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

    Monday, October 15

    The Neighborhood - "Welcome to the Spare Key" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Dave gives Calvin a spare key to the Johnsons’ house in case of an emergency and is pleasantly surprised when the gesture is reciprocated – or so he thinks.

    Happy Together - "Let's Work It Out" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    When Cooper has to get in shape for an underwear ad, Jake and Claire are inspired to ditch their junk food and join his ultra-healthy lifestyle. With the help of Cooper and his trainer, Antoine (Anders Holm), Jake and Claire go on the most intense diet and exercise program of their lives.

    Andi Mack - "Howling at the Moon Festival" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Friends and family gather to celebrate the Harvest Moon Festival, but Jonah's mishap may spoil the evening; Celia attempts to one-up her sister, Mei, by announcing a special event; Andi and Jonah have a heart-to-heart talk about their relationship.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 15)

    Monday, October 15

    • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) - Watch Melissa on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She also talks about Can You Ever Forgive Me? on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Judy Greer (Kidding/Married/Mad Love/Miss Guided) - Judy visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Jane Levy (Suburgatory) - Jane is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Heather Dubrow (Stark Raving Mad) - Heather stops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    • Anthony Atamanuik (The President Show) - Anthony appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
    • Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) - Ike drops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) - Kunal is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/The Office) - Ellie appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Busy Philipps (Vice Principals/Cougar Town) - Busy visits Access Live, so check your local listings. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) - Alec gives Rach the hilarious scoop on Justin Bieber and his niece, Hailey Baldwin – and revealing if he and his wife, Hilaria, want to have baby #5 together on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
    • Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss?/Romantically Challenged) - Alyssa discusses the #MeToo movement one year later on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. She will also be on ABC's GMA Day at 1pm.
    • Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Nico appears on People Now at 12pm.
    • Peyton List (Bunk'd/Jessie) and Ajiona Alexus (The Rickey Smiley Show) - Peyton and Ajiona are guests on Chatter on PeopleTV at 8pm.
    • Tyle Labine (Deadbeat/Animal Practice/Sons of Tucson) - Tyler will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Tiffany Haddish (The Last O.G./The Carmichael Show) - Tiffany appears on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
    • Nathan Fillion (Two Guys and a Girl) - Nathan talks about The Rookie on the BUILD Series at 2pm.


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

    The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season Step by Step - The Complete Second Season Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season

    09/04 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season 12
    09/04 - Mom - The Complete Fifth Season
    09/04 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Fifth Season
    09/04 - Superstore - Season Three
    09/04 - Young Sheldon - The Complete First Season
    09/11 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season (Blu-ray)
    09/11 - The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season
    09/11 - Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season
    09/11 - People of Earth - The Complete Second Season
    09/18 - Community - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    09/18 - Step by Step - The Complete Second Season
    09/18 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fourth Season
    09/25 - Blondie - The Complete 1957 Television Series
    09/25 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season
    10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
    10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
    10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
    10/16 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest