‘Dr. Ken’ Episode Review: “Allison’s Thanksgiving Meltdown”

Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 8: “Allison’s Thanksgiving Meltdown”
Original airdate November 18, 2016.

dr_ken_s02e08-1I’m hot-blooded: check it and see.
Allison asks the family to change its plans for a quiet Thanksgiving at home in favor of visiting her parents at their new home in Santa Barbara.  Nobody’s very happy about it, but Ken puts up the biggest fuss, and when he causes a mishap involving Allison’s berry crumble and the sunroof on the car, Allison has a meltdown in the car while the family is stuck in stand-still traffic.

Clark convinces the Welltopia gang (and their plus-ones) to help him serve Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless shelter.    He has a little meltdown of his own over details like centerpieces and burnt biscuits.  When his boyfriend tries to console him, Clark shares a story about how a homeless shelter once gave him hope and inspired him to make things right with his estranged family.

Got a fever of a hundred and three.
This episode means well, but it’s just sooooooo stupid.  The Clark story is well conceived and poorly executed, with cartoonish behavior by Damona’s boyfriend and Damona.  The resolution involving The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” is painfully bad.  How bizarre is it that the unimaginable pairing of Damona and Pat last season was one of the show’s saving graces, while Damona’s completely understandable relationship this season lacks any kind of credibility?

The Molly story about her friend’s fish is unnecessary, uninteresting, and unfunny.  And although the fight between Ken and Allison is a pretty great idea, it could have been a little bolder without resorting to the now-standard D. K. voice of wisdom and fatherly advice.  In fact, if the writers really felt the need to resolve things right there on the freeway shoulder, why not do something different, like have Dave do it, or maybe a stranger in one of the nearby cars?  D. K. is part of Allison’s problem; why not let Allison work it out away from him, as she also needs to work it out away from Ken?

dr_ken_s02e08-14Ain’t there nothing I can take…
The episode gets props for two very interesting, you-don’t-see-that-every-day moments.  Clark’s story about his coming out to his family is truly well done, and Jonathan Slavin’s delivery is just about perfect.  Clark’s boyfriend says exactly the right thing, too, when he reminds Clark that it wasn’t a bunch of gourds in a tablescape that made such a difference.  A nice moment that devolves rapidly from there.

Allison’s fight with Ken is unlike the usual sitcom fight, and unlike the fantastic fights these characters have had in past episodes.  There’s something real going on here, and you can tell by the stunned silence from their children that this is extremely out of the ordinary.  No smart-alecky remarks from anyone is just the right note here.  And when Allison gets out of the car, she does the second-scariest thing kids can see one parent do to another: leave.  It’s also daring not to let Ken and Allison resolve things right there at the side of the freeway.  The whole sequence is gutsy, and well played by the actors, right up until D. K.’s words of wisdom.

…to relieve this belly ache?  
I don’t blame anyone for this episode’s falling flat.  It attempts a couple of interesting things and can’t stick the landing, but it was cool to see the attempt. I know I’ve written this somewhere on 8A before, but I once heard Sid Caesar say that great comedy makes you laugh until you cry, and great drama makes you cry until you laugh.  In two moments of honest drama, rather than let the laughter come, the show tries to force laughter upon both situations, and that almost never works.  It deserves an A for the best parts and an F for the worst parts, so we’ll split the difference and tack on an encouraging half-grade bump.  3 Band-Aids out of 5.

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About Mitchell K. Dwyer

@scrivener likes movies.
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