Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat

After skipping my review of Backstrom due to time constraints, I managed to squeeze in the first episode of Fresh Off the Boat this weekend as I was really excited to check it out. Like I’ve done with previous shows that aired multiple episodes on their first night, this is just a review of the first and I’ll add on anything I have to say about the second in my weekly TV Thoughts post.

When It Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 8:00 pm EST

Summary: Loosely based on Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat follows the Taiwanese Huang family as they move from Washington, DC to Orlando, FL after his father opens a steak restaurant.

My Impressions: I was really looking forward to this show. I am half-Japanese and always looking for more Asian-American representation on TV and this show seemed like an excellent opportunity for that. It’s not quite the show I was hoping to get but I think a large part of that is that I still don’t feel like it quite speaks to my experiences, which isn’t the show’s fault at all.

Much of the early praise for the show has centered around Constance Wu and Randall Park, who are quite good in their roles. Wu in particular has some excellent comedic timing and reactions and she brought me the most laughs in the pilot.

Unfortunately, a lot of the episode fell pretty flat for me. I wasn’t laughing a lot, nor was I particularly connecting to the characters. I think I laughed the most about Emory fitting in so easily and his mom’s confusion over it because it was truly not what I expected.

I was ready to decide that this just wasn’t going to be a show for me, no matter how much I wanted to support it. Then we got the ending which gave me so much more of what I was looking for and made me want to watch episode two at least. Eddie got in a fight after a classmate called him a “chink” and his mother defended him for it. On a content level, she was 100% right. That other child and his parents needed to be having a discussion with the principal because Eddie wasn’t the only one in the wrong in this situation. On a humorous level, Jessica and Louis deciding that they would sue since that’s the American Way cracked me up. Both Wu and Park were fantastic in the scene and have some great facial reactions. It was a scene that managed to still be funny while critiquing a serious subject and that’s when this show finally worked for me.

Eddie’s final voiceover about needing to embrace what makes you different and own those differences also stuck with me. It was the moment that resonated the most with my personal history but that’s because it was also the most universal. Regardless of what it is that sets you apart, it’s not easy being different from your peers especially when that difference is a very visible one. So the solution is to embrace what makes you different. Not only will it give you the most peace within yourself but that’s the only way to let people know that you’re confident in who you are, which in my experience, people are most drawn to.

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