Dr Ken: Kevin O’Connell Episode Another Win

TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, WILL YUN LEE, KATE SIMSES, KEN JEONG

The news that ABC has ordered a full season of Dr Ken is not surprising. Despite the naysayers who do not “get it” the show is funny. Kevin O’Connell is a perfect case in point. The episode has Ken coming to grips with the fact that his wife’s old boyfriend is not a “pasty-faced” Irishman but the hunky Will Yun Lee (Wolverine, Total Recall) who was adopted by Irish parents.

Not only is Kevin good looking and athletic, but he is a generous humanitarian and, from the look of it, an all around nice chap.  Ken is beside himself with jealousy and annoyance that his wife lied to him about O’Connell.  Everyone seemingly prefers this plastic surgeon to Ken, his son and daughter are instantly drawn to the man as are Dr Ken’s coworkers.

At the hospital ball, where Ken does a stand up “satire” of all the staff in the place, he re-writes his material at the last minute, poking fun at Kevin to assuage his wounded ego.

As usual Dr Ken hits the funny bone just right. Each gag revolves around Ken Jeong’s comic delivery and his costars also prove that they can deliver. Each actor has a chance to shine and Kate Simses continues to be the queen of comedic timing in this show.

TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, JONATHAN SLAVIN, KEN JEONG, KATE SIMSES

Co-creator  and show star Jeong has wisely surrounded himself with performers who are adept at comedy and this makes the show work on more than one level.  There cannot be many who do not find Ken funny as his delivery and timing are spot on.

ABC have ordered a full season for the show, congratulations to the entire cast and crew and the writers, and it is nice to see the network recognizing that they have a hit on their hands. While IMDb rankings are still lower than Fresh Off the Boat (to be fair, IMDb contributors seem to have in it for Dr Ken and most of its cast, the message boards pertaining to  the series are all quite nasty and derogatory) the show is funny and all the cast members shine, unlike the Huang family comedy. (Many of the younger actors are “lacking” in the delivery department on Fresh Off the Boat.)

Kudos to the whole cast are in order for this sixth episode. Tisha Campbell-MartinDave Foley (who feels like he is channelling his inner Terry Thomas sans the English accent), Suzy Nakamura,  Jonathan SlavinKrista Marie YuAlbert Tsai and, of course, Ken Jeong all turn in tour de force performances.

Guest star Lee is brilliant as the “nice guy” who actually supports Ken, while he is slowly dying on stage, and the San Andreas actor shows just why he works so steadily.  Another great episode for Dr Ken and proof that,  despite best efforts from other unfunny shows, the sitcom as television genre  is not dead and that filming before a life audience still works well.

Dr Ken airs Fridays on ABC, tune in and hold on to your sides.

Fresh Off the Boat: Miracle on Dead Street (Review)

IAN CHEN, FORREST WHEELER, RANDALL PARK

Fresh Off the Boat, the Huang family comedy that Eddie Huang refuses to support, reached a level place on Miracle on Dead Street. While based upon the memoirs of Huang, the network’s decision to make it into Everybody Hates Chris but with a family from Taiwan clearly does not set well with the restauranteur. Regardless of Eddie’s dislike of the show, it is moving into solidly funny territory, although many of the youthful cast members let the side down.

Randall Park gives a solid performance as the guy trying to live the American suburban dream.  Constance Wu is warming up a bit in this Halloween themed episode and it has to be said that the excitement felt by the father Louis, is real thing for those who have never experienced “first-hand” the juvenile world of trick or treat.

American’s either forget, or take for granted, the age-old custom of going from house to house as, Randall Park’s character puts it, “someone else.” The comedy from his character’s level in the episode works brilliantly. The “flashback” where Louis is dressed up like a KISS band-member  and throws candy at passer’s by below his brownstone window is funny.

The young actors who play the Huang children all acquit themselves very well. The gag of Hannibal Lector and Silence of the Lambs, treated and delivered as a throw-a-way joke,  was beyond priceless. These child actors, which is, perhaps, an outdated term, do well with their parts and the lines as written.

Hudson YangForrest Wheeler and Ian Chen kill it. They are infinitely believable when they act, there are no “dead” lines or awkward deliveries. Mad props to the boy who wants to go as the Traveling  Wilburys, he sells it, not once, but twice. Sadly not all the young actors on the show are as skilled at their craft.

Fresh Off the Boat airs sans the benefit of a studio audience. Looking at the show’s rankings on IMDb, this seems to be working. The theme of “fish out of water” or the outsider relishing all things American is solid and allows Park to shine.

The only other draw back of the show is how Constance Wu as Mrs. Huang is portrayed, but, as with the episodes themselves, her character is growing to become that bit more “likable.” As with Lucille Soong, who plays Grandma Huang, it is taking a little time to get used to the actor’s performance which may be down to the writer’s having trouble finding the two female characters’ voice.

The series is popular enough that ABC have ordered a full 22 episode second season. Another ABC sitcom to be given a boost is Dr. Ken, the network’s second Asian comedy program. The series, co-created by Ken Jeong,  has been given an order for a further “back nine.”  Each sitcom has its own comedic merits and both are funny despite have two very different production values and delivery systems.

Fresh Off the Boat is a series that doubles as a sort of time machine. Taking place back in the 1990’s and telling the tale of a Taiwanese family learning to “fit in” to their new country’s customs and traditions as well as learning how the suburbs differ from their urban background.  These types of scenarios are good for comedy and tragedy so it is no surprise that the comic angle has been chosen.

Eddie Huang is still not enamored with the version of his life that  ABC  has chosen to air.  The author and restauranteur has stated that he understands that comedy is generated by pain but that he hates what the network have done. Perhaps Huang could accept it if he was more into comedy as a trade rather than law, food and restaurants.  Chris Rock’s Everybody Hates Chris, is based upon his childhood,  which the comic says was not overly great either, but Rock turned his kid hood pathos into comedy, but then that is Chris’s specialty…Comedy.

Fresh Off the Boat is funny and the Halloween episode Miracle on Dead Street is the best installment of the show thus far. Randall Park is the undisputed star of the show and,  just as he almost stole the entire film The Interview, from co-stars Franco and Rogen, when he is in front of the camera he just kills it. The series airs Tuesdays on ABC.  Tune in and prepare to laugh, as well as cringe a little. Well worth watching this show, despite what Eddie Huang thinks…Sorry Eddie. 

Fresh Off the Boat vs Dr Ken

RANDALL PARK, FORREST WHEELER, CONSTANCE WU, HUDSON YANG, IAN CHEN

After seeing Randall Park in The Interview it is understood that this performer knows the nuances of comedy and comic performances. His “President Kim” was brilliant and a perfect counterpoint to James Franco and Seth Rogen as Skylark and his producer.  Watching the new season of Fresh Off the Boat, Park proves that he can deliver  comedy on the small screen as well.

However, the series seems a little flat compared to Dr Ken. Whether this is a case of “Taiwanese” fish out of water humor not working as well as Ken Jeong’s US (with a “Korean” cast) gags or just the disjointed performances of the youth heavy cast from “Boat”  is not clear.  Curiously enough, on IMDb, the Park show is highly rated at 8.1 percent and Dr. Ken is only 5.3.  This disparity is interesting and raises the question of why one is deemed more popular than the other.

On the face of it, Park himself could be the main draw , what with his recent high profile appearance in the Rogen/Franco film (that the real life President Kim tried to stop from being shown). Ken Jeong’s last big film was Hangover III where he reprised his role as Mr. Chow. Although the actor did voice Short Fuse in the 2014 animated feature Penguins of Madagascar.

Fresh Off the Boat is funny. Although one does have to remember to “go back to the 1990s.” Otherwise the show feels odd rather than humorous.  Watching the “Halloween special” of Park’s show,  the gags work much better than in the first four episodes.  While Fresh Off the Boat does offer some insight into the Asian family unit, episode 204 reveals the tradition of looking after one’s parents as they get older, Dr Ken focuses more on humor that relates more to the funny bones located within the US borders.

Keeping to the Halloween theme, Dr Ken’s upcoming episode, “Halloween-Aversary” focuses on Ken’s botched marriage proposal 20 years previously to his wife.  It also deals with the office and a prank on Pat. The two shows, each with Asian casts, approach the holiday as differently as their shows approach the business of sitcom laughs and giggles.  The two sitcoms differ in other ways, Dr. Ken is filmed before an audience, whose reactions to the comedy “on screen” is heard during the show and Park’s sitcom is deathly quiet in comparison.

KATE SIMSES, DAVE FOLEY, TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, JONATHAN SLAVIN, KEN JEONG, SUZY NAKAMURA, ALBERT TSAI, KRISTA MARIE YU

Regardless of whether the laughs are “heard” or not the shows cannot be seen as “competition” as the humor is not the same at all. While the two sitcoms could be seen as having a common denominator of Asian casts, although from completely different areas, Taiwan vs Korea, the comedy is delivered from two polar opposite avenues. Of course the biggest difference between the two shows is that “Boat” is inspired by a “true story.”

Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang in the series) wrote the memoirs that inspired the show, although the restaurateur has publicly denounced the show. After hearing Huang’s complaint it does seem odd that his upbringing story would be made a comedy…

Fresh Off the Boat is a “fish out of water” scenario which could be filled with any “nationality” as the tale is a variation of  fitting into the new country along with the move from a urban environment to a suburban one.  Add to this mix the  focus on a family where the wife is a bit cold (who also has an anger management problem)  and the husband a little overly sentimental and both being from another country…The show is a little hit and miss.

It has to be said that the Halloween show is funny, and both Park and Constance Wu (as Jessica Huang) have some stand out moments.  The writing feels tighter in this episode and the gags more consistent.  Although, the whole premise is based upon Eddie Huang’s “life” the delivery does feel like an almost stereotypical sitcom template. 

Dr Ken, as seen from the press release plot description, could really fit any nationality and, like the rest of the show thus far, is much more American in humor despite its Korean stars.  Ken Jeong, who co-created the show, sees things differently than the creators of “Boat” and in his world, the fact of his heritage is not the highlight but is instead the nuance of his characters.

Last week’s episode of Dr Ken, where Pat decides to win his wife back by shooting his little toe with an airgun,  was genuinely funny and did not rely upon any Asian themes to sell it, just as the rest of the sitcom does not.

Both shows are funny in their own ways, although truth be told this viewer finds Dr Ken consistently hysterical (and would do so without the live audience reactions) and Fresh Off the Boat feels uneven, even without Eddie Huang’s vitriolic response to “his” show.

Dr Ken airs Fridays and Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and catch both of these very different sitcoms.

 

Dr Ken Keeps the Laughs Coming in ABC Comedic Win

KEN JEONG, SUZY NAKAMURA, KRISTA MARIE YU

Episode three of Dr Ken proves that ABC have a solid comedic win with the show that has hit its stride and keeps the laughs coming. Show co-creator, and star, Ken Jeong and his co stars prove that comedy does not have to be frantic or rushed or forced. The pilot, which did feel a little rough, was promising, but by the second episode, Dr Ken definitely rocked it.

Unlike other sitcoms, for instance ABC’s Black-ish, that try way too hard for the “yuks,” this newest offering, as stated previously, hits every note spot on. Each character brings something to the table.  Everyone has a “high” point, or gag (or personality trait) that pleases, just like co-workers and family members do in real life.

Kate Simses as Julie, never fails to get laughs in all the right places. Last week her sincere response to Damona’s (Tisha Campbell-Martin“Are you hugging yourself,” was brilliantly funny.  This week her quick shift from not caring about working on Saturday to caring…deeply had the same effect. This actress has comedy timing to spare.

Something she shares with Campbell-Martin (mouse reference: “Imma get you a new one.”) Jonathan Slavin as Hector and Dave Foley as the boss everyone loves to hate, Pat. This is one comedy program that gets the formula right. Sure there are funny lines, moments and situations at Ken’s home, but the laughs do not stop when he leaves the familial house.

Jeong’s character has great lines regardless of the setting, but so do his “family” members. Nakamura kills it with her “wise” mom delivery, the gag in episode three has her paying Molly (Krista Marie Yuto make her unwanted nickname go away.  (This is done with a straight deadpan delivery that makes the interchange very, very funny.)

It has to be mentioned here…In the pilot episode the gag that won the “funniest” award for that opening episode was the “molly” bit where Dr. Ken is arrested. Truly hysterical and the sight of a thirty-something professional in a club shouting for “Molly” was brilliant, as was the punchline.

Krista Marie Yu is spot on as the sophisticated teen who gives her mother the “solid burn” in the latest episode and Albert Tsai keeps delivering as little brother Dave,  almost also known as Klompers…

This week saw Dr. Ken get “promoted” to indoor valet parking and his staff learning that they must start working Saturdays. Cue friction and a funny song about Ken losing touch. Mrs. Park  tells her husband that he should stand up for his co-workers so he approaches Pat (in his “not-yacht”) to talk the situation over.

What makes the episode work so well, at both  home  and work, are the nods to realism. Despite “forgetting that Hector had issues with Ken the week before notwithstanding, the end result of Ken and Pat meeting about the Saturday shift ended as it would have in the real world.

Dr. Ken loses but, ultimately,  also gains. He cannot get the new shift taken away so instead decides to join his “friends with less money” to show support, thus regaining the affection and respect of his staff.  At home, the punchline is given to Mrs. Park who tells her husband that she does not mind the new nickname and then goes to ask Molly to get the thing taken care of.

KATE SIMSES, JONATHAN SLAVIN, TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, KEN JEONG

After a 32 year hiatus from American sitcoms this reviewer was dismayed at the sameness on offer from other shows. Then Dr. Ken popped up on the radar and proved that the US sitcom is not dead at all. Kudos to Ken Jeong and the rest of his talented co-stars for a job well done and for proving that the second episode was no fluke.

Dr Ken airs Fridays on ABC, tune in if you like to laugh.

Dr Ken: ABC Offering Gives Hope to New Sitcoms

JAMES URBANIAK, KEN JEONGTo be perfectly honest the ABC sitcom offering, Dr. Ken, did  not overwhelm with its pilot episode. The character, a Korean doctor with attitude and an abysmal bedside manner felt forced and awkward.  The family, the coworkers and Ken himself all seemed to be trying too hard to be funny. The pilot really felt like a miss for ABC in terms of sitcoms that just were not amusing enough to spend a half hour of time that would never be returned.

Granted there have been three new sitcoms released this year. One on ABC Family Kevin From Work which was so far from funny that calling it a situational comedy would be wrong. Dr. Ken gives the hope that not all sitcoms are unfunny time wasting exercises in forced humor.

Then episode two, The Seminar aired on October 9, Friday. The storyline, continued the doctor with no internal checking mechanism. Ken Jeong as the aggressive, antagonistic GP hit this stride in this episode, as did the rest of the cast. Jeong has reached the moment  in his show where one looks forward to a rant from the doc with attitude

The cast: Suzy Nakamura as Ken’s wife Allison, Krista Marie Yu and Albert Tsai as the couple’s children Molly and Dave all hit some impressive highs in this second episode. His colleagues:  Kate Simses as co-worker Julie, Tisha Campbell-Martin as Damona, Dave Foley as Pat all acquit themselves with conviction. Simses’ scene where she hugs herself was exquisite in its sincerity which made it that bit funnier.

The two Dr. Ken plot’s are similar, as they would be, he annoys patients who either self diagnose or ignore his prognosis. This week’s target  was a “samurai knot wearing” business owner who decides to stop taking her medication and, taking advice from Dave at Whole Foods, switches to fish oil.

Although this young lady does not lodge a complaint, it is Ken’s nurse, whose feelings are hurt when the doctor does not express support for his passing the RN exam who files a formal complaint about “his” doctor.  This gives Ken  a third strike and mandatory attendance to a bedside manner seminar is his punishment.  Meanwhile, his parents, whom he invited over, are eating dinner with his very reluctant family, sans Ken.

While the jokes come out pretty rapid-fire they were more relaxed in delivery this week and worked so much better because of it.  The humor, which runs from Ken turning everything into a sexual reference with his wife, to non-communicative in-laws and, of course, Ken  in attack mode was smoother and funnier.

Now that the forced feeling is gone and the pacing has steadied  the show provides more gags per minute with less intensity. The feeling that everyone was too desperate for the audience to laugh has also departed and the show is funnier and just a little addictive.

Dr. Ken has something for everyone. Ken Jeong feels a little like a real-life Woody Woodpecker or Bugs Bunny, doing things most people would only dream of doing. His doctor is insulting, arrogant and hilariously aggressive, ready to switch to attack mode in a nano-second.  His family also fit  in with the doctor’s personality and lifestyle.

In the pilot, the best bit of the episode was Ken’s reaction to his son’s decision to be a mime.  In The Seminar, the entire thing worked brilliantly. The family learning that Ken’s family were not “the Korean Rushmore” and the doctor’s realization that his nurse was also his friend.

Dr. Ken airs Fridays on ABC, tune in and prepare to laugh now that the show has found its rhythm.