Ken Or Ken?

Dr Ken

Amidst the summative season, I’m strongly of the view that we should always take a moment and relax and try not to let the pressure of the season get to us. Because despite the stress, the self-doubt and the tears dripping into the hot chocolate provided by the College’s Welfare Committee, life carries on. And life definitely consists of other elements besides summatives.

I previously wrote an article on Friends, and I stand by my views on that. Friends may be one of the biggest hits of American TV, but recently, I think I might have found something similar: his name is Ken, Dr Ken.
First broadcasted on ABC in October 2015, this show is still in its first season. It is about an often tactless doctor who is trying to balance his work, family and social life. He has two children who he loves – one teenage daughter and a prepubescent son. We all know that spells trouble. His colleagues consist of a sassy Latina, an Indian doctor who “sounds like she has a helium addiction”, a gay male nurse, and a boss who offers half a tissue to a crying employee in the interest of cost-cutting.

The show depicts Dr Ken going through his daily life, for example having to tell his patients bad news (it’s not something he’s very good at…). Going to work unfortunately also entails interacting with his colleagues and his boss – not a forte of his either. Then work ends and he goes home to his loving wife who is a psychologist which, as Ken jokingly points out, isn’t a legit doctor. He also manages to seriously creep out his daughter’s boyfriend and embarrass his son at the same time.

The cast of Community make cameos as well, because they are actually real-life Ken’s friends. Ken Jeong is the creator, writer and executive producer of the show – which is what I think makes it so great, because not only is he the main character, but I think to some extent, he doesn’t really have to act. His character in Dr Ken is actually loosely based on his life and his personality in real life; Ken Jeong actually did graduate with a degree in medicine from Duke University, which makes him all the more suitable to play a doctor on his own show. I think it’s so great that the character comes to him so naturally that you can’t really tell the difference between Dr Ken and Ken.

This show is a refreshing change from most of the other shows I watch, including but not limited to Elementary, Supernatural, Criminal Minds and, of course, Friends, where the leading actors, or most of the leading actors, are the stereotypical white American men or women in their 30s or 40s who most teenage girls (including me, I have to admit) go gaga over. This show has the most diverse and amusing cast I’ve ever watched, and given the recent saga over #OscarsSoWhite, this is a very different direction that ABC is going in.

In a way, Dr Ken is able to deal with sensitive racial (Asian) stereotypes that most shows aren’t able to because of the unique ethnicity of the main character. The stern father who never smiles, the judgemental mother who despises her daughter-in-law’s cooking, the overachieving sister who overshadows her elder brother – they are all present in Dr Ken, but things are usually not the way they first seem. No spoilers… (okay perhaps just a few at the beginning, sorry!) Not only is he able to shed light on Asian culture, but also highlight the differences between Asian cultures which even I get confused about sometimes despite being Asian myself. In the show, Dr Ken is Korean and his wife, Alison, is Japanese.

But what’s really, really good about Dr Ken, I feel, is the fact that there may be conflicts or issues arising through the course of the episode, but eventually, everything is resolved – often through hilarity. Remember Monica’s iconic first line in Friends? “There’s nothing to tell!” Well Dr Ken’s first line is pretty iconic as well: ”I looked it up online – it’s haemorrhoids.” Butt diseases, that’s always funny, right?

Perhaps all the more applicable in this context is that laughter really is the best medicine. I’ve been trying to write an article per week, but this week I’ve been so blue that I had nothing but depressing thoughts, until I saw a clip on Dr Ken that someone shared on Facebook and decided to start watching the show. I thought I wouldn’t love any show as much as I love Friends, but I thought wrong. I knew from the very first episode of Friends that I watched, that it was going to be so good – and it was. I feel the same about Dr Ken – so far, eighteen episodes in, I’m not yet disappointed.

Summative season is ending, and I do hope that if not now, perhaps over the Easter holidays, you guys would give Dr Ken a chance.

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