It was 7:55 p.m. February 4, and I was eagerly waiting for the two-episode premiere of Fresh Off the Boat. At first, I was thinking about all the homework I had to do later that night and how I should probably multitask…Well, good thing I didn’t. The first two episodes (and of course the third and fourth episodes) had my family and I laughing and smiling; it was so reminiscent of our own FOB experience when we first arrived to Boca Raton, Florida in the early 2000s. Fitting in, school being too easy, making friends, success: each episode was like a window into my own life. Although Eddie’s experience of living in the U.S. was more extreme than my own experience, I also had to tackle issues of people thinking I was a “foreigner,” whether because of home-made Indian lunches, getting called weird names, or people telling my English is “good.” Fresh Off the Boat surpassed my expectations of being a basic scripted American sitcom with Asian faces and Asian stereotypes. It is an original, quirky, funny show, bundled up with experiences that reflect upon Asian Americans living and assimilating in America. So far I’d rate the series 8/10. Fresh off the Boat is filled with warm family moments, quirky jokes, and a like-able cast, but suffers at times from forced, uncomfortable jokes (*cough* *cough* Talking about you, Episode 3) and rushed scenes. For example, the scene where Eddie gets called a chink made me a little unsatisfied and unfulfilled; it was a major moment in Eddie’s life, but after Eddie get called a chink, the screen goes black and we skip to the scene with the principal’s office. More emphasis could have put into that scene, that moment of heat, but then again ABC allowing, “chink” to be said is a “big deal.”
Episode 1: “Pilot” (8/10) – Good opening, but rushed scenes
The Pilot introduces us to Eddie’s family: his dad Louis, his mom Jessica, and his two brothers, Emery and Evan. They originally lived in D.C. where Louis worked for his brother-in-law, but moved to Orlando so that Louis could follow his “American Dream” and open a restaurant called “Cattleman’s Ranch.” (In my life, I moved from Florida to Maryland so that my dad could follow his own “American Dream” of working at a big research institution.) When they arrive in Orlando, everyone but Emery is experiencing problems. Emery gets a girlfriend on the first day and this leads to one of the most humorous scenes in the first episode.
Eddie: Why aren’t chicks giving me soda?
Emery: You want it too much.
Eddie and Evan have trouble fitting in school, Jessica has trouble fitting in with the perky, rollerblading, cliquey women in the neighborhood, and Louis is having trouble with getting people to come to his restaurant. These problems will become the central issues the Huang family will deal with in the coming episodes. In the end of the episode, Eddie gets called a “chink” and gets in trouble for cursing out the boy who called him a chink. He gets sent to the principal’s office and his parents fight for him. Eddie gets off the hook and the show ends with Louis saying,
Coming to this new place is going to make us all stronger.
Episode 2: “Home Sweet Home-School” (9/10) – Not as funny but, heartwarming
Episode 2 deals with Jessica trying to give the boys supplemental education at home, since they had straight “A’s” and there was no Chinese Learning Center (CLC) or gifted programs in Orlando. Louis was also trying to get Jessica to stay home, since she was ruining business by being too critical on the customers and employees. In the end, Jessica stops her home schooling, when she sees Eddie playing basketball with his Dad and that the restaurant was doing well with Louis.
The episode reflected on Asian Americans and even people in general not needing to tell their family members that they love them and that love can be shown through actions. It was a little cute and sentimental, but honestly true. I said something similar to my friend, when he asked me why my family and I did not explicitly say we loved each other. Something that made me laugh and cry a little bit was that Eddie’s white neighbor did not get any love from his dad.
Episode 3: “The Shunning” (7/10) – One word: CREEPY. I really don’t need to see Eddie hitting on a married woman in a provocative way.
First we need to pay homage to Ol’ Dirty Bastard:
This episode is centered on fitting in. Jessica is trying to fit in with women in the neighborhood while Eddie is trying to fit in school and be cool. Since his parents are too cheap to buy him Jordans, he decides that the ultimate status symbol is a hot girl. Although this is misguided and misogynistic, Eddie tries to woo his next-door neighbor, Honey, who ends up being the only woman his mom likes in the neighborhood. They bond over Stephen King movies and books, and over the fact that Honey actually eats and likes Jessica’s stinky tofu. The movie then goes all Mean Girls, since the other women hate Honey and being associated with her is like some plague. Since being friends with Honey might hurt the restaurant, Louis tells her to stop being friends with her. Jessica listens to Louis at first but, eventually makes up with honey and sings, “I Will Always Love You.” Eddie falls in love with Honey’s stepdaughter who later gives him, the finger.
Episode 4: “Success Perm” (8/10) – OJ Simpson case reference is funny, but again feels rushed
This episode is centered on success. Jessica’s sister, Connie, is coming to Orlando along with her husband and their mother to see how well Jessica is doing. Jessica and Louis try to show off to them by spending more money then they have. Ironically, Connie and her husband do the same thing. In the end, they realize that they did not need to show off to each other. Eddie’s cousin who opened Eddie up to hip hop starts listening to grunge, but let’s be honest, hip hop > grunge.
If you missed any of the episodes they are available on ABC’s website: