[UPDATE 1/14/15: Fresh Off the Boat premieres on ABC Tuesday, February 10 8/7 Central]
I don’t know about you, but network sitcoms could use a little freshening up. And a little diversification, too. That’s where “Fresh Off the Boat” comes in. It’s a pilot about a family that has just immigrated from Taiwan to suburban Florida that ABC is considering for its fall lineup.
“Fresh Off the Boat” is based on chef/celebrity/BaoHaus restaurant owner Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name. I never got around to writing a review of the book, but I gulped down the memoir in a few sittings when it was released last year. “Fresh Off the Boat” is not like my life story, nor like most people’s perceptions of Asian model minorities. But it is Eddie’s story, and I’m sure one that many other people — Asian or not — can relate to and get a kick out of.
While I’m sure the book will just be a launching point for the TV show, I think if anyone can sell modern Asian American family life to the viewing public, it’s Eddie Huang (who by the way, is no relation. Unless the show makes it big, in which case I’m sure we’re totally related and he should share the bounty.) Huang is already a master of cross-cultural promotion, mixing hip-hop lifestyle with Taiwanese street food. His New York eatery popularized the gua bao – also known as a Taiwanese hamburger — without dumbing down its unique flavors. In fact, Huang is a big proponent of Taiwanese-ness, bringing it to a non-Asian audience, with vehicles such as his island travelogues on VICE.
While I’d don’t recommend VICE as family viewing (there are a lot of f-bombs and generally dude-like behavior), I’ll admit to watching an episode with my boys in advance of our trip to Taiwan last year. I was so excited to see a program about Taiwan hosted by an Asian American guy. But I think a show like “Fresh Off the Boat” could totally fill the void of Asian faces — and more importantly, authentic Asian American stories — on prime time. Sure there’s the “Mindy Show”, or side-characters such as Mike Chang on “Glee” or Dr. Christina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy”, but those aren’t really programs parents can watch with their school-age kids. And don’t even get me started with all the nerdy sidekicks on the tween comedies…
“Fresh Off the Boat” features a regular family with little kids. This is an ABC network sitcom, we’re talking about.
In fact, does this kid look familiar?
This is Hudson Yang, son of Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang. Hudson plays Little Eddie on the show, and judging by this photo, he’s got quite a personality.
So I really, really hope the folks at the ABC Network add “Fresh Off the Boat” to their lineup. I know I’ll be tuning in.
For a review of the Fresh Off the Boat book, read Terry Hong’s review over at Smithsonian Book Dragon.