One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
In the opening scene of ABC’s new half-hour sitcom Dr. Ken, allegedly brilliant physician Ken Park diagnoses a patient suffering from hemorrhoids with a pun about him being a “Web M.D.-bag” for using the internet to self-diagnose, mimicking the patients cries of dissension as they storm out of the office, refusing his treatment. So, you may be thinking, it’s a searing look into the life of a curmudgeon doctor and his attempts at balancing family and work? No, that’s what it wants to be – House meets Modern Family – but the only condition it’ll alleviate is insomnia and the only humor it’ll rustle from you is the thought of its script getting greenlit.
ABC has been on a decent streak of family sitcoms that not only populate themselves with endearingly familiar characters, but are fueled by a certain affinity for diversity (Blackish, and, even though I didn’t like it, Fresh Off the Boat). Dr. Ken appears to want to be that, but it’s so far from what a quality sitcom looks like it becomes laughable in its attempts to wring any source of humor from situations and characters that have the appeal and emotional depth of a 3-year-old’s finger puppets.
The pilot introduces us to Ken Park (Ken Jeong, who co-wrote the pilot and co-created the show with Jared Stern), a doctor in a Los Angeles-based hospital who has to deal with his wife being a successful psychiatrist (can you imagine?) and his children being loving and talented. Here’s Dr. Ken‘s first strike: it populates the world around Ken with characters that are more issues of the week than actual human beings.
Who are these people? What do they do? Besides pop into existence to help Ken stalk his daughter with an iPhone app, or attempt edgy jokes about minorities, and then vanish into the ether once the main characters leave the room. Wife Allison (Suzy Nakamura) gets all the lamest, finger-wagging moments, and kids Dave (Albert Tsai, R.I.P. Trophy Wife) and Molly (Krista Marie Yu) are saddled with some groan-inducing one-liners, the show more eager to make an Asians-are-bad-at-driving joke than the writer’s rooms of South Park and Family Guy combined.
Worst of all is arguably Jeong himself, who finally proves that the reason we love him in comedies like Community or The Hangover is because he was in a supporting role. A little bit, as they say, goes a long way, and after even just three minutes with him in Dr. Ken you’ll know every joke and punchline coming down the line (his daughter is named Molly; he goes to a rave looking for her). Jeong at least tries to sell the inane dialogue with some over-the-top over-acting, but it just becomes unbearable.
There’s really not much else to say about Dr. Ken. The laugh track is more of a dismal reminder of the show’s M.I.A. humor, the sets are remarkably shoddy, and the supporting cast is like a triple-7 jackpot of generic sitcom sidekicks that only makes the whole thing worse (Dave Foley, what are you doing here?). Even in the land of cruddy workplace/family sitcoms, this is scraping the bottom of the barrel so far down it’s begun to dig a whole into the ground beneath. I’m all out of criticisms: act like most of Ken’s patients and run screaming from this one.
"I know that there are some disturbing and repetitive shows out there," a cardboard cutout of a side character mentions in Dr. Ken's inexorably humorless pilot. Oh, you have no idea.