Fresh Off the Boat: Michael Chang Fever proves that just when it seems that the Huang family comedy has peaked in terms of humor, this episode goes and knocks it out of the park. (Or more correctly, serves an ace with blazing comedic grace.) The episode opens with the Huang boys complaining about matching “Cool” backpacks and handing over the school’s career guidance letters.
Jessica (Constance Wu) informs her brood that it is her job to tell them what their jobs will be. In mid sentence she is amazed and excited to learn that Evan’s ideal job is surgeon general. Eddie reacts with derision.
Eddie: “Dang fool, even by Chinese standards you’re a nerd.”
Evan replies,”My backpack doesn’t agree with you.”
Mom is less thrilled at Emery’s ideal position; flight attendant. Jessica’s reaction is priceless:
“Flight attendants don’t even get a seat on the plane, they walk back and forth pushing a cart…They’re the homeless of the sky!”
Evan (Ian Chen) returns to the room back wearing a white coat and a toy stethoscope. He pokes Eddie and tells his big brother:
“Sir, your lab results are in. Your diagnosis–butt face.”
Eddie stares at the littlest Huang without expression.
This opening sets the comedic tone for the episode, where Lewis (Randall Park) rushes the family to the settee to watch Michael Chang play tennis in the Australian Open. As he explains how luck the family are to have a proper Asian athlete to follow, Eddie and Evan manage to make good their escape. Only Emery stays to watch.
Later, after Lewis explains how much money can be made from being tennis professional, Jessica ordains that Emery will learn the game to keep him from becoming a flight attendant. At the local club, Emery (Forrest Wheeler) proves to be a natural, he is so adept at the sport that even tennis legend Billie Jean King is impressed.
Emery is so good that Jessica puts him in Eddie’s room and forces the oldest Huang child to share with Evan. Eddie (Hudson Yang) learns that Evan is being bullied for Pogs and offers advice on how to “be a bear” and put the bully off.
As the middle son wins his way through the “Under 16” tennis tournament, Jessica and Lewis react with excitement until Emery fires them both and “hires” Ms. King to be his coach. Eddie learns that the bear trick does not work and he steps in to help out Evan.
It is revealed that Evan is not being bullied, he owes the Pogs to a girl (a fifth grader) who keeps beating him at the game. Big brother actually helps Evan to win and it is revealed that the youngest sibling has a “gambling problem.”
Grandma (Lucille Soong) Huang is enlisted by Eddie to help him beat the fifth grader, Emery wins the “Under 16” tournament, and realizes that as much as he likes the winning, he really would rather be a flight attendant.
Jessica plants a seed about becoming an astronaut instead. Evan and Eddie develop a great brotherly bond, although the eldest does rearrange the star stickers on the ceiling from Evan’s Equinox setting to spell out “Wu-Tang.”
Ian Chen, doing his Ken Jeong “Dr. Ken” impression talking smack. Priceless.
Emery and Billie Jean King doing the “winner’s perm stroll.”
Lewis and Jessica’s reactions each time that Emery wins a match.
Billie Jean King’s temper tantrum.
Constance Wu’s line “checkmated at tennis…”
Constance Wu totally rocking it this week, easily becoming a firm favorite as more of her character is revealed. Wu is brilliant at understated comedy and this episode proves it.
This was, perhaps, the best Fresh Off the Boat yet. The storyline, Billie Jean King (along with all those 90s tennis star references, Sampras, Becker, Agassi and of course Michael Chang) plus the pop culture reference to the 1998 video Wu-Tang; starring the band-members made this one especially brilliant.
Ian Chen just finished a “cross-over” role on Dr. Ken playing Dave Park’s decoy for the babysitter. Randall Park is due to play role on Jeong’s comedy series as well and “Dr. Ken” himself is also slated to appear on Fresh Off the Boat. Both these Asian comedies, with very different approaches to the genre, are funny and addictive.
Fresh Off the Boat, with its basis in fact (a re-telling of the real Eddie Huang’s childhood) is not filmed in front of a studio audience and is more of a cultural comedy than Dr. Ken but both shows work very well. In each show, the family’s children; Molly and Dave Park and the three Huang boys, have young actors who kill it every week in terms of performance.
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and discover a great comedy that just keeps getting better and better.