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February 10, 2015

Review: Fresh Off The Boat 1x1-1x2 (US: ABC)

Posted on February 10, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Fresh Off The Boat

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC

Here’s a quick, fun little TV trivia question: when was the last time there was a sitcom about an Asian American family on TV? Or even an Asian-American*?

Have a guess. Go on.

Give in? It was in 1994 and it was Margaret Cho’s All American Girl.

There you go. Now you’ll ace it in the next pub quiz.

So that was 20 years ago. That must have been one hell of a toxic sitcom to have put US TV off Asians for 20 years. Or maybe it was something else that was responsible… However, it looks like the time is ripe for another stab at the genre.

As I may have noted once or twice, this season, ABC has been trying to up the diversity in its shows to appeal to underserved segments of the US population. So far, we’ve had black-ish, How To Get Away With Murder and Cristela, to name but a few. Coupled with that, we have the continuing efforts by all networks to have period dramas set in more or less every year since TV started. Given Fox got up to 1991 with Surviving Jack last year, it’s clear this season needed to advance things a few years to 1995, as can be seen from Hindsight.

Based on the book of the same name by celebrity chef Eddie Wong, Fresh Off The Boat - which involves no boats at all but sees an Asian-American family driving from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida to open a Wild West restaurant and trying to integrate into their new community - is both diverse and set in 1995. Which is possibly the main reason it’s being made.

And initially those are the nicest things that can be said about it, too. You could certainly, for the first episode at least, have also called it offensive, cliched, predictable, insulting, borderline if not actually racist, a Wonder Years knock-off and a whole lot else. But none of those things is especially nice.

So… diverse. And set in 1995. But that was about it.

And had I followed my gut instinct, I’d have dropped it like a hot potato straight after that. However, I noted that the showrunner/creator was Nahnatchka Khan, who also created Don’t Trust The B----. This was a bit of a mess at first, but over time, became a whole lot better and eventually one of the funniest things on TV.

So I thought I’d stick with it for another episode. And while I can’t report that the second episode was an hysterical riot, it did at least make me laugh a few times. Which is more than the first episode did. Here’s a trailer - you may wish to report it to the Race Relations Board, though:

* No Selfie does not count

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February 9, 2015

Review: Allegiance 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on February 9, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

Sometimes it can seem like all the Big Four US networks do these days is watch cable TV and then develop their own poorer, tamer versions a few years later. Certainly, if you watch Allegiance, you’d be tempted to think that all NBC had done for its latest spy thriller is to watch FX’s rather wonderful The Americans and come up with a weaker, stupider version set in the present day.

Allegiance sees a young talented CIA analyst (Gavin Stenhouse) tasked with helping track down some top secret Russia intel that a defector is trying to give to the US. The only problem? Unbeknownst to him, his Russian mother (Hope Davis) is really a KGB/SVR spy who recruited her American husband (Scott Cohen) and elder daughter (Margarita Levieva) to the cause. And they’re all named in that intel. Will they be able to stop him finding out their secret or will they be forced to recruit him to the cause, too?

If that sounds familiar, it’s perhaps because that’s pretty similar to the plot of The Americans, particularly its latest season. Typical, hey? Why can’t network TV be original like cable TV is, hey?

Except this is a shining example of how cable isn’t necessarily an original source in itself. Because just as Showtime went to Israel’s Prisoners of War to give us Homeland, so Allegiance is actually an adaptation of Israel’s The Gordin Cell.

One thing’s constant though: cable’s smarter than network because Allegiance is almost offensively stupid. Here’s a trailer.

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January 30, 2015

Review: Fortitude 1x1-1x3 (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Pivot TV)

Posted on January 30, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share


In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Sky Atlantic
In the US: Thursdays, 10e/p, Pivot TV

I remember watching the first episode of Twin Peaks very well. It was my first year at university and I was sat in the TV room. The hype for the show had been huge, and the room was full as a result. We sat waiting in expectation through the previous programme for the moment when David Lynch’s very first TV series would begin.

And for about 30 minutes, we sat there wondering what the hell all the fuss was about. This was boring. This was dull. David Lynch made this? David Lynch?

But then, through a simple straight cut scene change, we were catapulted into the Twin Peaks everyone would come to grow and love. Because we were suddenly in the car with Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI and finally we understood what the fuss was about.

Fortitude doesn’t quite have that moment but it has something almost approaching it. For pretty much two episodes, you sit with baited breath, watching the beautiful Icelandic filming and the famous cast as they enact a lifeless and - punningly enough - glacial script. Set in a small town on a Norwegian island in the Arctic circle where the inhabitants are outnumbered by polar bears and no one’s allowed to die, even the murder of one of the inhabitants isn’t enough to get things going in the frozen wastes of the prestige filming.

But then, in the last act of the second episode, Stanley Tucci arrives to save the day. The Agent Cooper of the piece, almost single-handedly he makes this a must-watch show… and he even brings the Twin Peaks with him. Here’s a trailer.

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Fresh Off The Boat

Do NOT watch the first episode. Just don't