ABC is responsible for many TV shows that have gone on to become staples of American pop culture, like “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Modern Family.” Earlier this month, the network premiered “Fresh off the Boat.”
The comedy, inspired by lawyer-turned-restaurateur Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, takes us back to 1995, when Eddie (played by Hudson Yang) and his family move from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida.
The show is about Eddie struggling to acclimate to his new surroundings, a task his mother Jessica (Constance Wu) also finds to be difficult. Louis (Randall Park), his father, is the reason the family moved, so he could manage a steakhouse and make it successful.
Eddie’s younger brothers, Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen), seem to be enjoying their new lives in the Sunshine State and are making the best out of the situation at hand.
One of the show’s assets is its amazing writing. The witty dialogue makes it impossible to go 10 seconds without laughing. The Huangs are a Taiwanese-American family, and much of the writing refers to the family’s ethnic background.
This is in contrast to “The Cosby Show,” NBC’s successful sitcom about the Brooklyn-based Huxtable family. It was obvious that the Huxtables were African-American, but the family’s race was rarely actually mentioned.
While “Fresh” may use racial humor, the show’s themes, such as finding acceptance and overcoming failure, are universal.
In addition to its writing, the acting of “Fresh” is also top-notch. Yang shines as Eddie, the outsider who finds solace in rap music, and the role fits him like a glove, even though the actor was born well after the golden age of hip-hop. Park does a great job at portraying Louis, the optimistic and loving family man.
The real show-stealer, however, is Wu. In one scene, she tries to bond with the neighborhood women while watching “Melrose Place” and asks if the show is “about prostitutes who are mad at each other.” Wu is a delight to watch as her character experiences many culture shocks in Orlando.
Another reason to love “Fresh” is that it features tons of references to 1990s pop culture.
Rap fanatics will appreciate the show’s use of songs from artists like the late O.D.B., whose classic “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” plays as Eddie fantasizes about his older, attractive neighbor. In many episodes, he wears shirts emblazoned with the names of rap pioneers like Nas and the late Notorious B.I.G.
Another highlight is when Eddie’s grandmothers are watching the O.J. Simpson trial together. One of the best scenes of the show is when Eddie reunites with his cousin Justin (Lance Lim), who has become depressed and obsessed with grunge music, as evidenced by his Nirvana shirt.
“Fresh Off the Boat” has a lot of things going for it and the series is well on its way to becoming one of ABC’s flagship shows. It airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
RECOMMENDED: “Fresh Off the Boat” is off to a great start, which foreshadows a strong season for the nascent series.