When it first was announced this show was going to pilot, then to series, there was much uproar over the inappropriateness of the title. “Fresh off the boat” is a derogatory term used to describe immigrants, mostly from overseas (you’re not counted here, Mexico) and their adversity to American culture, having a thick accent, and pretty much just being an immigrant.
ABC held to its support of the show, a family sitcom focused on an immigrant couple and their assimilated sons, and ended up beating the nay-saying by having a truly great show.
Set in the early to mid-90s, the show focuses on Eddie Huang and his family moving from a tight-knit Chinatown community to the suburbs in Florida where they seem to be the only Asians, as well as there seemingly only being one black kid at school. They struggle through lower middle class issues (they even say it themselves) as well as cultural issues, and Eddie in his own way is a hip hop geek; a loser who nerds out about his favorite thing without giving a damn how silly he looks in jersey three sizes too large and pants sagging to the floor.
Eddie may be the main focus, but the real star is Constance Wu as Eddie’s atypically stereotypical mom. I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but Jessica, as many other humans can be, is an oxymoron.
One of the many arguments when the show started was the stereotypical tiger mom archetype she seemed to display in early episodes and promos. However, the show wasted no time in showing different sides to her character, showing her softer side making her love karaoke and really struggle to fit into her new community.
Her character is fierce and all about protecting and supporting her family.
And as you can see, she’s made for memeing.
Of course the dad has to be as good as the mom in an ensemble like this, and Louis Huang is a polar opposite to Jessica. if you want to be a stereotypist, you can say he is the yang to her yin.
Louis Huang, played by Randall Park who was also Kim Jong Un in The Interview, is a happy-go-lucky, passionately pro-American immigrant (so much so he decides to open and run a steakhouse). He is the nice and lenient parent, comparable to Hal in Malcolm in the Middle to where he ends up being very much like one of the kids.
The two youngest kids are basically the perfect prototypical little siblings hitting all the right marks comedically with their parts. Evan is the youngest who somehow became a neighborhood leader. And Emery is the one Louis and Jessica hoped would be a girl, so they changed the name from Emily; and he also happens to be the opposite of Eddie, being a level-headed ladies man who goes with the flow.
The biggest scene stealers of this show are the best cast of kid actors on TV (go back to casting school whoever cast Adam Goldberg). Each of them, shockingly for TV, acts like a real kid, go figure.
Eddie’s school friends are all fellow losers that anyone can really see themselves in some way or another. Trent is the chubby one that speaks his mind, Dave is the weird kid, Brian.. is, well, another weird kid, and Walter is the black kid, whom Eddie thinks he relates to more.
In the beginning they treated Eddie as much of a loner as others treated him, because of him being the foreign new kid, but he swiftly made his place in the crew. They all live in their own world where they think they’re the cool ones and humor the group’s dalliances in pop culture, including the 90’s obsession with Shaquille O’Neil and even his notoriously bad video game, Shaq Fu.
Some of the best fun of this show is pointing at how fast pop culture changes and what is considered cool can suddenly become uncool. Aside from that, this show really doesn’t shy away from race and class issues, instead snarling in their face.
Fresh off the Boat doesn’t try to whitewash the characters, they also don’t make them seem “so unusual” by pointing out how wacky and strange their culture is. Instead, they look at the differences and find how they can be relatable, connecting across all characters, including the kids.