‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and Onto a New Frontier for Asian Americans

ABC‘s newest comedy has an Asian cast and to my relief, it’s actually funny.
Helmed by restauranteur and personality, Eddie Huang, Fresh Off the Boat is a TV series based on his memoir of the same title. The show follows Eddie, an 11-year-old with a massive penchant for hip hop culture, as he and his family adjust to culture shock after their big move from Washington D.C.’s Chinatown to Orlando, Florida.

The show uses Everybody Hates Chris style humor to expose heavier topics that have been thus far been ignored by both mainstream American and Asian programming. I know because I spent the better part of the last year trying to convince an Asian TV network based in LA that Asian Americans from my generation want to see themselves speaking English on television. And according to last night’s viewers, I am right.

ABC is now home to the season’s top two new comedy debuts in the 18-49 age demographic, with Fresh Off the Boat behind Black-ish. After promoting the series premiere for February 10th, the network decided to air a two-episode special, strangely placing the series pilot at 8:30pm, and a second episode at 9:30pm (during FOX’s new goliath, Empire). Fresh Off the Boat brought in a cool 7.9 million viewers overall, a rating that tied the series high in that timeslot for ABC (which is usually filled by the Goldbergs).

What makes this debut even more awesome is that comedian, Margaret Cho’s TV series, All-American Girl (also on ABC), was celebrated as the last show prominently featuring an East Asian family- that was in 1994 and it was cancelled.

There is definitely room for improvement, but Fresh Off The Boat is forging the way in an uncharted space in American culture. It also proves that this generation of Americans, Asian or not, can relate to the fresh messages even if they aren’t Chinese. Looking forward to the rest of the season!

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