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