I’m known for being somewhat of a diversity Nazi (there’s some irony for you) who is constantly griping about the lack of roles for people of color on television, but then when a show like Fresh Off the Boat comes along I am at once excited and nervous about what we’re actually getting. The question is whether or not it will really celebrate a new culture and provide a fresh voice, or if it will just be a bone thrown half-heartedly at an ethnic group in an effort to appear that the network is, at the very least, making one. After laughing my way through the pilot I was relieved that the Huangs were a family I’d like to spend 30 minutes (or more) with every week.
Based on the book of the same name by chef Eddie Huang, Fresh Off the Boat tells the story of a Chinese family that moves from their Washington D.C home in a predominantly Asian neighborhood to a mostly white Orlando. Set in the 90’s, it chronicles eldest son Eddie’s (Hudson Yang) struggles with being a hip-hop obsessed Asian kid trying to fit in in the suburbs. Eddie’s father Louis (Randall Park) is opening a struggling Western-themed restaurant, his mom Jessica (Constance Wu) is constantly pushing her sons to be the best and his two overachieving younger siblings, plucky Emory (Forrest Wheeler) and precocious Evan (Ian Chen), are annoyingly, and hilariously, perfect.
The culture clash for the Huangs is mostly felt through Eddie’s struggles to fit in at Abe Lincoln Junior High and with Jessica trying to field the suburban mom terrain in the midst of mid-90’s political correctness. The latter is most effectively displayed in an episode where she is assigned the task of directing an all inclusive school play designed not to offend anyone. Wu, is a breakout star and an Emmy nomination should definitely be in her future, but the adorably nerdy sibling rivalry between Emory and Evan is pure comedy gold.
Dependable Paul Scheer plays a loyal-ish employee of Louis and there’s also a fun guest spot by Scottie Pippen to look for. Also, if you’re a 90’s kid like me you’ll notice some pop culture references that will go right over millennial heads. Hopefully the material, which is best when it’s gently sending up 90’s cultural attitudes with 21st century hindsight, will only get richer and funnier in the second season.