningful content.  Yet other parts go right to some nice relationship stuff, the stuff that Dr. Ken does well when it doesn’t take any shortcuts.  I’m encouraged by believable plot elements that make the show’s characteristic silliness (Pat’s coffee grinder; Allison’s “Never apologize for candy on a sandwich”) feel more like an accessory, rather than the primary costume.  Because there’s a lot here to be encouraged by, I’m giving it a half-point bump: four tongue-depressors out of five.


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About Mitchell K. Dwyer

@scrivener likes movies.
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