Monday, February 02, 2015

ABC Midseason Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat - Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 4; ABC Family Begins Production on Two Comedy Pilots

Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat - Tuesdays at 8:00PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres on a special night Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 8:30PM & 9:30PM ET/PT (before and after Modern Family)


by Vincent

Inspired by Eddie Huang's best-selling memoir by the same name, Fresh Off the Boat follows 11-year-old hip-hop loving Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang), who has just moved with his family from Chinatown in Washington D.C. to suburban Orlando. They quickly discover things are very different there - from the rollerblading stay-at-home moms, to the hospital-like grocery stores, to the strange, perfectly packaged school lunches. Based off of a true story, Fresh Off the Boat follows the Huang family's trials and tribulations as they attempt to fit into the world of suburban Orlando.

Cast Details:

Randall Park as Louis Huang
Constance Wu as Jessica Huang
Ian Chen as Evan Huang
Forrest Wheeler as Emory Huang
Hudson Yang as Eddie Huang
Lucille Soong as Grandma Huang

Randall Park (Louis) is an established comedy writer and actor who has appeared in several films and television shows, including Veep, New Girl, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and House. His film credits include The Five Year Engagement, Neighbors, They Came Together, and The Interview.

Constance Wu (Jessica) is an actress who has appeared in roles on series such as Law & Order: SVU, Torchwood, and Covert Affairs. She is also known for her recurring role on ABC's One Life to Live.

Ian Chen (Evan) is a young actor who has appeared in guest spots on Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family.

Forrest Wheeler (Emery) is a young actor who is new to the entertainment industry. Fresh Off the Boat will be his first major role.

Hudson Yang (Eddie) is also a new actor, and Fresh Off the Boat will be his first major role.

Lucille Soong (Grandma) is an actress whose credits include a recurring role as Yao Lin on Desperate Housewives as well as roles in shows such as Passions, Dharma and Greg, and According to Jim.

Pilot Plot:

We have watched the first two episodes for review, both of which will air Wednesday night. Here are descriptions of those episodes:

"Pilot" (Airs February 4 at 8:30PM ET)

It's 1995 and 11-year-old hip-hop loving Eddie Huang has just moved with his family from Chinatown in Washington D.C. to suburban Orlando. Orlando doesn't even have a Chinatown -- unless you count the Huang house. The pilot episode explores the Huang's difficulty adjusting to their surroundings and Eddie's realization that the culture he is leaving is very different from the one he is about to enter.

"Home Sweet Home School" (Airs February 4 at 9:30PM ET)

Louis and Jessica clash over how to raise the kids and how to run the restaurant. When the boys get straight A's in school, Jessica decides that their school must be too easy and takes it upon herself to give them more homework and tutor them after class. She takes the same strict approach at the restaurant (no extra croutons for anyone!), so it's up to Louis to get her to lighten up on everyone.

Analysis:

Fresh Off the Boat is a show that has drummed up a fair amount of controversy already. From the initial shock over the show's potentially insensitive title to the lengthy article that Eddie Huang wrote for Vulture about his difficulty getting the show to properly reflect his experiences to some misguided social media promotion, it's certainly a show that seems like it could go really badly. So it's a little bit of a shock and a huge relief when you sit down and watch Fresh Off the Boat and realize that, actually...it's really good. Its pilot had a voice and a point of view that's sorely missing in network comedies lately, not to mention no network comedy pilot made me laugh nearly as hard this season. The second episode follows a bit more of a generic sitcom structure, but it's still packed with plenty of great gags, a refreshing sense of humor and a surprising amount of depth. There's a lot to like about this pilot – the writing is sharp, funny and even a little edgy at times while still being digestible for an audience that would be watching a network family comedy (a feat that fellow ABC sitcom black-ish is also nailing right now), the actors are excellent fully committed to their roles - Randall Park and Constance Wu are seriously great here, but even the child actors are surprisingly funny (again, not unlike black-ish) and there's an honesty to the proceedings here that separates this from the typical network sitcom pack.

It may have been a difficult road to creating that honesty, but it's one that seems to be working, if the first two episodes are any indication. Nahnatchka Khan is show-running Fresh Off the Boat, who previously created and ran Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 and also served as a writer on American Dad! for many years. The bite that she brought to those shows is very evident here and helps make the show as funny as it is, but there's still a sense that this is Huang's story, and his ownership is present throughout the series. (Huang also serves as the narrator, and for once the narration on a sitcom actually adds something instead of just feeling like an easy way to spoon-feed story beats.) All of this adds to Fresh Off the Boat feeling like a show that has a true purpose, and it's path to getting there is one filled with some exceptionally funny material and surprising emotional truth.

Conclusion:

No matter how messy the path to getting on the air may have been for this show, the final product of Fresh Off the Boat is a genuinely funny and interesting show that's worth your time. There's so much that's already working so well here, and if it's given time to find itself even further, I could easily see this rising to become one of the best comedies on TV. It has a lot of laughs, a fresh voice, a purpose, and just the right amount of heart. There's really not much else you could ask for from a great comedy series. The best new comedy of the season.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4.5/5
Funniness: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 at 8:30PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Fresh Off the Boat Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • ABC Family

    ABC Family started production last week on two new comedy pilots, Kevin From Work and Tough Cookie. Both pilots are single-camera and are shooting in Los Angeles. Kevin from Work is a half-hour workplace comedy about a young man unluckily in love who professes his love to a co-worker, thinking he'll never see her again after he accepts a job offer overseas. But then that job offer is rescinded, and now they have to continue to work with each other. The comedy stars Noah Reid (Backpackers) as Kevin, Paige Spara as Audrey, Matt Murray (Rookie Blue) as Brian, Jordan Hinson (Eureka) as Roxie, Punam Patel as Patti, with guest star Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy) as Julia. The pilot is written, created and executive-produced by Barbie Adler (How I Met Your Mother, My Name Is Earl and Arrested Development). Aaron Kaplan at Kapital Entertainment (Chasing Life, The Mysteries of Laura, The Neighbors and Terra Nova) and McG at Wonderland Sound & Vision (Charlie's Angels, The O.C., Supernatural, Chuck and Nikita) will serve as Executive Producers. McG will also direct the pilot.

    The half-hour comedy Tough Cookie is a fresh take on the friends-and-family convention. It's centered on a young mother who isn't ready to parent and her daughter who doesn't want to be parented. As everyone knows, it takes a village to raise a child, or rather a child to raise a village. The series stars Shoshana Bush (Awkward) as Lilla, Mallory James Mahoney as Eleanor, Frankie Shaw (Mixology) as Heidi, Arturo Del Puerto (The Lottery, Chicago P.D.) as Mickey, Rick Gonzalez (Rush, Coach Carter) as Seth and Jimmy Bellinger (Liv and Maddie, Geek Charming) as Tyler. The pilot is written and created by Lauren Iungerich (Awkward), who will also serve as executive producer and direct the pilot. David Janollari (Six Feet Under) is also executive producer. As of now both comedies are just pilot orders...we will let you know if and when they are ordered to series. So stay tuned!


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Friday, December 14

    Fresh Off the Boat - "Cousin Eddie" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    The battle begins between mother and son when Eddie informs Jessica that he wants to spend Christmas with friend Nicole in New York. But Jessica insists that tradition prevails and he needs to spend the holiday with the family, so he does everything within his power to try and get her to crack and allow him to go. Meanwhile, Louis and Evan do their best to try and help an overwhelmed Emery decide on which one of his numerous friends to invite to the family’s Christmas Eve dinner.

    Speechless - "J-I-- JINGLE T-H-- THON" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    A Christmas tree fire leads Maya to tell a small lie with big consequences. Meanwhile, Ray struggles to live in Pepper’s shadow as Dylan twists the knife, and JJ encourages Kenneth to stand up to his sisters (guest stars Niecy Nash and Lisa Leslie).

    I Love Lucy - "I Love Lucy Christmas Special" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    I LOVE LUCY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL features “The Christmas Episode” and the newly colorized “Pioneer Women.” Both were colorized with a nod to the 1950s period in which they were filmed. The main titles and end credits are seamlessly combined into one set at the beginning and end of the hour, with no interruption between the episodes.

    “The Christmas Episode” finds the Ricardos and Mertzes decorating Lucy and Ricky’s Christmas tree and reminiscing about how their lives have changed since the arrival of the Ricardos’ son, Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux). Flashbacks recall the night Lucy tells Ricky she is pregnant, the time Lucy shows up unexpectedly as part of a barbershop quartet, and the day Ricky and the Mertzes rehearse taking Lucy to the maternity ward.

    “The Christmas Episode” was first broadcast on CBS on Christmas Eve, 1956. The episode was not included in the series’ long history of rebroadcasts, first on CBS Daytime and later in syndication. Long thought to be lost, the program was rediscovered by CBS in 1989.

    In “Pioneer Women,” Lucy and Ethel’s hopes of joining the posh Society Matrons’ League leads to a bet with their husbands over which sex – the men or the women – had it harder living in a bygone era. They select the turn of the last century, and as Lucy and Ethel start to bake their own bread and churn their own butter, the men become acquainted with straight-blade shaving and riding home from work on horseback. They all have some “‘splainin’” to do when two ladies from the Society Matrons’ League stop by for an unexpected visit.

    “Pioneer Women” was originally broadcast on March 31, 1952, and became an immediate viewer favorite.

    The Dick Van Dyke Show - "The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color!" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    The special features the season one episode “Where Did I Come From,” written by Carl Reiner, and the season four episode “Never Bathe on Saturday,” also written by Reiner. The main titles and end credits of the two episodes are seamlessly combined into one set – at the beginning and end of the hour – with no interruption between the episodes.

    The Emmy Award-winning series starred Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore as television comedy writer Rob and his wife, Laura Petrie; Larry Matthews as their son, Ritchie; Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie as Buddy Sorrell and Sally Rogers, co-writers on the fictional “The Alan Brady Show”; Carl Reiner as Alan Brady; Richard Deacon as Mel Cooley; Jerry Paris as Dr. Jerry Helper; and Ann Morgan Guilbert as Millie Krumbermacher Helper.

    In “Where Did I Come From,” 6-year-old Ritchie asks his parents the inevitable “where did I come from?” question, and they recall the days before his birth. The episode was first presented on Jan. 3, 1961 during the series’ first season.

    In “Never Bathe on Saturday,” the Petries’ romantic second honeymoon becomes a disaster when Laura’s toe gets caught in a bath spout. The episode was first presented on March 31, 1965, during season four.

    Last Man Standing - "The Gift of the Mike Guy" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Vanessa helps the family realize the importance of its long-standing holiday family traditions.

    The Cool Kids - "Margaret Dates the Zodiac Killer" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    Margaret begins dating Karl, a fellow resident who may or may not be the "Zodiac Killer."

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 10)

    Friday, December 14

    • Karen Gillan (Selfie) - Watch Karen on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC. She talks about The Party's Just Beginning on the BUILD Series at 2pm.
    • Tony Shalhoub (Wings/We Are Men) - Watch Tony on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle, Laura Linney (The Big C) and Nick Kroll (The League/Cavemen) - Bryan, Laura and Nick make special guest appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Bill Burr (F Is for Family/Townies) - Bill is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Busy Philipps (Vice Principals/Cougar Town) - Busy appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Romany Malco (Weeds/Blunt Talk) - Romany is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Kathryn Hahn (I Love Dick/Happyish/Transparent/Free Agents) - Kathryn talks about the film Private Life on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/The Office) - Ellie appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Minnie Driver (Speechless/About a Boy) - Minnie is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Leah Remini (Kevin Can Wait/The Exes/Family Tools/The King of Queens/Fired Up) - Leah visits The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Angela Kinsey (The Office/Haters Back Off/Your Family or Mine/The Hotwives of Orlando) - Angela and her husband Joshua Snyder serve up monkey bread and chocolate peppermint cupcakes on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
    • Vanessa Hudgens (Powerless) - Vanessa talks about Second Act on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Chris Elliott (Schitt's Creek/Get a Life) - Chris talks about Clara's Ghost on Couch Surfing at 8am.
    • Tia Mowry (Instant Mom/The Game/Sister, Sister) - Tia talks about Hallmark Channel's A Gingerbread Romance on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Christine Lakin (Hollywood Darlings/Step by Step) - Christine is a guest on Steve, so check your local listings.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

    The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection Alice - The Complete Eighth Season Step by Step - The Complete Third Season

    10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
    10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 6th Season
    10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 7th Season
    10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 8th Season
    10/02 - Ghosted - The Complete First Season
    10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
    10/02 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
    10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
    10/16 - Community - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
    10/23 - Alice - The Complete Eighth Season
    10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Two
    10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Three
    10/31 - The Bad News Bears - The Complete Series - All 26 Episodes
    11/01 - Episodes - Season 5
    11/05 - Robin Williams - Comic Genius (includes Mork & Mindy)
    11/06 - American Dad! - Volume 13
    11/16 - Man with a Plan - Season One
    11/20 - Step by Step - The Complete Third Season
    11/27 - What I Like About You - The Complete Third Season
    12/04 - Family Guy - Season Sixteen
    12/04 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Sixth Season
    12/18 - Our Cartoon President - Season One
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