Ken Jeong was a doctor before becoming a comic and actor, a bit of biographical trivia that’s about the first and last interesting thing associated with “Dr. Ken.” Designed to trade off Jeong’s profile from “Community” and “The Hangover” movies, the sitcom does build on ABC’s recent run of shows with minority leads. And, in the search to find a mate for “Last Man Standing,” it features another father who seldom knows best. Sitting through many episodes beyond the pilot would require extremely low expectations, but at least no one would worry about fracturing their funny bone.
Jeong plays Dr. Ken Park, who still has patients despite behaving like a Don Rickles-style insult comic at work. That’s demonstrated by an opening in which he chides a man about needing a colonoscopy, which provides an excuse for a flurry of jokes regarding the targeted area, and earns a reprimand from Ken’s bureaucratic boss, played by Dave Foley.
At home, naturally, it’s a different story entirely. Ken’s wife (Suzy Nakamura) also happens to be a psychotherapist, making this possibly the most upscale sitcom family since the Huxtables. As for the kids, Ken is both overinvolved and wildly overprotective, so much so that he essentially puts a tracer on his teenager daughter (Krista Marie Yu) when she goes out for the evening; and seeks to intervene on behalf of his nerdy son (Albert Tsai), who chooses to be a mime in the school talent show. (Accepting kids for how they are might be admirable, but permitting miming would seem to take that a step too far.)
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. Nor does he have much comedic support, given how heavily the story leans on him — a situation only eased slightly in the second episode, where Ken’s parents come to visit, while he’s forced to attend sensitivity training after (what else?) mocking another patient.
On the plus side, “Dr. Ken” is essentially colorblind, inasmuch as this could be any American family. On the down side, everything about it is equally generic, and one could argue that ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” is much richer because it makes the show specific to the Asian-American experience without sacrificing those universal qualities.
Either way, the series feels about as bland as the decor in a hospital waiting room. And while its undemanding approach might be enough to hang around for a while on Friday nights, when it comes to generating laugh-out-loud moments, “Dr. Ken” can mute more than just mimes.