A lot of the early buzz about “Fresh Off the Boat” focused on the show’s status as the first family sitcom featuring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl” in 1995. The two decade gap put a lot of pressure on the show before it even aired. Would it fail like Cho’s show? Would it reinforce or undermine stereotypes? Would it be funny?


Loosely based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memoir, the show is about eleven year-old Eddie (Hudson Yang) who moves with his family from the familiar comforts of Chinatown in Washington D.C. to suburban Orlando, Florida. The setting is 1995 and his dad Louis (Randall Park) has uprooted Eddie, his two brothers Emery (Forest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen), wife Jessica (Constance Wu) and mother (Lucille Soong) to pursue his dream of running his own business in the form of a western themed steakhouse called Cattleman’s Ranch.


The show is funny and well-acted. The kid actors aren’t cloying in their cuteness while the adults excel in creating a realistic and caring relationship between two people who don’t always see the world in the same way. Park is likeable as a man with big American dreams for his family. Jessica is a tiger mom who reigns over Eddie and her children but Wu is a standout performer who keeps Jessica in tiger mom light territory. In one scene, she chases after a customer who dines and dashes. She wants him to pay for his meal but her choice is also about keeping alive Louis’ belief in people’s basic goodness.


Where the show really succeeds, is in its depiction of foreignness because it’s not so much about the “other” as it is about Eddie and his family holding a mirror up to their new community. There are a few jokes that play on the idea of the outsider—Eddie is rejected by the white kids at his school when he pulls out Chinese food for lunch—but there are more set-ups that position the family as insiders looking out. For example, Louis hires a white guy named Mitch as steakhouse manager because he’s white. Mitch then has to “sell” his whiteness in a commercial for the restaurant where he pretends to be a cowboy.


The series also works to undermine stereotypes. Eddie is called a “chink” at school and the reaction of the other children establish how offensive this racial slur is. Louis and Jessica defend Eddie whose response gets him sent to the principal. This act of defending their son upsets any stereotypes about Asian people being submissive in the face of authority. It’s particularly interesting since earlier in the episode Jessica tells Eddie not to make waves at school.


With smart narrative choices and jokes that hit the mark, “Fresh Off the Boat” is one of the best new sitcoms this season.


“Fresh Off the Boat” is on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC.


A lot of the early buzz about “Fresh Off the Boat” focused on the show’s status as the first family sitcom featuring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl” in 1995. The two decade gap put a lot of pressure on the show before it even aired. Would it fail like Cho’s show? Would it reinforce or undermine stereotypes? Would it be funny?

Loosely based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memoir, the show is about eleven year-old Eddie (Hudson Yang) who moves with his family from the familiar comforts of Chinatown in Washington D.C. to suburban Orlando, Florida. The setting is 1995 and his dad Louis (Randall Park) has uprooted Eddie, his two brothers Emery (Forest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen), wife Jessica (Constance Wu) and mother (Lucille Soong) to pursue his dream of running his own business in the form of a western themed steakhouse called Cattleman’s Ranch.

The show is funny and well-acted. The kid actors aren’t cloying in their cuteness while the adults excel in creating a realistic and caring relationship between two people who don’t always see the world in the same way. Park is likeable as a man with big American dreams for his family. Jessica is a tiger mom who reigns over Eddie and her children but Wu is a standout performer who keeps Jessica in tiger mom light territory. In one scene, she chases after a customer who dines and dashes. She wants him to pay for his meal but her choice is also about keeping alive Louis’ belief in people’s basic goodness.

Where the show really succeeds, is in its depiction of foreignness because it’s not so much about the “other” as it is about Eddie and his family holding a mirror up to their new community. There are a few jokes that play on the idea of the outsider—Eddie is rejected by the white kids at his school when he pulls out Chinese food for lunch—but there are more set-ups that position the family as insiders looking out. For example, Louis hires a white guy named Mitch as steakhouse manager because he’s white. Mitch then has to “sell” his whiteness in a commercial for the restaurant where he pretends to be a cowboy.

The series also works to undermine stereotypes. Eddie is called a “chink” at school and the reaction of the other children establish how offensive this racial slur is. Louis and Jessica defend Eddie whose response gets him sent to the principal. This act of defending their son upsets any stereotypes about Asian people being submissive in the face of authority. It’s particularly interesting since earlier in the episode Jessica tells Eddie not to make waves at school.

With smart narrative choices and jokes that hit the mark, “Fresh Off the Boat” is one of the best new sitcoms this season.

“Fresh Off the Boat” is on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC.