As Disney Plus continues down the road of rebooting and reviving as many nostalgic properties as possible — a road well-traveled and highly polished because of savvy spins like “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” — it’s hard to begrudge the strategy when it produces something as sweet as “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” quite 30 years after “Doogie Howser, M.D.” first premiered on ABC, starring a teenaged Neil Patrick Harris because the iconic child doctor, Disney Plus has debuted its own thoroughly wholesome version with a Doogie as sunny as Harris’ was self-serious.
In Kourtney Kang’s update, Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha (the very charming Peyton Elizabeth Lee) may be a 16-year-old Hawaiian girl who loves the beach, her family, and a cute surfer (Alex Aiono) who doesn’t make her feel too weird about being a doctor prodigy. (In a meta move, her “Doogie” nickname comes courtesy of her adult coworkers — played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman ad Ronny Chieng — teasing her with immediate regard to the child doctor of the ABC series.) Lahela’s father Benny (scene-stealer Jason Scott Lee) left a stressful finance job to embrace beach life while her mother Clara (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is that the head doctor at Lahela’s hospital — which, yes, makes her Lahela’s boss, too. It’s a sensible twist on the fraught father-son dynamic that persisted throughout “Doogie Howser,” layering friction into Lahela and Clara’s relationship without weighing it down such a lot that a conflict can’t be resolved by the episode’s end.
For fans of “Doogie Howser” watching “Doogie Kamealoha” — which at now probably means parents of the youngsters making up Disney Plus’ core audience — there are many nods. The pilot mirrors the original’s, with Lahela helping out at a roadside crash scene, getting to a faculty dance, and losing a very special patient. She even features a diary, though hers is in fact a vlog rather than a word processing system that hardly works faster than a typewriter.
Still, “Doogie Kamealoha” may be a bit weird in its place as a Disney Plus reboot insomuch as it’s not bringing a beloved Disney franchise into this era (as seen with “The Mighty Ducks” and “Turner and Hooch”), but turning an ABC property into a shinier Disney product. quite anything, it seems like a single-camera version of a Disney Channel sitcom, as bright, earnest, and heartfelt as its lead.