ABC has released a new, relatable comedy with Fresh Off the Boat, a sitcom based on the memoir of the same name by Eddie Huang. Think a dash of Modern Family, a hint of black-ish, and a pinch of The Goldbergs.
Set in the mid-1990’s, Fresh follows the Huang family as they make the big move from Washington D.C. to Orlando to follow dad Louis’ (Randall Park) dream of opening a steakhouse restaurant named Cattleman’s Ranch. The restaurant is frequently mistaken for a Golden Saddle, and the lack of business immediately causes strain between Louis and his wife, Jessica, played by Constance Wu (more on her later). The show is told through the eyes of eldest son Eddie, a rap-obsessed pre-teen who has trouble adjusting. His younger brothers have almost no issue acclimating.
One of the main reasons why Fresh is so easy to warm up to is because Eddie views himself as an outsider. It doesn’t matter what nationality or race you are—everyone loves an underdog. Eddie and Jessica are very aware of all the white people around them, and their reactions to these extreme characters are very funny. Jessica attempts to hang out with the clan of rollerblading neighborhood queen bees, but Jessica doesn’t warm up to it. Louis, on the other hand, is very positive, and hires a white host (“We need a nice, happy white face like Bill Pullman’s”) to lure people into Cattleman’s.
The first two episodes that premiered on Wednesday night had two different dynamics. The first mainly dealt with the Huangs adjusting to their new live in Orlando and the second focused heavily on the connections within the family. The second was more successful, because it didn’t seem as concerned with introducing the family. It should be said that the pilot features some great lines, mainly by Wu.
The wives of ABC’s family sitcoms are the best characters. Julie Bowen’s Claire is a frantic mess in the Dunphy household, and Tracee Ellis Ross’ Bow always keeps her husband in line while connecting with her kid. Constance Wu is Fresh Off the Boat’s stand-out performer. Her delivery is dry and sometimes crazy, but Jessica obviously wants her family to be happy. Her concern over her son’s grades in the second episode is a great reflection of this fine line. When her son tells her that she only cares about money, Wu replies, “Do me a favor. Go find a homeless man and ask him if money matters. Let me know what he says.”
It will be interesting on seeing where Fresh goes from here. Will it mainly examine how an Asian family tries to achieve the American Dream, or will it primarily display how every family is a little bit nuts? All I ask from creator Nahnatchka Khan is to give us more Wu. This is an actress who can land a joke and be a fierce driving force of a short episode of comedy. It would be great to see Jessica interact with Louis, or I’m sure everyone would appreciate seeing Jessica taking down the hive of queen bees. Get on it, ABC.