Fresh off the Boat: helping foreigners fit in

Ever hear of the show All-American Girl? Probably not. Most of us at North weren’t even born when it was tentatively picked up by ABC in 1994, 21 years ago, and followed the life of Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho as she wove her way through puberty.

It was also the last time an Asian sitcom played on television. The show bombed and was subsequently cancelled in 1995 after one season. But Fresh off the Boat helped transcend the nature of television about the American Dream. To critics, it could go one of two ways: either the show would tank after one short-lived season never to be heard of again, or it could thrive as the cornerstone of clean, modern comedy, just as Everybody Hates Chris did 10 short years ago. So far, it’s been the latter, and although everybody hated Chris, everyone is loving Fresh.

Based on renowned chef and TV personality Eddie Huang’s book Fresh off the Boat: A Memoir, the show begins in the mid-1990s, when the Huang’s family moves from heavily Asian Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida. The two cities couldn’t be more different. When the Huangs first arrive in Orlando, they are greeted by a complete white-out. Not a single Asian in sight.

As a result, each individual family member faces different levels of difficulty adapting. Eddie and his super strict, “play viola,” “do your math homework,” “be the best in everything you do” mom, Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) have the most difficulty adapting, while Eddie’s two younger siblings Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ivan Chan) seem almost unfazed by the sudden change. The dad Louis (Randall Park) struggles at first, but learns to thrive as the show continues.

Louis moves his family to Florida looking for a better life, so he opens up a restaurant called “Cattleman’s Ranch,” an almost exact copy of the show’s knock-off franchise, Golden Corral “Golden Saddle.” The American Dream ironically backfires on him. At first business is slow, and you watch the family struggle, and Louis assumes that it’s because the place is not “white enough.” The family initially plans to open up a western-style restaurant, and as the show progresses, the restaurant becomes more and more popular.

Eddie always does his utmost to adapt to the new environment. His strong passion for hip-hop culture and obsession with Shaquille O’Neal make him unique and incredibly funny. He’s always trying to “holla” at his neighbor Nicole (Luna Blaise), while staying true to himself. Even though she is older than he is, he has the confidence to approach her; and whenever he’s rejected, he tries again. And again…and again. He keeps the show lively and carefree.

With its morals, stereotypes, crude humor, and impossible-to-understand-without-subtitles theme song by Danny Brown, FOB is one the most relatable sitcoms you’ll find if you have a foreign background. If you are a second-generation immigrant, you will see how closely the Huang family’s situation mirrors your own life: a constant struggle to fit in as Americans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s