Fresh Off The Boat follows Eddie Huang’s family as they move from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida in the mid nineties and the culture shock they experience as an Asian American family. Eddie’s father, Louis (Randall Park), runs the Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse, a fledgling business that he desperately needs to gain traction. Meanwhile, Eddie’s mother, Jessica (Constance Wu), must navigate her acclimation to suburban life. Along for the ride are Eddie’s brothers, Evan and Emery, and their grandmother, filling out the typical sitcom family dynamics.
All of the action on Fresh Off The Boat is experienced through the eyes and voiceover narration of Eddie Huang, played by the vibrant Hudson Yang. Eddie is steeped in hip hop culture, often sporting Nas or Wu Tang Clan shirts and peppering conversations with slang and swagger. This further complicates the already shaky ground in which he finds himself at school as the lone Asian American. However, Eddie’s love of hip hop does invite some great bits, such as his plan to gain popularity by finding a girlfriend.
Despite having strong performances, my issue with Fresh Off The Boat is in the execution. While I’m unfamiliar with the particulars of Mr. Huang’s memoir, I expected the show to have more teeth than what I found in the first three episodes, especially a show from Nahnatchka Khan (Don’t Trust The B**** In Apt. 23). Instead, what Fresh Off The Boat does is immerse this Asian American family in what amounts to typical sitcom story fodder which we’ve seen countless times before, almost as if the show is trying to force Mr. Huang’s story into a flavorless box. The format is something fans of Everybody Loves Chris will instantly recognize. There are some genuinely funny moments in these first three half hour installments, however many of the jokes hinge on stereotypes rather than strike out for new ground. For a show that takes a race angle on the “fish out of water” spine, Fresh Off The Boat only overtly addresses race in the pilot, when Eddie is called a racial slur by an African American student.
The best thing about Fresh Off The Boat are the relationships of the Huang family. There’s a lot of sweetness on screen, which is a welcome change from the snark overdoses. Much to everyone’s shock, Eddie’s younger brothers thrive in Orlando after only one day, while Eddie and his mother seem to share much of the same reservations.
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