Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Premiered February 4 at 8:30pm

I was devastated to see that this show earned a 75 rating on Metacritic since I found it truly awful, not even living up to my low expectations. This show epitomizes what a terrible sitcom looks like, trying so hard to be specific to one culture and hitting every signature trope in the comedy handbook. Setting itself in the 1990s is a bad start, one that hasn’t worked well for other shows recently. Everything that seems especially American is exaggerated, particularly all the references to white people and the things that they do. Louis going shopping for Lunchables so that he could put his lunch and himself into a box was quite an overt bit of messaging, though there’s no room for subtlety here with Paul Scheer’s host starring in a commercial that professes his whiteness. Jessica comes on very strong, and the horde of rollerskating housewives is particularly irksome. I spent most of the episode trying to figure out where I knew series star Randall Park from, and it turns out it’s his much funnier role as presidential candidate Danny Chung on “Veep.” His character here is just as driven, but he’s trapped in a universe much more nightmarish that anything the political world could ever cook up. To me, Hudson Yang’s Eddie is not TV’s latest endearing child but a sign that some shows should just never be brought to air, even if it seems that this show is well-regarded by an absurdly high number of people.

How will it work as a series? I could have stuck around to find out, but I had more than enough after the first installment to return for the second episode that aired at 9:30pm. This is all about race-specific humor, and even more about how these people aren’t white and that makes them the normal ones even if they stick out. I’m not into it, and I’m not sure this concept could be funny even if it was much better executed.
How long will it last? Though I won’t be tuning in ever again, many likely will, as this show launched strong, not quite as definitively so as “Black-ish” but on par with “The Goldbergs,” two comedies that this show pairs very well with, along with ABC’s other Wednesday night anchor, “Modern Family.” I think this one may have a longer life than it deserves and be looking promising for a second season at the moment.

Pilot grade: F-

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