Dr Ken: Ken’s Big Audition – Cameo Cornucopia for Season End (Review)

DAN HARMON

The season finale of Dr. Ken “Ken’s Big Audition” offers up some great cameos, some life changing events and a lot of laughs. As we said in our preview of this episode (which was a tad secretive, we admit) there “is a positive cornucopia of performers from Ken Jeong’s career and there are a few surprise cameo’s thrown in for good measure.” At the time of publication, there was a slight problem with revealing too much of who would be appearing on the last episode of season two.

Now, however, we can gleefully point out the blink and you’ll miss him cameos of not just Seth Rogen but his producing partner Evan Goldburg. We can also sing the praises of the oh so beautiful (and wildly talented) Alison Brie, Nia Vardalos – who pops up at the very end as Pat’s wife who suddenly wants to reunite with her ex.

“Ken’s Big Audition” spells change and leaves the audience with a bit of a cliffhanger. (Will John Cho take the call?) Ken’s life changes when he gets a call from Dan Harmon. Harmon wants Ken to audition for a new television pilot and the wannabe performer is over the moon.

Before that bit of excitement, Molly reveals that she has gotten into Stanford.  (This was a brilliant bit of comedy. The eldest Park child bursts into the kitchen announcing that “I got in!” D.K. responds “Congratulations! You can use a swinging door.”)

Dana Lee
Congratulations…

Dana Lee managed, once again, to bring some brilliant bits to this packed episode. His short, and loudly delivered, line about not using stereotypical accents was perfectly timed and very funny. Kudos to the actor and the writers for that one.

While Allison has to deal with her first born moving away from home, Dave and D.K. both vying for Molly’s room and Ken’s new change of fortune, Pat and Damona almost take their new relationship to the next level; matrimony. Clark talks Pat into possibly popping the question and he seriously considers it.

The episode itself, however, belongs to Ken Jeong and his cast of many cameos. (See what we did there?) Some of the highlights included Ken enlisting Damona and Clark to help him learn his lines for the audition. Later, when he meets with Alison Brie to read with her, she apes Clark’s “baby voiced” deliver of “I have a tummy ache.”

Dr. Ken reacts just as badly to Brie’s interpretation of the line as he did when Clark did it. Ken’s over the top audition leaves him feeling very uncertain and ready to turn his back on the whole thing. As he calls Allison to complain about Hollywood and to grumble about the business, Rogen and Goldberg appear just long enough to Seth to insult the depressed doctor.

Ken’s distress is uncalled for though as Harmon actually casts the doctor as a Spanish teacher with an attitude (a riff on a character Jeong played in Community.) and it looks like Dr. Ken’s new career is off and running.

KRISTA MARIE YU, SUZY NAKAMURA
Molly and Allison share a touching moment.

At the end of the episode Ken looks to be dangerously close to being replaced by John Cho because he cannot stop laughing at Alison Brie and spoiling take after take.  Molly and Alison become even closer with their upcoming separation and Pat gets the surprise of his life when Tiffany turns up to ask for another chance.

There are a number of obvious funny moments in the show. There are also  some bits that one has to look at closely to find the humor. For instance: Just before Ken bumps into Seth and Evan, he is on a stereotypical Hollywood “lot.”

There are actors, makeup artists and so on scattered throughout the scene. What almost slips past the viewer are the external sets themselves. Each building facade is “Ken” sized. Just as funny is Ken’s “mark” (where the actor must stand in order to be in the shot). It is clearly visible and it is a big yellow square; a clear indication that Ken Park is afraid that he has blown his big chance.

KEN JEONG
Ken Jeong

Ken’s concerns are groundless though as Harmon, who apparently likes to punish his fans, hires Ken even though the audition was horrendous. Ken gets the part and then spends his first shooting day blowing the scene because he cannot stop corpsing at Brie’s character.

The kicker of the episode though is Tiffany returning to get Pat back into her life. This leaves things hanging with his new relationship with Damona and we wonder if he loves her enough to turn Tiffany down.

A lot of things could be different in a third season of Dr. Ken. Molly could well be absent (and we would be heartbroken if this were the case as Krista Marie Yu is a personal favorite) Pat and Damona could break up and last but not least, Ken could leave Welltopia all together.

While there would still be room for the delightful brand of comedy that Dr. Ken brings to the table each Friday night, it would be…different.

Questions and musings about season three aside, this was a brilliant end to the season. Dave getting one up on D.K. and Pat’s dilemma were all part and parcel of the overall storyline and that familiar feel of comedy done just right.

If you have not seen the season two finale, catch it later via Hulu or On Demand. Tune in and see why this is a topnotch comedy offering from Ken Jeong and his brilliant ensemble cast. Or stop by to catch the always watchable Alison Brie…

DAN HARMON, ALISON BRIE

Cast:

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 – D.K.
Justin Chon – Jae
Stephen Guarino – Connor

Guest starring Dan Harmon, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Alison Brie and Nia Vardalos

 

Dr Ken: Ken’s Big Audition – Season Two Finale Fun (Preview)

TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, JONATHAN SLAVIN, KEN JEONG

The clue is in the title of this season finale of Dr. Ken. It appears that Ken Park’s dream to perform may just become a reality. He has a big audition (there is that hint in the title after all) that may just become a game changer.

“Ken’s Big Audition” is the perfect ending for the show’s second season.  There are a bevy of special guest stars in the final episode. Dan Harmon (creator, and rumored sourpuss, of Community) and there are a few “in-jokes” as well as some other special guests from Ken’s past (and present) who appear.

Another theme, one which has been prevalent throughout season two, is “change.”  As evidenced in the most recent episodes (Clark’s Big Surprise and Ken and the CEO) romantically, at least, things have changed dramatically for some of the characters.

Pat and Damona are now a couple and Clark just tied the knot with Connor. Prior to that, Molly and Jae went through their first, and second, argument, and are now a couple who seem to know what they want. (On a sidenote, Jae has moved into the background for the time being.)

The season finale of Dr. Ken keeps the comedy factor high as several things happen almost at once. As the title implies, Dr. Ken gets an audition, based upon someone seeing his open mic stand up, and this runs parallel with all the other events that crop up in the episode.

Everyone, sans Clark, has a life changing event of some sort and there is a delicious twist on the Pat/Damona romance. Molly learns something important and D.K. works to outmaneuver Dave at the Park house.

In terms of guests, this episode is a positive cornucopia of performers from Ken Jeong’s career and there are a few surprise cameo’s thrown in for good measure. (Hint: Keep your eyes open for two guests in a “blink and you will miss it” spot midway through the episode.)

There are some very funny cringeworthy moments mixed in with the usual dose of Dr. Ken comedy with its touch of poignancy. One gets the feeling that, like the rest of the series, that Ken and his team have amped up his real-life story to good effect.

After watching the season finale, which airs Friday; 31 March on ABC, one is left wondering about the future of the series.  If it comes back for a third season who will be left on the roster. More importantly, however, is the question of where will the show head next?

The finale, with its comic cliffhanger ending, can be interpreted in several ways. It will be up to the fans to decide whether this is the prelude to an end or a comic misdirection to titillate viewers who wonder what will happen in season three.

Dr. Ken has managed to keep an average viewing audience of 4.426 million. The last two episodes have kept an even demographic rating.  However, there has been a drop in figures from the first, shortened, season despite the show’s comedy output increasing.

It could be argued that the loss of Kate Simses as series regular hurt the show early in the season and that this, more than anything else, affected the overall ratings.  However, the family friendly comedy and that signature “touch of poignancy” in so many episodes has made this season far superior to the first outing of Dr. Ken.

The Dr. Ken season finale airs Friday on ABC. Tune in for some guest star fun and the usual quotient of comedy with just a touch of tears.

 

Van Helsing: It Begins – Tactical Error (Review)

 Van Helsing - Season 1

To the most casual observer, the season finale of Van Helsing was slow and perhaps a tad too expository. However… Neil LaBute added enough peripheral details to keep the start of the episode from dragging. Things came together nicely as many questions were answered by the show’s creator.

Personal favorite Amanda Tapping kept the pace steady as the sesaon finale’s director and while the episode  was, in many ways, word heavy, the fall and rise of Vanessa was satisfactorily told.  

On a sidenote: For those who do not wish to read to the end of this review; Axel does return…

Dimitri proves yet again that he is not the cleverest vampire in the pack (Question: What does one call a group of vampires? A bevy? Could they be called, like crows, a murder? Answers on a postcard please…) when he makes the tactical error of giving blood to Van Helsing for a snack.  Almost predictably, she becomes uber strong and almost rips the heart out of the vampire leader’s chest.

Somewhat disappointingly Vanessa does not rip Rebecca’s head from her shoulders. Still, that would have circumvented the nasty twist in the tale of Van Helsing’s confrontation with Dimitri’s treacherous sister and Dylan.

Although the shock of seeing her daughter with bloodstained lips may not necessarily overly upset Van Helsing. She can, after all, turn the kid back with one well placed bite. Rebecca playing the Dylan card seems to suggest that, like her brother Dimitri, she too is capable of committing the odd  tactical error.

“It Begins” brings the story of Mohamad and Sheema to a close. The guy was trying to free his sister from the clutches of Dimitri’s sister.  Sadly, she liked living like a bird in a gilded cage and when Mohamad tries to take her away, she bashes him in the head with a candleholder.

Twice.

Sheema then grabs the backpack loaded up by her unconcious (Dead?) brother and runs right into the breaching blast by Taka’s fighters. Apart from a bitter dose of irony, the last movements of Mohamad’s sister are confusing. It does look as though both have paid for their treachery dearly.

In this episode it appears that the only characters who are without sin may well be Vanessa, Dylan and Axel. Taka, the sanctimonious leader of the resistance group turns out to be in cahoots with Rebecca. He then betrays her betrayal (She arranged for Taka and his people to inhabit Fox Island, a place that was supposed to provide a safe haven for the bent resistance leader. Dimitri reveals that the Island is a lie.)

The episode ends with Van Helsing confronting Rebecca, who then shows off vampire Dylan.  Flesh, who was the only member of Taka’s group to go after  Vanessa to save her, is nowhere to be seen.

After the episode’s final reveal, the camera speeds toward the bunker where Axel was locked by Doc earlier. Sure enough, the Marine climbs up the air duct to escape his prison. Axel sounds odd though, and from that brief glimplse of his eyes, he has been turned.

With guttural breathing and a sort of grim determination, the Marine heads toward town.

Van Helsing’s last episode of the season tells us who the woman is and that there is something in her lineage that “mum” was not too keen on. Hence the hiding her daughter in plain sight move.  The ingestion of blood by the savior of humanity was a game changer and the only frustrating thing about “It Begins” was Rebecca coming through with her poisonous head still on her shoulders.

We also learn that vampires do age, albeit very slowly, and that they do die. The creatures also, just like many of their human counterparts, fear death.  “It terrifies them,” says Dr. Sholomenko just before he sets Vanessa up for a futile escape.

Dimitri also shows us his achilles heel; it is an overwhelmng sense of hubris. This is what motivates him to use his own sperm to impregnate Vanessa. “This was not the plan,” cries an angry Rebecca.  It does not matter though as the rejuvinated Van Helsing takes this moment to really reach out and touch the vampire leader.

LaBute has given fans of the show a decent cliffhanger ending. Axel looks to be heading off to find Vanessa (Even in his vampiric state, the Marine would go after the woman he’s so close to. Although, he may be looking for Doc first for a little “pay-back.”) Van Helsing has found Dylan and the two-timing brother and sister may be dead.

Sam is nowhere to be seen but since his focus was on Mohamad, he may not return for a second season. SyFy have already ordered another 13 epiosdes of this dark and unsettling retelling and revamping (See what we did there?) of the Van Helsing mythos.

Vanessa Seward dies in this season finale and Vanessa Van Helsing has risen from the ashes of our heroine’s previous identity to take on the vampires.  This was a splendid series that disregarded genre tropes and created a new sort of blood sucking menace.

Well done.

Cast:

Casual: The Great Unknown – Season Two Finale (Review)

Logo for Hulu's Casual

Fred Savage directs the season two finale of Casual. “The Great Unknown”  picks up were “40” left off.  Alex and Valerie’s father has been dropped off at Alex’s house on a hospital gurney. He is dying. Everything, he says, is shutting down and he plans to euthanize himself in the house.

This is easily  the oddest of any episode on offer in Casual.  The tone is somber and somewhat downbeat.  It if were not for the fact that the show will be back in  2017, it feels like the end of the series.

There are moments of humor. Laura’s initial interaction with the pharmacist is amusing. He refuses to give her the medication for George Cole (Melamed) because she is underage. “it is dangerous,” he says.  “Fine,” Laura replies, “Which is the drano?”

Very funny.

While the show deals with euthanasia, which is legal in California, it also deals with Alex’s issues with his father. In many ways it forces him to face his problems and he grows up by the end of the episode.

He also goes to see Jennifer as a patient at the end.

Valerie goes to collect her mother who has, according to George, “recused herself from the situation.”  Her car is at Chili’s. As she starts to leave Alex reminds her  of this and Leon takes her to get the vehicle.

They arrive at the restaurant and it has been towed. As they go to collect the car, Leon and Valerie re-establish their friendship.  She gets her car but not her mother.

Laura calls Spencer to help with the  pharmacist. He still refuses to hand over the medication.  Laura gets angry and tells the man off. She then storms off.  Finally someone else gets the prescription for George.

Outside the pharmacy the subject of Spencer’s not dying comes up. Laura  reveals that since he is not going to die her feelings have changed. Spencer walks off.

Back at her uncle’s house, Laura talks to Valerie about Spencer and her unrealistic expectations of their relationship.  She wanted something that was “timeless” and not long lasting.  They also talk about Valerie going back to Drew which Laura counsels against.

Valerie, Alex and Laura empty the prescription into a glass of water for George to drink.  Before George drinks his  deadly cocktail, he apologizes for not being there for his kids.

The oddest scene in the entire episode is the sight of George’s two kids and grandchild taking apart those pills and pouring the powder into the glass of water.  When they finish Alex makes a joke. “I’m parched,” he says and grabs the glass. Both Valerie and Laura grab his hand..

After Cole drinks the water they order Chinese.  Valerie and Alex make up over fortune cookies while Laura talks to her grandfather. Valerie decides against returning to Drew. Just as Val tells  Alex  it is time for her and Laura to move out,  George dies.

It is a sober and somewhat tearful moment.  Thel brother and sister,  losing the man they hold responsible for their faults and flaws,  grieve silently together.

Later, Laura makes an apology to Spencer via DVDs and Leon helps Valerie and Laura move into their new home.

This was a brilliant end to an eclectic season.  Fred Savage deftly handled the subject material and the cast killed it in terms of subtle performances.  Tara Lynne Barr’s outburst in the pharmacy was beautiful to see.

Casual ends on a somber, yet upbeat, note. Valerie is moving on and Alex has at last talked to his father and is now in therapy. Laura has not given up on Spencer and Leon looks at last to be Val’s friend and not just Alex’s.

Check out the season finale on Hulu.

 

 

 

 

Cast:

Guest Starring Fred Melamed as George Cole

Scream MTV: When a Stranger Calls – Almost Meta (Review)

Emma (Willa Fitzgerald)

Scream on MTV aired its season two finale on Tuesday.  “When a Stranger Calls” unmasks the killer, sort of, and is almost meta enough to make up for what was so hated about the first season. Sadly this poor imitation of Wes Craven’s brilliant legacy of the Scream franchise falls well short of the mark set by the late director.

This final episode revealed that Kieren (Amadeus Serafini) was the killer. (Although later “ghostface” – played by  Mike Vaughn – calls the small screen Billy Loomis and asks him who told the killer he could wear his mask.)  It also had more references to the big screen “Scream.” Some of these were a stretch, like the cop car crash sequence for instance, but still the episode tried to  be referential. 

Still missing was the sly poke at the genre, the black humor and the clear “guidelines” in every slasher film ever made. Although to be fair Emma, like Sidney, has reluctant sex,  and both these young ladies survive.

Also missing was the iconic voice of Roger Jackson, the man who did every Scream film in the franchise. Vaughn does a passible job as “ghostface” but he sounds more like the villain on Scary Movie than Jackson’s truly terrifying killer.

(It was also insulting  to fans of Wes’ films that Jackson was never even approached by the makers of this small screen shadow of Scream.) Roger’s ghostface reveled  in his evilness with a dark sort of demented glee unmatched by Vaughn’s version.

Emma was the Sidney Prescott in this MTV version and showing just how far the small screen Scream deviates from Craven’s films the makers have Duval arrested. She is set up by the real killer and the cops fall for it. Emma is taken in, something that would never happen to Sidney.

In some ways the finale did surpass the entirety of both seasons by having the last stand, initially, in the movie theatre.  Later the final confrontation takes place in an old church where, unlike her big screen counterpart, Emma lets Kieren survive.  Fair enough, in the this verse, Emma’s  boyfriend did not kill her mother.

Overall “When a Stranger Calls” (a nice nod to another “classic” horror film although with all the texting that occurs on Scream: The TV Series  it could have been  titled “When a Stranger Texts.” ) comes closer to Wes’ verse even it if does lack  the clever wit.

The knife attacks were plentiful, Brooke (Carlson Young) is skewered as is Eli (Sean Grandillo) although she survives and he, apparently, does not.  Of course the lad is actually dispatched with Emma’s gun.

(Eli provides a what many see as a homage to screen four with the door scene. To be fair it feels a bit more “The Faculty” than Scre4m.) 

There is a sequence where Emma has to decide who is telling the truth, another big screen reference to the original.  Duval even picks the wrong “killer” to shoot, thus ending, presumably, Eli’s role in future seasons.

Speaking of shooting…

Emma’s magical gun was something else. Without going back and counting all the rounds shot out of the single magazine pistol, it seems that at least 12 bullets were squeezed off at either Kieren or Eli.  (Interesting to note that she missed Kieren every single time and punched Eli’s ticket almost without aiming.)

It was nice to see the small screen version of Randy, Noah (John Karna) survive, although Randy makes it at least to Scream 2 before being terminated by the killer.  The fact that Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klausalso makes out alive is a plus. Both these characters were sort of personal favorites. Noah, despite not being as funny as Randy (remember the MTV gang removed any sign of humor from their adaptation of the verse) he was meta enough to be entertaining.

Fans of the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson versions of Scream seem to believe that the psychiatrist on the MTV series is the new version of Gale Weathers. The shrink is seen writing her theory about “two girl syndrome” (or whatever rubbish she paraded  out for the sheriff) but writing a book does not Gale Weathers make. Once again the small screen character lacks something. (Most likely Kevin Williamson…)

The show’s makers have left the door open for a season three, or at least a build up to their  Halloween special, judging by the phone call from another ghostface.  Perhaps the show will be renewed and if so we have one tiny request to make.

Bring back the humor; the sly poke at the genre that made the late Wes Craven’s versions so special.  MTV Scream may have come very close to cracking a more successful formula with their finale. This shows that they can do it if they try.

Thus far it seems that the biggest fans of the series either never watched the four Scream films or never really “got them” MTV could allow the creators of Scream: The TV Series to be more referential.  (And just an idea chaps, scrap that massively irritating after show.)

They could, in season three, really “bring it.” To paraphrase Gale Weathers  in Scream 4 “How meta would that be?”