Magazine article Variety

Funny 'Boat' Sails Warm Waters

Magazine article Variety

Funny 'Boat' Sails Warm Waters

Article excerpt

Funny 'Boat' Sails Warm Waters

ABC's diversity push in comedies this year has saved its best for midseason. Representing a leap forward from the 1990s Margaret Cho vehicle "All American Girl," "Fresh Off the Boat" combines the nostalgia of "The Wonder Years" and "The Goldbergs" with a specific take on the immigrant experience in general, and Asian-Americans in particular. Loosely based on chef Eddie Huang's memoir (he also provides the voiceover narration), the series straddles the line between warm and funny, and, despite some clunky moments in later episodes, feels like the kind of family comedy that should be compatible with ABC's existing anchors.

The 11-year-old Eddie (played wonderfully by Hudson Yang) is the American-born son of Taiwanese immigrants Louis (Randall Park, fresh off "The Interview") and Jessica (Constance Wu, in what feels like the show's breakout turn), who are relocating from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, where dad is pursuing his dream of running a Western-themed restaurant called Cattleman's Ranch.

Unfortunately, Eddie has trouble assimilating to his new surroundings (whereas his younger brothers almost instantly do); and despite dad's relentless positivity, mom has her own issues, from the humidity to the lack of an Asian market where she can shop to the other moms refusing to sample her stinky tofu.

As for the neighbors, even the friendly ones are condescending - one of the local moms tells Eddie, "Your English is very good!" after he says he was born in the U.S. - and the local kids can be cruel, inspiring Eddie to ask for a "white people lunch" after they mock his Chinese one.

Written by Nahnatchka Khan, the series mixes that kind of cultural specificity with universal themes, and in that sense is far more committed to its premise than, say, "Black-ish," where race regularly disappears as an issue. By contrast, one of the funniest bits in "Fresh Off the Boat" comes in a later episode when Eddie brings home a terrific report card, and his mother marches into the principal's office, complaining that his classes must be too easy. …

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