Dr. Ken Flatlines

The series doesn't live up to the potential of Ken Jeong's comedic abilities... or any sense of humor whatsoever....
Photo: ABC/Ron Tom

There’s a scene early in the pilot for Dr. Ken when the title character describes an audiences reaction to a mime act. He wraps an invisible rope around his neck, mimes a hanging and adds a gunshot to the head for added effect. The analogy for what the show surrounding that scene is like is far too easy.

Most people are familiar with Ken Jeong from The Hangover movies or, better, the Dan Harmon series Community. In both, Ken played over-the-top personalities that made him unbelievable but he also played them so well they were unforgettable. Dr. Ken, unfortunately, is nothing like those roles. This is an attempt to make him a household name, a title character in a sitcom.

And let’s discuss that concept of a sitcom for a moment. The story structure, acting and humor are all direct from 1996. While ABC has had success in comedies elsewhere, this is a straight play for a sitcom that doesn’t work anymore. It’s not that the three camera concept (CBS has a handful working for them) but the pairing of tired concepts and gags with canned laughter is just old and unoriginal. Formatics aside, the show isn’t funny.

DR. KEN - ABC's "Dr. Ken" stars Dave Foley as Pat, Tisha Campbell Martin as Damona, Jonathan Slavin as Clark, Ken Jeong as Dr. Ken, Suzy Nakamura as Allison, Albert Tsai as Dave and Krista Marie Yu as Molly. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Photo: ABC/Craig Sjodin

The series starts with Dr. Ken showing us he’s abrasive and offensive with patients. We’re eventually introduced to his wife (a psychiatrist) and a rag-tag team of medical office employees that cover the spectrum of character wackiness and stereotypes.

There’s also a few sitcom alumni scattered about including Martin’s Gina (Tisha Campbell-Martin) and Newsradio‘s Dave Foley who plays the evil boss. He also throws out the line, “…fire your Asian ass” so we’re all clear that where we stand with his character.

The beginning of the pilot also begins with a lot of dialogue from Ken, almost at rapid-fire pace. But we never get a sense of who he is. Is he sarcastic because he thinks he’s funny? Are his lines serious to everyone but the audience? Is he actually a jerk or just misunderstood? None of it is clear. It’s just shotgun blasts of one-liner jokes that never land.

For Dr. Ken to work the writing needs a dramatic shift in tone and a decisive voice, none of which were present here.

Dr. Ken
Dr. Ken
The Good
  • The cast... maybe?
The Bad
  • Everything else.
  • Overall

Pop culture geek, tech enthusiast, co-host of the Pop Center Podcast and on-air personality on SiriusXM.
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