“I need white people lunch, mom.”
Those were just a few of the lines said during last week’s premiere of “Fresh Off The Boat,” the new sitcom airing on ABC which certainly has a lot more to say than just in its title. And it’s a good thing.
It has been over two decades since we’ve seen an Asian-American family on TV for entertainment. Still even in those shows and in other mediums, Asian Americans acted more in a ‘supporting role’ while being associated with difference and, as a result, laughter.
One might argue that this type of comedy has been used toward other races and cultures, but I don’t think more so than Asians, let alone Asian Americans. But instead of running from the things that made them different, showrunners for new ABC sitcom have decided to make them the centerpiece.
Huang serves as executive producer of the series, which had rating success during the pilot and second episodes according to Nielsen ratings and that could have a variety of factors including having those episodes tentpole a new episode of everybody’s favorite “Modern Family”, but I think it’s based on anything that has great value – the content.
The first episodes introduced us to the Huangs, a Taiwanese family with the patriarch played by Randall Park (The Interview), that made the move from Washington, DC to Orlando, Florida. While there, they are treated with the same indifference for who they are, yet seem to do so in a way that doesn’t make you feel bad for the family, but accept them even more.
From the beginning, that was the aim of Huang, who wanted to create a show so that “viewers truly understood how diverse Asian America is” and they did just that by making the show that addresses stereotypes head on thanks due in part to Huang’s persistence in making it that way.
Why? For all of America’s entertainment.
What was (and maybe still is) considered derogatory was made the propeller of story and emotional heart for the show. Even with the term ‘chink’ used or by making Chinese food unbearably stinky as a school lunch, you’ll realize it was just all in good fun…or perhaps even more.
“I think [this show] is a statement,” said Constance Wu in our exclusive interview. Randall Park added “We’re so used to seeing Asians in comedy as the butt of the joke” to which Constance added “This show turned the butt around.”
ABC already has established a track record with debuting multiple new TV series that embrace different ethnicities like “Black’ish” and “Cristela” and yes, perhaps it was all greenlit as a marketing strategy to gain the network more viewers, but these fresh, family sitcoms are doing something that can’t compare to something like ratings.
“The feeling of being different is universal because difference makes us universally human in our individual relationships with society,” says Huang. “Fresh Off The Boat” refuses to be a normal TV show and instead be a show that stands out with one stereotype and laugh at a time. We look forward to seeing more of the same in future episodes to come.
Asian American or not, maybe after those few you’ll start wanting to get white people lunches, too.
– – –
“Fresh Off The Boat” airs Tuesdays at 8 PM on ABC.
Will you be watching the “Fresh Off The Boat” throughout the season? What did you think of the first episodes? Do you think the racial puns are too extreme or just right? What statement(s) do you personally think the show is making? Share your thoughts in the comments!