Loosely based on the autobiography of chef Eddie Huang, Fresh Off The Boat is a freshest attempt to bring an Asian family to television. This comedy uses the overused style of remembrances of a past decade with a disembodied voice of the adult version of one of the characters. Fresh Off The Boat follows the adventures of Eddie and his family as they move from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida.
Young Eddie (Hudson Yang), his brothers Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen), attempt with some success but mostly failure to acclimate into the Southern Caucasian Culture of Florida. At the same time, Eddie’s parents, Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu) struggle to operate a steakhouse in downtown Orlando. Opening a steakhouse might seem to push the boundaries of reality and comedy, except for the fact that Eddie’s parents tried to do that in real life.
Fresh off the boat succeeds in many ways that other “ethnic” show have failed. First, it’s funny. Created by Nahnatchka Khan (Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23), the show is a character-based comedy. Unlike ABC’s “Christela,” the dialog of the show is not based on a steady stream of set-ups and punchlines. Every character in Fresh Off The Boat is an individual character with individual personalities, quirks, and personality traits.
There is no character more unique than the main character Eddie, played endearingly by Hudson Yang. He plays the smart-mouth, oft-misunderstood lead, who manages to embody the struggles of the real Eddie Huang’s heroes Notorious B.I.G. and Shug Knight.
Second, the show is now about being “Asian.” Fresh Off The Boat does not attempt to teach its audience what it’s like being Asian in America, and the struggles Asians have faced standing up to the man. Like ABC’s “Christela,” this is a family that happens to be Asian, and ethnicity serves as an accent to the storytelling and comedy.
Finally, Fresh Off The Boat places its characters in situations that are relatable to a broad audience. It’s not a show for Asians; it’s a show for everyone. The Hwang family is a fish-out-of-water family wanted to fit in with their neighbors and surroundings. It’s a story of a family wanting to succeed in the midst of diversity as they struggle to find customers for their restaurant. It’s also a family that knows it has to band together to survive.
Episode 1 – “Pilot,” the Hwang family moves from Washington DC to Orlando to fulfill the Louis’ dream of owning a successful restaurant. On the way down, Louis confesses to Jessica that the restaurant is not doing well and hid the fact so that Jessica would not have a reason for not moving away from her family. Louis realizes that he needs to create a warmer reception for guests and hires a white host in Mitch (Paul Scheer). Eddie, on the other hand, connects with the white kids at school thanks to his idolization of Notorious B.I.G. but is immediately shunned by the lo-mein his mother packed for lunch.
Episode 2 – “Home Sweet Home-School,” Eddie’s first report card at his new school brings the great news of straight A’s. Rather than rejoice, Jessica realizes that school is too easy. Speaking of easy, Jessica sees Louis as being too easy on his employees, Mitch (Paul Scheer) and Nancy (Jillian Armenante). Jessica feels Louis’ “killing-them-with-kindness” attitude is financially destroying the restaurant. Louis tricks Jessica into providing the boys a home-after-school education, freeing him up to run the restaurant his way.