Yesterday the new ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat premiered (it should be noted that I only watched the pilot, but two episodes did air). The show is about a young boy whose family moves from Washington DC to Orlando so that his dad can open up a new restaurant. The series is based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, but its real headline is that it is something like the second primetime television show to be about Asian-Americans.
The show follows Eddie as he deals with his family’s move from the far more diverse Washington DC to the monoculturally white Orlando. It is a comedy partly about the immigrant experience, partly about family, and partly about growing up. Its jokes aren’t the most brilliant, some of them fall flat, but the show absolutely thrives off of its core cast and their experiences. It’s pretty simple, but highlights how much we miss out on when we ignore a diversity of voices in our pop culture and media.
Eddie is an Asian-American who is in love with hip-hop culture–he says it’s always been the anthem of the outsider–and the show makes great use of 90s hip-hop legends like Notorious B.I.G. and Nas. His dad, Louis, is in love with America and the opportunity it can provide for his family–this is shown by his restaurant’s wild west theme. His mother, Jessica, tries to fit in with a rollerblading group of young blondes in the neighborhood, much to her chagrin. His siblings Emery and Evan adjust quite well to their new neighborhood, though one eats string cheese and discovers he’s lactose intolerant.
The immigrant experience and the cross-cultural America we our currently experiencing (though it has always been a big mix of people) is pertinent and fascinating. The show does a good job of representing the mix of people and varying experiences. Eddie and a group of white boys bond over Biggie, Louis hires a white guy (played by Paul Scheer!) to attract customers to his restaurant, the restaurant’s cook is a tattooed Latino, and Louis’ biggest problem at school ends up being the only other minority–who picks on him in order to elevate himself from his perceived place at the bottom. Fresh Off the Boat acknowledges the multicultural world, using it to its advantage to make a pilot episode that is exciting, charming, and very promising.