Set in the 1990s, Fresh Off The Boat follows Eddie Huang and his family as they relocate from Washington DC to Orlando where they open up a steak restaurant. Warning there are spoilers ahead.
When I first saw the promo for Fresh Off The Boat I was very impressed. There were a lot of comedies ordered to series this year and Fresh Off The Boat managed to stand out, with a clever and witty trailer. With that in mind I was very excited to see the pilot and I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint.
The show is actually based on the memoirs of chef and author Eddie Huang and although there have been grumblings that it is not a faithful adaptation of the book, the show still works very well. In the show we see a young Eddie Huang, played by Hudson Yang, struggle with the culture clash that comes from being Asian in a white dominated city. Yang does extremely well, performing like a pro and really making us connect to his character.
Eddie is grumpy and full of attitude, yet remains completely likeable; a credit to both the actor and the writers. I think we really have to applaud Yang here; it’s very impressive that someone so young can lead a show so effortlessly, and he does just that.
Eddie’s father, Louis is portrayed by Randall Park who if you’ve seen Veep you know is an incredibly talented comedy actor. He’s probably the most likeable character of the show and is the one least affected by culture clash. Park does a good job but feels incredibly underused in the pilot. However we see more of him in episode 2 and his character really gets a chance to shine. His scheming to get his wife away from the restaurant was hilarious and I hope we get to see more of this side of his character.
Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen play Eddie’s little brothers Emery and Evan, respectively. I know I should be assessing them on their acting ability and I will, but first I have to say they are both the most adorable kids ever. They are also incredibly funny, definitely holding their own against the adults of the show. We’ve seen some great scenes between them and Eddie but I’d love to see more interactions with their parents as I think it could be comedy gold.
Now let’s talk about the standout of the pilot, the matriarch of the family Jessica, played by Constance Wu. Wu is already being hailed as one of the breakout stars of the 2014-2015 TV season and I’d have to agree. Her comedic timing and perfect deliverance of snappy one liners makes her the funniest character of the show. Of course we have to mention the writing staff who have provided her with these gems, one of my favourites being “If we get separated try to join a white family. You will be safe there until I can find you”. She’s just hilarious and I can’t wait to see more of her incredible talent.
The thing that really works for this show is that all these characters are really likeable, even the recurring members (special shout out to the amazing Paul Scheer who plays restaurant employee Mitch). That’s a hard thing to achieve for a show, especially one that has only 20 minutes to showcase their cast. They, as well as the show’s premise, are also very relatable. The idea of not fitting in, and having to adapt to new surroundings is one that we can all understand and have all probably experienced. And that’s what makes the show so great. On a quick glance it’s a comedy series but if you look closer you see it’s a show with a lot of heart. The jokes are brilliant but it’s the more tender moments that really stand out. In fact I think it’s the show’s biggest strength.
Fresh Off The Boat definitely made a strong start with its pilot. Episode 2 aired straight afterwards and it was even better which is a good sign. With a great cast, plenty of laughs and a very endearing story, this show is perfect for the whole family to enjoy.