‘Fresh Off the Boat’ offers audience more than cliches and stereotypes


Courtesy Photo

Randall Park and Constance Wu play Louis and Jessica Huang, fictionalized versions of the parents of celebrity chef Eddie Huang on ABC’s new comedy offering. “Fresh Off the Boat” is the first series starring an Asian-American family since 1994.

The newest sitcom to come from ABC, “Fresh Off the Boat,” is a welcome addition to the network’s Tuesday night roster. While the show doesn’t compete well with the network’s stronger comedies like “Modern Family,” its charm does more than enough to compensate.

The show is inspired by celebrity chef and television personality Eddie Huang.  Huang narrates as the story follows his younger self and his Taiwanese family, as they struggle to adjust to a move from Washington, D.C to Orlando, Florida during the mid 1990s.

It’s not the most original of premises, but that seems to work in the show’s favor.

The jokes are smart with just enough wit to keep them from being crude.  Contrary to the show’s title, “Fresh Off the Boat” is not a series of racist limericks and terrible banter.

It offers a lot in the same ways of its predecessors, like the recent hit show “Black-ish” as well as old classics like “The Wonder Years.”

At its core, the show follows that ever-growing trend that teaches its audience a lesson about life and human nature in every episode, or at least in the ones aired so far.

“Fresh Off the Boat” is the very first television series starring an Asian-American family since Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl,” which lived a short life back in 1994.  Keeping that in mind, the show has a lot of pressure on it to succeed and at the same time it has nowhere to go but up, but at the moment it is struggling to find its niche.

While the casting is solid and the show focuses on the family as a whole struggling to fit into a new home, not all of the family are spotlighted equally. In fact, not even half the cast offers anything more than a few chuckles an episode.

Jessica Huang, played by Constance Wu, is front and center in the show’s honest interpretation of Asian-American culture, and boy does she bring it to the table.  Her character is dynamic and colorful in ways that bring out the intended essence of the show.

Wu’s performance is complemented wonderfully by Randall Park, who plays Louis Huang the struggling restaurant owner of a father.  Park’s character is the goofy optimist who is completely sold on the American Dream, and spends most of his on screen time playing off of Wu’s surreal depiction of a Taiwanese wife.

Unfortunately the show’s backburner focus seems to be the misadventures of young Eddie Huang played by Hudson Yang.  The other characters on the show are subtle novelties at best.

Hopefully, as the story progresses, we will see more intriguing storylines for the rest of the cast, at least enough to make their names memorable.

“Fresh Off the Boat” does a lot of things right, but it has a lot to work on as well.

As far as comedies go there are certainly better choices out there, but if you’re looking for a new guilty pleasure to fill your time, tune in to ABC Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. or check out the episodes on Hulu Plus.