Starting the new semester with the recent season of the American sitcom‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is certainly a daft move. Once you have clicked the ‘play’ button on your laptop’s trackpad, you can never go back. It is a highly addictive show, presenting the life of a traditional Taiwanese family who had just moved from the Chinatown in Washington D.C. to Orlando, for the sake of the father’s noble and unrealistic American dream.
1. It is produced by Nahnatchka Khan
‘American Dad!’, ‘Malcolm in the Middle’, and ‘Don’t trust the b—- in apartment 23’ were all produced by the able hands of Khan. They are light-hearted sitcoms with hilarious punchlines (sometimes with a few crumbs of dark humor) and plot twists. Her shows are without a doubt the perfect batteries to refuel your energy after a long day of studying. After having her previous (underrated) show canceled on ABC 2 years ago, Khan is making a bold comeback with this refreshing Asian family sitcom.
(Front; from left: Emery, Evan, Eddie, Jessica; Back: Louis)
2. The show is set in the 90s
The Air Jordan frenzy, a CD Walkman, the Stephen King novels hysteria, pager, the loud dial-up internet noise… the prime trends of the 90s. Let us all admit that we were once obsessed with owning a tamagotchi or a Nintendo gameboy as the 90s kids we all are. If you already feel a rush of nostalgic warmth in yours guts, then you know you are a true 90s kid at heart; which is another reason why you definitely should not miss this sitcom. You will be brought back to 1995 by Eddie Huang, the narrator of the show, and witness all these 90s nostalgias again, including 90s fashion (when men would wear their shirts tucked in).
(Jessica was using a vintage brick cellular phone in one of the scenes.)
3. Hats off to their meticulous acting!
There are no better options than having comedians taking part in a TV comedy. Randall Park, best known for his role as Kim Jong-Un in the movie “The Interview”, plays a white washed father in the family. He portrays the one-dimensional, notorious leader of a monarchy state as a humane person with layers of emotions in the movie. Likewise, he applies the similar acting approach into this show and totally pulls off the role of an Asian father, who can do more than telling terrible dad jokes.
Like father, like son. The three children actors are beyond reciting dialogues and performing scripted actions. They have put their personalities into the characters which makes their acting so genuine, like a real family. I particularly appreciate Hudson Yang’s acting. He plays an outsider both at home and at school. He fails to be an ideal Asian son and an amicable student. Yet he is not a whiny and grungy kid that radiates excessive negativity. He can play the role of an independent, rebellious son with an appropriate dose of angst. He is exactly the type of kid who will make cans of lemonade and sell them, if life throws lemons at him.
4. Another hats off to the intricate settings and props!
The producer pays extra attention to the details in this show and makes it authentically Chinese. Khan does not just use plain bowls and chopsticks. She uses the Chinese Longevity porcelain plates and bowls, plus those wooden chopsticks in most of the dining scenes. This cutlery can only be found in China. I have also noticed some red banners hanging in the house, which is also a feature in a traditional Chinese household. These are great representations of our entrenched superstitions and I am glad that the producer is including these details in the show because these are what make Chinese culture.
(These are exactly the kinds of bowls that you would find in a Chinese household.)
5. It redefines cultural identity
This show attempts to address that cultural identity is not static. Just like how Eddie is immensely influenced by hip hop music and African-American culture, judging by his dialectal language and sense of fashion, he does not reject his own cultural heritage as a Taiwanese. It is suggesting one’s nationality does not confine to cultural identity. Collective ideas and behaviours are the fabrics of culture. There is a quote that speaks to the heart of the point from the show: “An Asian kid and a black kid bonding over music by white Jewish rappers?” Why not?
‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is not just your average soap opera that you would leave on just for the sake of background noise. This sitcom explores racial stereotypes, unveils cultural differences and recognizes the status of the underrepresented groups in society all through the life of a quirky Asian-American family.