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ABC's 'Dr. Ken' comedy needs a heart and humor transplant

ABC's 'Dr. Ken' comedy needs a heart and humor transplant
Kate Simses, left, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Jonathan Slavin and Ken Jeong star in "Dr. Ken," which suffers from a case of unfunniness. (Danny Feld / ABC)

After watching the new ABC comedy "Dr. Ken," which premieres Friday, it's easy to see why Ken Jeong, best known for his over-the-top roles in "Community" and "The Hangover" films, decided to quit the medical profession to become an actor.

Clearly he would have made a miserable doctor. Why he, and ABC, thought a show imagining this multi-faceted misery would be entertaining is less easy to understand.

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As "Code Black" recently reminded us, we all miss the groundbreaking Gregory House, that brilliant, cantankerous and self-righteously frank creation of David Shore and Hugh Laurie. We miss watching him cut through the bureaucratic bull of hospital administration and the self-deluding whinginess of his patients.

We miss him being arrogant and rude, but usually right. We miss his occasional moments of kindness and self-examination. Mostly we miss how darn funny he was, even in a drama.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ken Park (Jeong) is no Gregory House.

Cranky, yes. Arrogant and rude, indeed, but as a startlingly one-dimensional character in an even more startlingly flat situation comedy, Dr. Ken manages to be super-irritating and not at all interesting.

Granted, the stakes are lower. He works in a clinic, seeing cases that lean heavily on hemorrhoids and abscess drainage (cue the requisite jokes), but it is a general and inexplicable misanthropy that makes him such a jerk rather than any visible career frustration.

He is surrounded by a weak Greek chorus of co-workers, including a slavishly devoted male nurse (Jonathan Slavin) and an unapologetic narcissist of a boss (Dave Foley). Then there's his hamstrung "modern family." Wife Allison, Suzy Nakamura, is the most egregiously underused (and the subject of several weird sex jokes), with "Trophy Wife" breakout Albert Tsai coming in a close second as his son, whose "quirky" talents are highlighted in the pilot.

Daughter Molly (Krista Marie Yu) appears to exist only so Ken can play out an overprotective dad story line, which ends up with him chasing her through a club yelling, "I'm looking for Molly." This is what passes for humor in "Dr. Ken."

The second episode introduces his grim-faced parents, with whom Allison, after years of marriage, has apparently never really spoken; tired old in-law jokes being something else that passes for humor in "Dr. Ken."

There is nothing essentially wrong with the idea of a rude and arrogant doctor slowly learning a few life lessons the hard way, especially if it explores the cultural influences of a multi-generational Korean family. But a family comedy has to have heart and humor, and "Dr. Ken" has neither.

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