There’s more good news in Asian-American TV land.
ABC recently greenlighted a pilot starring Ken Jeong, best known as quirky Spanish language teacher Señor Chang in Community, also The Hangover villain Mr. Chow. Jeong, who worked as a doctor for seven years before turning to acting, will play a frustrated MD who’s struggling to keep the rest of his life afloat.
The AV Club, which reports that Dr. Ken had previously been in development with NBC, explains how art meets life in the show’s plot:
“Every day Dr. Ken Jeong would just try to go about the serious business of practicing medicine, only to have Ken Jeong show up and start causing problems. ‘Damn you and your shameless, occasionally stereotype-based antics!’ Dr. Ken Jeong would yell at Ken Jeong while tossing aside his clipboard, and now that’s a TV show.”
Jeong’s past roles — especially in The Hangover — have raised eyebrows over whether he furthers stereotypes of Asian-Americans. On Twitter, one person compared him to a modern-day Long Duk Dong — “uncomfortable but visible.”
But others have argued Jeong wraps himself in stereotypes only to rip them to shreds. In an essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books about the evolution of Asian-Americans on TV, E. Alex Jung makes the case:
“My favorite moment in Asian-American television lasts about two minutes. It is the crazed, brilliant introduction of Señor Chang, played by Ken Jeong, as Greendale’s Spanish teacher on Community. ‘Every once in a while a student will come up to me and ask, Señor Chang, why do you teach Spanish?’ he chuckles softly. ‘They say it just like that. Why do you teach Spanish? Why. You.’
In an uninterrupted monologue, Jeong cavorts and cackles on the knife’s edge of sanity, anticipating racist questions (‘Don’t tell me that I’m mysterious and inscrutable!’), spouting delusions of grandeur (‘In Spanish my name is El Tigre Chino!’) and invading everyone’s personal space, as though the only reasonable response to racism is to lose your mind.”
The AV Club says Señor Chang fans needn’t fear that Dr. Ken means there’s no chance for Community‘s “mythical” sixth season to finally happen. “It’s possible Jeong could do both series — maybe even with time left over for house calls, where he briefly complicates your life by being loud and nude.”