Fresh Off the Boat: Year of the Rat – The Sinophile Episode (Review)

Fresh Off the Boat begins the new year with an episode about Chinese New Year; Year of the Rat.

ROB HUEBEL, FORREST WHEELER, HUDSON YANG, CONSTANCE WU, RANDALL PARK, IAN CHEN

Fresh Off the Boat begins the new year with an episode about Chinese New Year; Year of the Rat. This could well be the best episode yet out of all those on offer in season 2.  Mainly because, the overabundance of “non-Huang” children do not make an appearance in this episode, leaving the young actors who portray Eddie, Emery and Evan to shine without distractions from the other less “impressive”  child performers.

Year of the Rat could also be seen as the “sinophile” episode.  While that particular term was not in use in the 90s, (at least not according to the Internet…) it accurately describes the group that the Huang’s meet in the show. The episode can also be seen as depicting a naturally curious populace who want to learn about other cultures, without the stigma attached to the pursuit now.

This segment helps to explain much about the Huang family while working in some topical jokes and pointing out just how “isolated” Orlando, Florida was in the 90s. Year of the Rat is initially about the Huang’s  attempting to return to D.C. so they can  celebrate the holiday with family.

HUDSON YANG, RANDALL PARK
Eddie (Hudson Yang) and Louis (Randall Park)

Later it is just about the family trying to desperately find other Chinese people to celebrate their traditional holiday with and failing.   As they move toward a solution each family member has a personal epiphany about their lives.

The episode starts with the trip all planned out with precision by Jessica and the family rise at five in the  morning to catch their two o’clock in the afternoon flight.  After they arrive at the airport, the family realize that Louis messed up the dates on the tickets and that the flight was the day before.

RANDALL PARK, CONSTANCE WU
Louis forced to admit it’s all his fault by Jessica, repeatedly.

The adults are disappointed and Jessica (Constance Wu) reveals much about her relationship with Louis (Randall Park) when she grumbles that she did  not micro-manage enough. After a hopeless attempt to find other Chinese people in Orlando, Jessica finds the local Asian American Association of Orlando (Ay-Oh) in the phone book.

Run by a group of youthful,  enthusiastic and “misinformed wannabe” sinophiles, the celebrations are a bit of a bust. Meanwhile, the three Huang brothers are more concerned about the lack of red envelopes, traditionally filled with money, than not celebrating properly.

EXTRAS
Wrong dragon…

Louis  saves the day as he sets up a personal Chinese New Year party at his restaurant. Colleagues, friends and his employees help to set up a great celebration. Although Eddie, Emery and Evan do not get the type of red envelopes that they desire, in the end, Grandma comes through.

Once again, Fresh Off the Boat gives us a low-key, at times, and funny episode that manages to reveal a lot about the “real” Eddie Huang’s childhood. As does the entire series. For example: Father Louis is focussed on enjoying and experiencing America, often ignoring his children and not listening to his wife.

Jessica is similarly focussed, but on becoming a financial success. Wu has a challenging job to portray a mother and wife who has limited patience and is primarily concerned about money, often to the immediate detriment of her family.

Huang mentions that his childhood was pretty dicey at best and that the show does not reflect this in his opinion.

HUDSON YANG, CONSTANCE WU
Jessica (Constance Wu) and Eddie (Hudson Yang).

However,  looking closely at the main adult characters, including Grandma (played by Lucille Soong) reveals a family where the grownup are not exactly child friendly.  Although Louis could be called child-like in his enthusiasm, he does not necessarily connect in the “right way” with his kids. 

This episode also revealed a lot about the Huang family and where they are in terms of cultural tradition  and  in their longing to be part of the American Dream.  It also showed how quickly Jessica’s patience waned when having to play the part of cultural educator.

Ian ChenForrest Wheeler and Hudson Yang continue to amuse and impress as the three Huang children and Constance Wu proves yet again how well she does “nuance” as well as straight comedy. Randall Park does his usual outstanding job as the comedic pin that holds the whole family together. 

Chelsey Crisp and (the iconic) Ray Wise as the rich but fairly vacuous next-door neighbors are always a treat and this episode is no exception.  As Year of the Rat winds down it manages to amuse and, in a manner of speaking, educate. 

Not just about the Chinese New Year or how little Orlando, Florida understood Asian’s in the 1990s, but also about what the dynamic of the Huang household really was. Eddie Huang may detest “his show” but there is a message hidden under the humor.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays on ABC. The Year of the Rat is on February 2, 2016. Tune in and watch this enchanting comedy and spot the truths carefully hidden amidst the chuckles.

Fresh Off the Boat: Good Morning Orlando (Review)

RANDALL PARK, CONSTANCE WU

After a short interlude, where the Huang family celebrated Halloween on a “dead street,” the aftermath of the Fall Ball makes itself known on  Fresh Off the Boat, and Louis goes onto Good Morning Orlando.  Gus and Mey-Mey are the local news presenters at the four a.m. slot on television.  The two local celebs meet Louis at his steakhouse and he does a couple of impressions which go over very well and garner him an invite to their show.

This episode deals with the pitfalls of seventh grade dating, Sixteen Candles and Jessica Huang’s insecurities of how American’s view Chinese people. Louis “kills it” on the show but both Jessica and his youngest child hated his appearance. After informing her husband that he was doing a “Long Duk Dong” (a stereotypical character from Sixteen Candles) Louis decides to go back on Good Morning Orlando to set things straight.

Meanwhile, Eddie and his friends have learned that they are dating the girls from the Fall Ball who shoved them around in the mosh pit.  The lads have entered dangerous territory where smiley-face notes equal a girlfriend and group dates take place while passing on  escalators.

Due to the mysterious nature of their limited courtship, none of the boys know who they are meant to be dating and things fall apart while Eddie tries to work it out with an evidence board.

Louis goes back on the TV morning show and is so aggressive that he gets banned. Jessica tells him off for being so annoying and making it look like the Chinese have no sense of humor. After giving him an impossible list of things to be, she realizes that Louis can only really be himself.   The boys, Eddie and his pals, all meet the girls for another group date, this time at a skating rink.

As none of the male group know which girl is interested in them, the game plan is for all the boys to fall at once, the idea being that the girl who likes them will head toward her “date.” The plan fails when the littlest lad falls before the rest can act.

The girls react angrily when they learn the boys have no idea who they are meant to be dating and Louis gets his second chance with Good Morning Orlando.  Everything works out for both Huang’s as Louis does more impressions at a live news feed and Eddie learns from Alison that they are dating and  have survived their first fight.

ISABELLA ALEXANDER, NATALIE COUGHLIN, DARA IRUKA, EVAN HANNEMANN, HUDSON YANG, TREVOR LARCOM, PROPHET BOLDEN
The escalator date…

Fresh Off the Boat is amusing and manages to work its humor via a family who are trying to fit into the American dream of the 1990s.  Randall Park continues to shine as the Huang family father and Constance Wu is being allowed to be warmer and to show her character’s vulnerabilities.

This series, adapted from the real Eddie Huang’s memoirs is less a sitcom than a humour interpretation of Huang’s childhood.  Human comedy versus situational that works very well and has no real need of an audience to sell its humor.

The storylines do not prompt full out belly laughs but rather an amused reaction to the scenes as they unfold. The youngster’s attempts at their first social interaction in the form of seventh grade “dating,” for instance is very funny for those who remember the mysteries of the opposite sex at that age.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays on ABC and offers a calmer type of comedy, a sort of variation on Everybody Hates Chris but with a Taiwanese nuance.  Tune in and enjoy the Huang’s 1990s suburban journey.

 

 

Fresh Off the Boat: Miracle on Dead Street (Review)

IAN CHEN, FORREST WHEELER, RANDALL PARK

Fresh Off the Boat, the Huang family comedy that Eddie Huang refuses to support, reached a level place on Miracle on Dead Street. While based upon the memoirs of Huang, the network’s decision to make it into Everybody Hates Chris but with a family from Taiwan clearly does not set well with the restauranteur. Regardless of Eddie’s dislike of the show, it is moving into solidly funny territory, although many of the youthful cast members let the side down.

Randall Park gives a solid performance as the guy trying to live the American suburban dream.  Constance Wu is warming up a bit in this Halloween themed episode and it has to be said that the excitement felt by the father Louis, is real thing for those who have never experienced “first-hand” the juvenile world of trick or treat.

American’s either forget, or take for granted, the age-old custom of going from house to house as, Randall Park’s character puts it, “someone else.” The comedy from his character’s level in the episode works brilliantly. The “flashback” where Louis is dressed up like a KISS band-member  and throws candy at passer’s by below his brownstone window is funny.

The young actors who play the Huang children all acquit themselves very well. The gag of Hannibal Lector and Silence of the Lambs, treated and delivered as a throw-a-way joke,  was beyond priceless. These child actors, which is, perhaps, an outdated term, do well with their parts and the lines as written.

Hudson YangForrest Wheeler and Ian Chen kill it. They are infinitely believable when they act, there are no “dead” lines or awkward deliveries. Mad props to the boy who wants to go as the Traveling  Wilburys, he sells it, not once, but twice. Sadly not all the young actors on the show are as skilled at their craft.

Fresh Off the Boat airs sans the benefit of a studio audience. Looking at the show’s rankings on IMDb, this seems to be working. The theme of “fish out of water” or the outsider relishing all things American is solid and allows Park to shine.

The only other draw back of the show is how Constance Wu as Mrs. Huang is portrayed, but, as with the episodes themselves, her character is growing to become that bit more “likable.” As with Lucille Soong, who plays Grandma Huang, it is taking a little time to get used to the actor’s performance which may be down to the writer’s having trouble finding the two female characters’ voice.

The series is popular enough that ABC have ordered a full 22 episode second season. Another ABC sitcom to be given a boost is Dr. Ken, the network’s second Asian comedy program. The series, co-created by Ken Jeong,  has been given an order for a further “back nine.”  Each sitcom has its own comedic merits and both are funny despite have two very different production values and delivery systems.

Fresh Off the Boat is a series that doubles as a sort of time machine. Taking place back in the 1990’s and telling the tale of a Taiwanese family learning to “fit in” to their new country’s customs and traditions as well as learning how the suburbs differ from their urban background.  These types of scenarios are good for comedy and tragedy so it is no surprise that the comic angle has been chosen.

Eddie Huang is still not enamored with the version of his life that  ABC  has chosen to air.  The author and restauranteur has stated that he understands that comedy is generated by pain but that he hates what the network have done. Perhaps Huang could accept it if he was more into comedy as a trade rather than law, food and restaurants.  Chris Rock’s Everybody Hates Chris, is based upon his childhood,  which the comic says was not overly great either, but Rock turned his kid hood pathos into comedy, but then that is Chris’s specialty…Comedy.

Fresh Off the Boat is funny and the Halloween episode Miracle on Dead Street is the best installment of the show thus far. Randall Park is the undisputed star of the show and,  just as he almost stole the entire film The Interview, from co-stars Franco and Rogen, when he is in front of the camera he just kills it. The series airs Tuesdays on ABC.  Tune in and prepare to laugh, as well as cringe a little. Well worth watching this show, despite what Eddie Huang thinks…Sorry Eddie.