Every fall, there’s always one show that just gets absolutely eviscerated by TV critics. This year, the winner of that special prize is “Dr. Ken,” the ABC sitcom starring Ken Jeong (“Community,” “The Hangover”) as a brilliant doctor with a terrible bedside manner and wacky family. The headlines write themselves:
Yeah, people really hate “Dr. Ken.” In case you’re wondering whether you should still watch the pilot, which premieres Friday, we combed through the reviews to find the three most common complaints.
1) The tone of the show is a mismatch with Jeong’s comedic skills.
ABC has made a big deal about the fact that the show is based on Jeong’s real life, in which he was a physician before he became an actor. So this is clearly the Ken Jeong show. However, in “Community” and “The Hangover” movies, he was known for being pretty hilarious with spastic physical comedy and bawdy humor. These things don’t really fit on a Friday night ABC sitcom.
“Either there’s a tonal uncertainly purposefully written into Jeong’s character,” The Post’s TV critic Hank Stuever writes. “Or, more possibly, the multi-cam sitcom format is too constrictive for the kind of humor Jeong showed in other projects. This is a man who should be given more leeway to go there with a hemorrhoid joke.” (There’s one of those in the first few minutes when Dr. Ken meets with a cranky patient.)
The New York Times agrees that being a broadcast sitcom does the show in: “What makes ‘Dr. Ken’ such a cringefest is the disconnect between Mr. Jeong’s florid persona — pitched at the edge of desperation — and everything else on screen, which stays within the boundaries of a network family series,” Mike Hale says.
“Jeong is a funny guy who has been funny in many contexts. That the multi-cam format and this sitcom, as currently constructed, both force him into some of his broader, worse habits is a disappointment,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg. Variety points out that Jeong helped write the script: “Even allowing for the throwback ‘TGIF’-style elements, the show presents a neutered version of the wild-and-crazy persona for which Jeong (who shares script credit on the pilot) is known,” Brian Lowry says.
2) The show commits the ultimate sin of just not being funny — or original.
Multiple reviews commend ABC’s attempt for more diversity in TV, adding to its line-up that includes sophomore comedies “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” (though “Cristela” didn’t make it past the first season). However, Robert Bianco of USA Today writes, the series “is less about any specific struggles such families may face in our multicultural society than it is about finding new ways to repackage the same workplace or household, floundering father or bad boss jokes we’ve all heard a thousand times.”
In the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara promises viewers meet Ken’s parents in the second episode, but that just leads to “tired old in-law jokes being something else that passes for humor in ‘Dr. Ken.’”
David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle sums it up: “The show is deadly, and Jeong, who did nice work in ‘Community’ and those ‘Hangover’ movies, is wooden and completely lacking in credibility. … There isn’t a funny line in the entire first episode.”
3) The show is a waste of the supporting cast’s talents, particularly Suzy Nakamura.
Many reviewers are fond of Albert Tsai, the adorable breakout star from ABC’s canceled “Trophy Wife,” who stars as Ken’s young son. And most only have only good things to say about Nakamura, who plays Ken’s put-upon wife, but agree she’s underused.
“It’s absolutely tremendous that the versatile Nakamura is finally getting a regular, multidimensional TV lead,” Fienberg says. “But ‘Dr. Ken’ then backslides by making her another of those sensible TV wives forced to feign endless loving frustration with her ever-so-wacky spouse.”
“Note the parade of cliche characterizations,” says Diane Werts at Newsday, specifically “the way-too-understanding wife who gazes upon her dim guy with affectionate he’s-a-dope-but-he’s-my-dope amusement.” Plus, Dave Foley as Ken’s corporate boss who’s a “money-grubbing racist.”
“Poor Dave Foley,” she writes. “How the funny have fallen.”