Fresh off the Boat is a comedy series based off a memoir by Eddie Huang. The book was adapted into a television series, and is the first American television show to star an Asian-American family as the main focus of the show since All American Girl, a television series by Margaret Cho that aired in 1994. The show’s comedic delivery has been compared to Everybody Hates Chris.
The show follows the story of Eddie Huang and his family as they make their way from Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida. They want to open a steak restaurant during the late 1990s, with the show taking place sometime 1995 and 1997. Focusing on how the characters interact with the new surroundings and sharp change in culture, Fresh off the Boat demonstrates the struggles immigrating families must endure when coming into a new country.
The show has received very positive reviews since its initial release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show received an 88% approval rating. The consensus was that, “once the clichéd gags of Fresh off the Boat are superseded by a grounded truthfulness, the series evolves into a humorously charming family sitcom.” On Metacritic, the show received generally favorable reviews, with an overall score of 75 out of 100.
Following in line with shows like Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat offers a different perspective on modern television. Despite making up nearly 6% of America’s overall population, Asian Americans aren’t represented nearly enough in modern day television, lucky to make even a minor cameo appearance. However, with the coming of Fresh off the Boat, and surely other shows to follow, that discrepancy between reality and fantasy is being bridged.
By depicting families as they have to deal with racial struggles, Fresh off the Boat and shows like it are working to represent all of the racial and ethnic diversity present in America, and to normalize what’s being viewed on television, so that it more accurately reflects reality. When the entire population of America is made up of nearly 40% of minorities, it’s simply unacceptable to continuously push minorities to the back. It doesn’t represent reality, and it doesn’t represent the American people watching these shows.
Shilpa Davé, assistant professor in media studies and American studies at the University of Virginia said, “Instead of the one Asian character, for example, being the sidekick or token character, we have the opportunity to see different types of characters that are diverse in gender, age, occupation and region. In other words, the Asian-American character is not only the doctor but can also be the cop or the head of a company or a model.”
This has an important message for society. By challenging preconceptions of race and ethnicity, and bringing light to the harmful effects blatant stereotypes have on both people and society, shows like Fresh off the Boat are creating a variety of role models in different fields and areas of expertise for audience to look up to and aspire to be like.
With its sharp, quirky comedy and its fresh take on depicting what it means to be American, Fresh off the Boat is both amazingly funny, and heartwarming. New episodes of Fresh off the Boat continue on March 24 on ABC at 8 pm. Click here to find other television and web entertainment opportunities.