Fresh Off the Boat: Why You Need to Watch ABC's New Fish-Out-of-Water Comedy
If only because Constance Wu, who plays the matriarch of the Huang family, is a national treasure
Fresh Off the Boat premiered Wednesday with 7-plus million viewers and a positive response from audiences and critics alike. However, for a juggernaut like ABC, that’s still a lot of eyeballs missing from a show that just may be the best new comedy of 2015.
Based off restauranteur Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, the show is your classic fresh-out-of-water comedy. The series opens with the Huangs moving from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Florida, so that patriarch Louis (Randall Park) can fulfill his dream of opening a steak restaurant. As he goes all-in in his embrace of the American Dream, his wife, Jessica (Constance Wu), struggles, as does his eldest son, Eddie (Hudson Yang).
(Youngest sons Emery and Evan, however, have fit in so well that they have girls buying them soda – Eddie doesn’t get the same treatment because he “wants it too much.”)
Having moved to a predominantly white, yuppie suburb, the culture clash is presented with sensitivity and, most importantly, hilarity. The jokes are not made at the expense of either culture, and the show presents a fresh, interesting perspective for audiences who may be bored of seeing the same thing play out on their TV screens over and over again.
Here are a few reasons why you need to be watching Fresh Off the Boat immediately, if not sooner. While the series premiered on a Wednesday, it returns to its regular night and time on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.
It Received a Positive Response from the Asian Community
Not to generalize, but ABC’s newest offering seems to be receiving the same kind of response from the community it represents as Black-ish did for the black community.
At a New York City screening of the first two episodes attended by Huang himself, the excitement of the at-capacity crowd was “tempered with caution,” reports Vulture, but as the pilot went on, the crowd “breathed a collective sigh of relief.” Said one Chinese-American attendee: “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It toes the line between mainstream humor and how we actually grew up.”
While Huang admitted at the screening that ABC’s final product required some “artistic sacrifice,” says Vulture, he was excited about having broken new and exciting ground, but said somebody out there has “gotta bring us home.”
But really. After all, why tune in to a comedy? Seriously, though, every member of the cast pulls their weight, even the designated straight man, patriarch Louis (Randall Park). Delivered with perfect, sincere enthusiasm, many of his lines are said in a way where they almost fly under the radar – but are all the more hilarious for it.
For example, Louis is insistent that his steak restaurant is failing because it’s run by an Asian face. Undeterred, he simply insists that he just needs a “nice, happy, white face – like Bill Pullman” at front-of-house.
Constance Wu Is a National Treasure
A relative unknown, this is Wu’s breakout year. The strongest member of an already spectacular cast, every one of her lines as matriarch Jessica are delivered with the kind of subtle derision that is fairly enviable. How do we subtly throw that much shade in our daily lives? While it would be easy for the writers to put Wu in the stereotypical “Tiger Mom” box, the incredibly skilled writing and acting keep Jessica from that offensive and, frankly, boring place.
Jessica can scold her son for being “too good” at school and summarize Melrose Place as a show “about prostitutes who are mad at each other” at the same time as she can confusedly ask her rap-loving eldest son why he’s “so American” with a tangibly felt sense of empathy.
It’s Time for America to Try Having an East Asian-Led Sitcom on Network Television Again
For years, networks were gun-shy because Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, which ran on ABC in 1994, was a spectacular failure. However, not because it was led by an East Asian family – rather, the humor was broad, often stereotypical and network intervention had Cho being told she was “too Asian” and “not Asian enough” in equal measure whatever that means.
Representation is important – kids need to be able to see themselves on TV. While Gina Rodriguez was talking about the Latino community following her Golden Globe nomination, her point to BuzzFeed remains valid: “We need role models. Choosing to expose certain communities to those stories is going to create more tolerance, it’s going to create more acceptance, and it’s going to inspire our youth.”
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays (8:00 p.m. ET) on ABC.