I’m going to venture into something non musical for a bit here on this blog. The fact is, for the first time in forever (ok, I did slip in a Frozen joke there), there is an Asian American show on TV. And that’s such a rare occurence, it deserves a writeup . So, without further ado, my thoughts below on the Fresh Off the Boat Pilot.
I think I speak for most Asian Americans, when I say that we have been waiting for an Asian American sitcom for a long time. One that does our culture justice and tells our story. We know we are underrepresented in Hollywood media, and I think we’ve done our best to bury it in our subconscious and move on. But now, here we are. A family comedy about a Taiwanese American moving from DC to white suburbia. On ABC (how appropriate). Didn’t see this coming at all, figured the closest we’d get was something on YouTube. So it’s cool.Unfortunately, after watching the first episode, I’m not sure if it has staying power. Sure there were parts I laughed and grinned, but it didn’t draw me in like a good comedy should. A lot of the jokes took a tad too much setup time. And even then, atlhough some of them were funny, they were funny to American-Born-Chinese-mid-thirties me, not generic-American-watching-TV me. As much as I love relating to the show, I’m afraid that’s a problem. The show won’t succeed if its relating to Asian Americans. It will have to relate to a much broader audience.Take Big Bang Theory. The show is about Caltech Nerds, but it’s somehow relatable to the average TV viewer. The comedic timing is great, the cast is quirky, but it is somehow relevant.
The things FOTB S1:E1 got Right:
I never ate lunchables crowd, what with my dairy allergies/lactose intolerance (another thing they nailed), but I can say that Lunchables and Pop Tarts were manna from heaven. They allure they had to a Asian kid growing up was insane, most likely because all our white friends had them and we couldn’t ever get some.
2. Car Rides.
Specifically the kid asleep in the back surrounded by pillows. FOTB also nailed it with “The Sign.” The cut from Eddie listening to hip hop to Ace of Base’s Swedish Pop had me cracking up. Yes, I remember listening to that song with my family in a car, and yes I remember singing terribly. Kudos for that
3. How Americans react to smelling Chinese food.
Yeah, that’s pretty accurate, and I can understand why. It’s the mix of garlic, tofu, and bamboo that usually does it. All completely foreign smells to a Caucasian nose.
Things FOTB S1:E1 got wrong:
Specifically Louis and Jessica. Louis is played by Randall Park who is Korean American. His English is too perfect for a FOTB Taiwanese man. The inflections and tonal shifts of a Chinese man speaking English as a second language aren’t represented. On the other hand, Constance Wu’s accent swings a bit too much to other side. I can tell she’s Asian American, emulating English spoken with a Taiwanese. It’s a too forced and doesn’t sound right. Luckily, American audiences won’t be able to tell a difference.
2. Kissing in public.
I have a hard time imagining a first generation Taiwanese mom and dad, with their three boys standing around them, kissing on a children’s playground. In the 90’s, that just didn’t happen, ever. Seriously artistic license must have been taken there :).
3.Constance Wu’s Mom look.
Look, I know mid thirties Chinese woman are hot. I am married to one. But they are never that well-coiffed with three kids. I know there’s that running joke in the showabout the humidity and her hair, but she just looked a little too put together for it to be a realistic portrayal of a Taiwanese mom running a household and adjusting to a new home. Maybe if it was a few years down the road and she was settled in.
Anyway, I hope Fresh Off the Boat succeeds. Perhaps the show will need a few more episodes before it really starts to hit its stride. After all, even though there’s a lot of comedic material growing up Asian in white America, but only can do a few episodes of that schtick before it gets kind of old. What will really make or break the show is how relatable the characters are to America.