FreshofftheBoatcoverGrade: A-
Entire family: Yes
2015, 281 min. (13 episodes), Color
20th Century Fox
Rated G
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: C
Trailer
Amazon link

Fresh off the Boat is one of the freshest and funniest family sitcoms since Modern Family. Coincidentally, both come from 20th Century Fox, but this modern family is set in the past. It’s the story of an immigrant family from Taiwan that comes to America in the 1990s when Shaq was playing for the Orlando Magic. And for young rap-obsessed Eddie Huang, that was more alluring than any of the magic Disney had to offer.

Oldest son and junior-high student Eddie is the point-of-view character who, as an adult, offers a voiceover narration to describe his take on his Chinese American family and their culture-shock transition from Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown to mainstream Orlando suburban life.

Randall Park stars as Eddie’s father, the always smiling, always upbeat Louis Huang, who relocated his family in order to open a Western-themed steakhouse restaurant. We learn this first season that he originally came to Orlando by himself to become a franchise owner, but realizing that he fell way short of the franchise fee he absconded with a copy of the restaurant chain manager’s playbook. Running gags throughout the series involve him emphasizing slight changes in name and decor of his independent and competing restaurant.

As easygoing as Louis is, his wife, Jessica (Constance Wu), is strict and strictly uptight. She makes her children study hard because she wants them to succeed, but she worries constantly that they’re losing touch with their Chinese culture. At the same time, she’s become hooked on American melodramas, rollerblading with the neighborhood women, and American foods and recipes.

FreshofftheBoatscreenThe two boys are middle child Emery (Forrest Wheeler), who has a way with the girls that older brother could only wish for, and young Evan (Ian Chen), the perfect son who wants to please his parents and is as determined to do as well in school as Eddie is to just get by. Rounding out the family is the wheelchair-bound Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong), whose comic function is much like Grandpa Simpson in the Fox animated series, though she’s less clueless and more conniving.

The action shifts from Cattleman’s Ranch to home to school, with plots inspired by the 2013 memoir of the real Eddie Huang, a well-known restaurateur and chef. Like the best sitcoms, Fresh off the Boat episodes feel both original and vaguely familiar, with a strong and likable cast that extends all the way through the minor characters. They’re quirky but authentic.

This season Jessica decides to become a realtor and insists on conducting a sexual harassment seminar for Louis’s employees, Eddie works at the restaurant to save money to buy a new Shaq video game, vandals and dash-and-diners cause problems for the Huangs, Eddie tries to impress friends and one particular neighbor girl, and Louis is pressed into coaching Eddie’s basketball team. And in the funniest episode, Jessica gets excited than her old college boyfriend is coming to Orlando, and when everyone expresses surprise that Louis isn’t jealous that he’ll be spending the night she begins to wonder if he doesn’t think she’s “hot” enough to worry about.

Thirteen episodes are contained on two single-sided discs and housed in a standard-size keep case. The only bonus features are a gag reel and trivia track, but so what? This series is laugh-out-loud funny for all ages.

Language: A few mild swear-words spoken in Chinese with subtitles
Sex: Eddie tries to go from a hug to a hand on a woman’s butt
Violence: n/a
Adult situations: Innuendo and mild flirting
Takeaway: Are we entering another Golden Age of television sitcoms?

Advertisements