A sign of good comedy is when it can sucker the viewer into tears. Slipping in that sobering moment that comes from having characters with depth and a backstory that tugs the heartstrings. Dr. Ken has managed to move this viewer to tears a few times.
Cry Me a River:
In season one, it was Ken Jeong who sidled sneakily into “tissue territory” with Ken at the Concert and Dickie Wexler’s Last Show. This season in Allison’s Thanksgiving Meltdown, the audience got a double tap from two other members of this ensemble show.
(They also had a little help from one more cast member whose eyes projected more feelings than most actors can convey with their entire vocal range. When Damona starts to sing “Black Water” the tears flow unchecked.)
The three performers who nailed it in the emotional stakes were Suzy Nakamura, Jonathan Slavin and Trish Campbell-Martin. Allison projecting all the hurt from being the rock. Clark’s memory of coming out to his parents going disastrously wrong and becoming homeless as a result. Damona’s empathy for a friend and co-worker, trying to make things right.
This episode popped us with three sucker punches. Slavin and Campbell-Martin worked on a one-two combo to take us down and Nakamura gave us an uppercut to the chin when we least expected it.
This episode of Dr. Ken focused on the upcoming holiday and the family reluctantly agreeing to go visit Allison’s parents for Thanksgiving. The idea has everyone showing their displeasure, with the exception of D.K. who happily joins in.
At Welltopia, the staff are talking about their favorite Thanksgiving memories as children. Pat’s is all about his father and drunken men fighting. Clark speaks about the Doobie Brother’s song “Black Water” and how hearing it brings back some of his fondest memories of the holiday.
Damona shares her very short story of her mother swapping mashed potatoes for baked. “I knew I should have gone first,” she says. Connor comes in with lunch for Clark and is asked about any Thanksgiving day traditions.
He mentions that Clark has a tradition of helping the local soup kitchen serve a Thanksgiving day meal for the homeless. Connor and Clark invite the Welltopia staff to come down and help if they want to.
Pat, who moments before told Allison that he had no plans but “something always comes up,” agrees to help as does Damona. She also volunteers Eric, “Who does what I tell him…”
(On a sidenote: Trish Campbell-Martin has proven twice this season that she has some talented and powerful pipes. Rock on!)
The Park family get stranded on the freeway. An accident ahead has caused everything to stop. Allison’s frustration begins to build and reaches a crescendo when the berry crumble that Ken left on the car roof, survives the journey only to fall through the sunroof.
Allison storms out of the car and sits by the side of the freeway. Ken goes to apologize and while she thanks him for the effort, Allison refuses to accept it.
D.K. saves the day when he goes to talk to Allison and reminds her that she is the “rock” of the family. She tells her father in law that she is tired of being the rock. Allison also says she could scream and D.K. tells her to go ahead and do it.
She does and it helps her to cope with the frustration. The family go to the meal and all is well.
Krista Mari Yu does her very best “Bob Newhart” schtick with her cellphone conversation in the car.
Jonathan Slavin with his emotional moment in the soup kitchen. This is twice now that this actor has knocked it out of the park with some serious acting.
Trish Campbell-Martin: Those eyes and that voice all in aid of making the soup kitchen scene a powerhouse moment. And bringing it back to comedy at the end with the help of Dave Foley.
Jerry Minor reacting to a stressed Clark:
“Man I don’t know what you want!”
D.K.’s line: “I’m going to tell you something as man who was married for 50 years…Although I just got divorced, so take it with a grain of salt!”
Pat’s reaction to a stressed out Clark, “I like this Clark.”
The gag about the security questions. When asked what her favorite pet was as a child, Allison shouts out in frustration:
“How do I know? My parents didn’t let me have a pet.”
Security assistant: “That’s right! That’s what I have here.”
Ken’s “I can’t dance my way out of this…Or can I?”
Dave and his “freeway safety” remark.
Ken again, reacting to Allison’s scream. “Thank you poppa.”
The D.K. handshake.
This episode managed to do a number of things. It showed that Allison and Ken do not always get along. They do, however, work through their issues (with a little help from a friend in this case) and the difficulties do not diminish the love they feel each other.
The major blowout in the car was brilliant. Molly, Dave and even D.K. are surprised at the argument and Allison’s subsequent meltdown. Their expressions really convey the gravity of the situation.
Nakamura managed to remind us that on top of all that splendid comic timing, she has dramatic chops to spare. Kudos to Suzy Nakamura for putting the ‘A’ in actor. Jonathan Slavin and Trish Campbell-Martin also toed the line and showed off their impressive chops.
Mad props are also due to director Anthony Rich for putting this all together…again.
This show continues to raise the bar. True comedy should include a touch of tragedy to offset the mood and sharpen those laughs. This series is proving to be very adept at this sublime mix of tears and belly-laughs.
Dr. Ken airs Fridays on ABC. This is, without a doubt, the best thing about Friday nights. Tune in and fall in love with this family friendly show.
- Ken Jeong – Ken
- Albert Tsai – Dave
- Suzy Nakamura – Allison Park
- Krista Marie Yu – Molly
- Tisha Campbell-Martin – Damona
- Jonathan Slavin – Clark
- Dave Foley – Pat
- Dana Lee as D.K.
- Stephen Guarino – Connor
- Jerry Minor – Eric