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 - 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 at 8:30PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.
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!
New on DVD/Blu-ray (February/March)
02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
03/03 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now... In Living Color! (Blu-ray)
03/07 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites
03/07 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series - Flashback Edition (Blu-ray)
03/07 - What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - You Me Her - Season One
03/14 - Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season
03/14 - Unbrekable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two
03/21 - Master of None - Season One
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest
Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Monday, March 27
The Big Bang Theory - "The Brain Bowl Incubation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After a successful experiment combining their genes, Sheldon will stop at nothing to convince Amy they should procreate. Also, Koothrappali is embarrassed to tell the gang what the new woman he’s dating does for a living.
Kevin Can Wait - "Kevin's Bringing Supper Back" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Kevin’s resolve to spend more quality time with his family is put to the ultimate test when his buddies surprise him with concert tickets to his favorite musician, fellow Long Islander Billy Joel. Multiple Grammy Award-winning pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel appears as himself.
Superior Donuts - "Get It, Arthur" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Randy’s mom comes to town, Franco encourages Arthur to go out on his first date in years. Brenda Vaccaro guest stars as Helen, Randy’s mom.
The Great Indoors - "Aaron Wolf" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Jack watches the millennials’ journalistic integrity slip away when they fall under the spell of his nemesis, Aaron Wolf (Chris D’Elia), a former magazine staffer turned famous outdoor reality TV host who returns to guest edit the magazine.
Monday, March 27
- Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) - Watch Chris on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
- Richard Dreyfuss (Your Family or Mine) - Richard appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
- Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie/Malibu Country) and Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie) - Lily and Jane are guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. They also chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
- Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show) - Craig visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
- Rachel Dratch (Imaginary Mary) - Rachel is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
- Pete Holmes (Crashing) - Pete stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
- Jenna Elfman (Imaginary Mary/1600 Penn/Accidentally on Purpose/Courting Alex/Dharma & Greg) - Jenna appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
- Ron Funches (Powerless/Undateable) - Ron is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
- Kaitlin Olson (The Mick/It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) - Kaitlin drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
- Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi appears on a repeat of Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
- Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) - Lisa is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Mark Consuelos (Alpha House/Hope & Faith) - Mark guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Tahj Mowry, Derek Theler and Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Baby Daddy) - Tahj, Derek and Jean-Luc are guests on Harry, so check your local listings.
- Tika Sumpter (The Game) - Tika appears on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
- Vanessa Bell Calloway (Rhythm & Blues) - Vanessa is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
- June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie) - June talks about Grace and Frankie on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
- Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) and Ben Falcone (Joey) - Melissa and Ben talk TV Land's Nobodies on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
- Brooklyn Decker (Grace and Frankie/Friends with Better Lives) - Brookyln stops by People Now at 8:30am.
- Marcia Gay Harden (Trophy Wife) - Marcia opens up about her favorite part of being in the 50 Shades movies on People Now at 8:30am. \
- Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish/Girlfriends) - Tracee dishes about her Golden Globe win on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.