Fresh Off The Boat, recently picked up by ABC for its 2014-15 primetime lineup, is the first Asian American-focused sitcom in 20 years.
Based on the memoir of chef and restaurateur Eddie Huang, the half-hour, single-camera comedy set in the 1990’s focuses on a 12-year-old Eddie and his Taiwanese Family who experience culture shock when they move from Washington D.C. to predominantly Caucasian Orlando, Florida.
The show stars Randall Park (who plays Danny Chung in Veep), Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, and Ian Chen.
Asian Americans are probably the least represented minority group on television, even with an estimated of 18.9 million people of Asian descent living in the U.S.All-American Girl, starring Margaret Cho, which was canceled by ABC after one season because of low ratings.
A few shows, like Elementary (which stars Lucy Liu) and The Mindy Project (which stars Mindy Kaling) feature Asian protagonists, but they’re typically the single Asian American character in an otherwise white context. Asian Americans in other shows like 2 Broke Girls (which stars Han Bryce Lee) and Grey’s Anatomy (which stars Cristina Yang) are few and often sidelined or are heavily stereotyped.
Shows that are recognized and celebrated for their diversity like Orange is the New Black or Brooklyn Nine-Nine do not have any consistent Asian cast members. Even Modern Family’s Lily and Trophy Wife’s Bert who are the two highest-profile Asian children on television right now are characters adopted by white families. Hawaii Five-O, a show championed for having two main Asian cast members, is an anomaly in American crime TV series. Similar shows like NCIS, Castle, Law and Order, and CSI do not have any major Asian cast members.
The Twitter sphere erupted with heated conversations after ABC unveiled the official trailer for Fresh Off the Boat this past week.
So far, the series has been met with both criticism and support. The biggest criticism is that titling a mainstream sitcom Fresh Off The Boat is inconsiderate of the origins and the oppression associated with the term “F.O.B.” and might normalize the term in the American mainstream.
Eddie Huang, whose voice you can hear in the narration of the trailer, creator of the memoir of the same name and co-producer of the show responded to the Twitter backlash.
“There are people in every race who try to speak for everybody and try to legislate what you can think and what you can’t think, with no understanding of what it means to interpret an experience,” Huang told Buzzfeed. “It’s ‘fresh off the boat.’ That’s a term that Asians call each other and we claim it and it’s worn with pride.”
“It’s really sizzling. It’s a very, very, very distinctive voice,” said Paul Lee, the president of ABC network’s entertainment group. “I do think it’s the right thing to do.”
Fresh Of The Boat has found support on Facebook. Popular Youtube channel Wong Fu Productions praised the show in a recent Facebook post that has over 6,000 likes and 1,000 shares saying, “This is major and it’s so important for us to support this show. It actually looks good too, so let’s all get behind something really positive for our community in mainstream media.”
“It seems like a funny and entertaining way to demonstrate aspects of Asian American culture,” said Diana Zhou, past president of Chinese Student Association at the University of Washington. “I definitely can relate and I’m excited for it to premiere.”