Wednesday night marked the premiere of the first Asian sitcom on-air in 20 years! “Fresh Off The Boat” is based on author Eddie Huang’s memoir as the only Asians in a small Florida town.
There’s no one to embarrass you like your mother, but when you add more obstacles, i.e. Stinky (but delicious!) lunches and hours of extra learning because straight A’s mean the school is not challenging the children enough, you wind up with comic gold.
Eddie is portrayed by Hudson Yang, a New Yorker with natural charisma. He’s 12. His father, Jeff Yang, noted Asian journalist and all-around good guy, put together this viewing party to bring together not only Asians, but all minorities to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Fortunately the one and only Eddie Huang showed up to share the moment. He let us know this show, in the future should be one of many and the importance of the show is to “create a pipeline for Asian talent.” Last year I had a literary manager who told me that I should change my main character’s race from Eurasian to Caucasian for potential future casting because I “don’t want to limit access to great talent.” We were destined to have a short-lived relationship.
Although the U.S. census throws Eurasians into the two races of more category, (the 2010 guesstimate of 1.6 million Eurasians in this country), we still claim some recognizable names like Keanu Reeves. The Asian population was 7 million when Margaret Cho’s “American Girl” sitcom aired two decades (!) ago and bombed. Now it is 18 million and by 2025 it is estimated to grow to 40 million. That’s a lot of buying power. No longer will I have to listen to a friend who told me “don’t worry about the Asians, they just buy what white people buy” when conducting a focus group.
When I tweeted about my happiness for Eddie and also, Kevin Kwan’s success hello “Crazy Rich Asians,” helping to pave the way for Asian voices & the note about my former manager, a writer friend responded ‘be so good they can’t ignore you.’ Maybe I’m just not good enough. I am being included in an anthology that is specifically going to be multi-culture erotica. Should my characters have to be put in the special section just because of their race? I hope the stories are relatable and enticing to everyone.
But back to “Fresh Off The Boat,” which I had concerns about, because when you make fun of your own race, you know there are people who see it as an invitation to make proclamations like “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about chopsticks, and I love all that….” Honey, I’m sure you learned your lesson now, but even if you have an “Asian pass,” which you do not, especially in a professional capacity, don’t go there. It’s not your culture. Ask a question with intelligence instead of trying to align yourself incorrectly with another culture. I worked with someone who thought the way to ingrate herself with ex-US markets was to put down Americans while shoveling McDonald’s fries into her mouth. No, honey, just no.
Overall my favorite “Fresh Off The Boat” moment was when Eddie gets called a “chink” and his parents are called in because, of course, he then throws some punches at the offending party. They wanted to know why their kid was called that disgusting name, but it was done in an extremely classy way that shocked the principal who wanted to condemn their son.
The ratings showed people tuned in, giving FOTB the 2nd highest comedy debut of the season, second only to ABC’s delightful “blackish”- if you haven’t seen that show, you should. It’s exciting to see ABC putting on such diverse shows that showcase different cultures and how modern families function in different parts of the country!
Tune in to “Fresh Off The Boat” tonight on ABC.