Here is the trailer to the latest all-Asian sitcom, ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.
First, I will be watching this. Second, if you think there is ANY consensus about this show within the Asian American community, just read the comments on the youtube clip . If you see any of the debate and think to yourself, “Wait, what?,” let it act as a reminder of the nature of the Asian American community: for sociological and political purposes, we can be grouped together, but when it comes to personal opinion, like any ethnic groups, we run the gamut of ideology, personality and preference.
That said, here are some quick thoughts about ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat written by Nahnatchka Khan, starring Randall Park, Constance Wu, and Hudson Yang; and based on the book by chef, Eddie Huang, Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir.
Why I am optimistic about ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat
RACE – It is clear that race and culture will be at the center of the humor and, I expect, the powerful and emotional moments. I have not seen a full episode, but I am willing to bet that this show will be peppered with those moments of “Oh yeah, this is why this shit hurts sometimes.” I suspect that just as there will be laughter caused by awkwardness, ignorance and misfortune, there will be tears brought on by pain, empathy and hope.
CASTING – An Asian American cast about an Asian American family? Yes, please. All props to San Francisco’s own, Margaret Cho’s and her 1990’s All-American Girl, but that was 20 years ago and All-American Girl was not well-supported. Truth is, when people, young and old, see people who look like them in mainstream media, that is powerful. So yes, it is just a comedy on TV that offers a different spin on family and coming of age, this is an important development and worthy of support.
COMEDY – It looks like many of the jokes will center around the realities of this 2nd generation kid trying to live in both worlds. I hope Fresh Off the Boat can find the comedic sweet spot between that which resonate between people caught in this “in-between” space and some of the unique issues that face Asian Americans today. I fully expect to laugh at the truths brought out as well as the absurdity that comedy allows us to explore.
THE NINETIES – I have enjoyed the recent show Surviving Jack which is set in the 90’s, so another one set in this time frame is just another chance for my wife and I do walk down memory lane. Albeit, we do so with our kids looking at us with their, “Why is that funny?” or “You know that song?” look on their faces.
Why I am cautious about ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat
THE ACCENTS – I am not as irked as many about the fake accents because they are so very bad. One can only hope that, at some point, they are going to pull a Ken Leung from Keeping the Faith. Truth is when it comes to immigrant families and language, there is a mix of English usage and accents. Any more realistic and they would be speaking a mix of Taiwanese and English — and, as cool as that would be, I am pretty sure that is not a big ratings booster.
THE INSIDE BECOMING THE OUTSIDE – While many of the jokes will be at the expense of others’ ignorance and confronting stereotypes of Asian Americans, I do worry that some of the “inside the family” jokes might give tacit approval for non-Asians to crack Asian jokes and to create a sense that the humor as acceptable in any context. Oh and I cannot wait for the “Oh, yeah, just like Fresh Off the Boat” inferences, comments and comparisons that many Asian Americans will have to deal with should this show find an audience.
ALL OUR HOPES AND DREAMS – It is important for us to remember that this is just one show and one hoping to attract mainstream American viewers at that. We must not to heap too much pressure on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat to be some kind of panacea for racial conflict or Asian American visibility in the United States. If we do, we doom it to fail. We can critique, watch or don’t watch, but we can’t create a situation where, if it fails, it does so as a show that was supposed to be all things to all people. Instead, we must see this as the beginning of the presence of more and more characters and stories from underrepresented groups in mainstream entertainment — and push for more. For the more stories that are shared, be they comedic, dramatic or romantic, the fuller experience we have of the complexities of culture in the United States.
While overall, I AM very excited about ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, I may even be more excited to see that John Cho is getting to play the romantic lead in the My Fair Lady-ish sitcom, Selfie.