Roush Review: ‘Dr. Ken’ Is Sick (And Not in a Good Way)

Ken Jeong - Dr. Ken
Nicole Wilder/ABC
DR. KEN – “The Seminar” – When the office celebrates a promotion for Clark, Ken is oblivious since he lives in his own world…it’s the last straw for Clark dealing with Ken’s selfish ways. Clark writes a fake complaint comment card about Ken, so he’s forced to attend a training seminar for better bedside manners, which leaves Allison at home to have dinner with Ken’s parents, on “Dr. Ken,” FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9 (8:31-9:00 p.m. ET/PT) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Nicole Wilder)

Open wide and say “Ugh!”

Suggesting that not every scene-stealer has the chops to become a leading man, Community and The Hangover‘s live wire Ken Jeong is neutered by ABC’s “TGIF” formula in Dr. Ken, a depressingly blah domestic/workplace sitcom based on the actor’s early days as a licensed physician. The spark of manic madness that worked in small doses has been tamed, snuffed out of existence as Jeong takes center stage, flailing desperately to find humor in situations only a script doctor would love.

When mocking and insulting patients at his HMO clinic, Jeong gets off an occasional sardonic line with relish, but at home, reverting to dim-bulb Father Knows Least parenting clichés, his squirming performance becomes contagious. Also painful, as the writers unconvincingly try to turn him into a panting wolf around his psychiatrist wife Allison (Suzy Nakamura, who like everyone else here deserves better). When Allison asks him in a future episode, “Why does it always go to a sexual place with you?” Ken responds, “You know I idle at horny!” There is no cure for such “humor.”

RELATED: Strike Back‘s Will Yun Lee is Heading to Dr. Ken

Dr. Ken might be just another innocuous and disposable misfire if it weren’t for the significant talent being wasted here: possibly Jeong’s, and certainly that of NewsRadio‘s Dave Foley (as his smarmy evil boss), Martin‘s Tisha Campbell-Martin (as a, what else, sassy receptionist), Better Off Ted‘s Jonathan Slavin (as Ken’s adoring nurse/assistant) and Trophy Wife breakout kid actor Albert Tsai (as quirky son Dave).

In the pilot episode, Papa Ken has a conniption when he witnesses young Dave working up a mime routine for a talent show: “Every kid does one thing in school that they’re defined by, and you really don’t want yours to be mime.” Similarly, let’s hope and trust that Actor Ken’s career won’t be defined by Dr. Ken, which might actually be an improvement if performed without words.

Dr. Ken premieres Friday, Oct. 2, 8:30/7:30c, on ABC

Questions? Ask Critic Matt Roush!

TV critic (and occasional TV therapist) Matt Roush answers viewer questions and concerns in his Ask Matt column each week. Wondering about plots, characters and twists on your fave shows? Submit your query to Matt via the form below: