The success of Fresh Off The Boat is personal.
I’m not Asian American, but I have two primary points of investment:
1) My husband predicted that the show would be terrible and never be renewed, and I love it when he’s wrong (he’s capitulated on the first statement).
2) It represents people I love. There will probably never be a sitcom about a family that looks like mine. Mixed families are very specific, and television has only ever bothered to showcase an Asian American family twice in as many decades. Maybe my future children can watch sitcoms like The McCarthys and Fresh Off The Boat and see part of themselves represented in each. (Big Hero 6 is going to popular in this house).
I love Fresh Off The Boat, not only because I think the adults are hilarious, the children are adorable, and the stories are entertaining, but also because I love watching my husband relate to a family in an American sitcom for the first time in his life. The sound of my husband’s laughter is the best sound in the world to me. It’s worth ten seasons of any show.
In the season finale, Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) becomes worried that her family is losing touch with their heritage as they become increasingly seduced by country clubs, American television, and mac ‘n cheese (no judgement there, Jessica). In the last few episodes, there’s been a sense that everything has come full circle, with a reference to 1994’s All American Girl in the penultimate episode and The Real Eddie Huang bookending the season with a scathing critique of the show:
Mr. Huang appeared to be reacting to an episode in which a teacher misinterprets a situation and reports Eddie’s parents for potential child abuse. Incidentally, something eerily similar happened to my family involving Florida HFS and the misplaced concern of a teacher. Mr. Huang’s frustration is understandable – it’s not funny when social services wants to interview your parents; it’s terrifying.
But I disagree with his critique of the sitcom genre as a whole. Mr. Huang seems to feel that the sitcom is auto-assimilating all of us into highly-processed white-flour Wonder Bread. I maintain that the sitcom has a unique and subversive power – the ability to actually redefine the concept of American normality itself.
That’s a great thing, a powerful thing, and it’s accomplished by getting images of different kinds of American families onto the TV sets of all Americans. And that’s exactly what Fresh Off The Boat is doing. According to Nielsen Research, nearly 60% of Fresh viewers are non-hispanic whites, nearly 15% are black, and 11% are hispanic. The remaining 15% of viewers who are actually Asian American see some of their experiences reflected onscreen, and the rest of us are exposed to an American experience we may not have considered before.
I continue to be amazed by how wonderfully engaged this community is. The way Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, Jenny Yang, and so many others drummed up support for the show week after week is encouraging and inspiring. If nothing else, I can point my children to the amazing Asian American writers, actors, bloggers, and activists who worked so hard to help create a world in which they could envision themselves. Here’s to hoping they’ll get to grow up watching more shows like Fresh Off The Boat.
Tweet @ABCNetwork and tell them to #RenewFOTB