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

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    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 19)

    Tuesday, October 20

    • Michael Keaton (Report to Murphy/Working Stiffs/All's Fair) - Catch Michael on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
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