I had the opportunity to talk with Katie Rose Clarke before the Allegiance opening night. In the new musical about the experience of a family during the WWII Japanese American internment, Clarke plays Hannah, an Army nurse who falls for Sammy Kimura (Telly Leung), an interned Japanese American citizen.
I saw the show the first weekend that it was in previews – and I really enjoyed it a lot. What first got you interested in the project?
The show has been around since 2009 in development. It [initially] wasn’t on my radar because, as far as I knew, the show was cast, so when I heard it was coming to Broadway, I assumed there wasn’t a role for me. Then I got an audition for it, and as I read through the script, I was in awe of the subject matter, which I knew so little about, and by the idea of being a part of a story that has never been told, a part of history that so few people have much knowledge about. [At that time], I could not read enough about that era in our nation’s history because I, embarrassingly, didn’t know anything about it. So the whole idea of the show resonated with me.
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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 12: “Love and Loopholes”
Original airdate February 9, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Honey and Marvin offer to sit Emery and Evan so Louis and Jessica can have a date night without the kids. Marvin and the boys play a game of dares, sending Emery back to his house to make some mischief. Emery walks in on his parents and is disappointed by what he sees, inspiring him to tear down his bedroom Love Wall, a collection of mementos and tributes to love.
Eddie, with Trent’s help, takes Alison to the Janet Jackson concert, where at first they are disappointed by not getting in, but then rewarded (in a way) for their fandom.
Good: I like an episode that plays directly off of one of Emery’s established character quirks, and that (despite his apparent precociousness on the subject of love) he learns that it’s a lot more than he thinks it is. Marvin has been a strange, benevolent, avuncular, two-dimensional character throughout this series, but he’s given a rare chance here to interact directly with Evan and Emery. His eagerness and aptitude in taking care of the boys hints at deeper characteristics we haven’t glimpsed until now.
I love it when Louis and Jessica argue, but I love it more when they’re conspiring on the same side, and the reveal, when Emery walks in on them, is the kind of thing that makes me love them both even more. And the physical comedy they perform when they’re trying to pose for Emery’s photo is hilarious.
Bad: In just the past year, Eddie and his family have met Shaquille O’Neal, DMX, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis. We’re supposed to believe this? Ugh.
FOB moment: I can’t find one this week! It’s okay. I think I’ll live.
Soundtrack flashback: “Escapade” and “Nasty by Janet Jackson (sung by Trent), and “If” by Janet Jackson (short music video clip).
Final grade, this episode: I enjoy the way we see Honey and Marvin’s weirdness turn into interesting, sincere character development. There’s a level of sympathy and understanding they have for the Huangs that serves more than just the setting and plots of Fresh off the Boat, and it does the entire show a lot of good to get them this involved in the family’s life. It suggests to me that there may be hope for Mitch and Nancy at Cattleman’s Ranch. Another good episode. B+.
Growing up, Lunar New Year meant sweet lotus seeds and coconut strips, a big family meal, and my mom visiting my elementary school classroom to teach about the holiday. At some point, I learned the story of the Chinese zodiac animals and which zodiac animal each member of my family was. At another point, I learned that it wasn’t just Chinese who celebrated the Lunar New Year. I remember reading Demi’s beautiful books of Chinese folk tales filled with red and gold. But I don’t remember ever reading a book specifically about LNY. They may have existed, who knows. Today, thankfully, such books are easier to find. A librarian at the New York Public Library has compiled a great list of Lunar New Year books, including Grace Lin’s Bringing in the New Year and Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill’s Ten Mice for Tet.
What are your favorites?
As you may know, the NBA is extremely popular in China, even though Yao Ming is no longer playing for the Houston Rockets anymore. And out of all the popular American professional sports, basketball is definitely the most international – in terms of team rosters as well as global popularity. So it’s no surprise that the NBA goes out of its way to promote itself, the game, the teams and its players.
“The NBA continues to increase its global footprint, and as Chinese New Year approaches, the league has enlisted its stars to help celebrate.
Stephen Curry, James Harden and Jeremy Lin are all featured in this year’s “Dining Table” TV spot, in which they sit down to dinner with a Chinese family and give thanks. The commercial is set to debut in the U.S. on Feb. 3, when the Warriors and Wizards square off.”
Stephen Curry is one of the most popular players in the NBA and member of the 2015 NBA Championship Golden State Warriors team. James Harden is the star player for the Houston Rockets, and Jeremy Lin is Jeremy Lin (of the Charlotte Hornets).
“Chinese New Year is all about family, food and watching NBA basketball. Remember to save a spot at the table for your favorite NBA stars this February 3-21. Happy Chinese New Year from the NBA!”
The Zuckerberg family wishes everyone Happy Lunary New Year in Chinese. Let’s see if little Max gets to go to a bilingual Chinese-English school and upstage mom and dad with mad Chinese language skills in the future.
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 14: “Dave’s Valentine”
Original airdate February 5, 2016.
Symptoms: It’s time for the Sweethearts Dance at Dave’s school, and when Dave says he’s too shy to ask his crush to attend with him, Ken gives him advice on how to get the girl. This is before he realizes the object of Dave’s affection is the daughter of an ambulance-chasing lawyer Ken can’t stand. At Welltopia, Pat’s relationship with Damona continues with much of the accompanying awkwardness. They agree that attending Julie’s Presidents Day party (newly designated because Julie’s beau Topher can’t make it) is more appropriate for the state of their relationship than her originally planned Valentine’s Day party.
Diagnosis: I cannot believe how easily the Pat character is being fixed. Without toning down his goofiness, Dr. Ken‘s writers have made him more human simply by involving him with Damona, and allowing her to admit some discomfort without cheapening the relationship’s sincerity. There are jokes, but they are not the cutting jokes about Pat in the bedroom one might expect. Almost everything Pat says is still crazy and irritating, but because he has this connection with Damona, he’s suddenly more believable, as he was in those fleeting moments in the “Ken Helps Pat” episode. He’s too wacky for my tastes, but no longer does he stick out as a cartoon, and this elevates the show to a new level of believability I never would have predicted. I really like the way the Welltopia characters are centralized either in the office or at Julie’s apartment, while having their own stuff going on away from both.
Prognosis: This is another Molly and Dave episode that strengthens the show, and the continued development of the Welltopia crew makes this two good episodes in a row.
Rx: It’s weak to say “more of the same,” but Dr. Ken has some catching up to do. Part of me wants to see Molly and Dave in their worlds away from their family, or Allison with friends, all stuff that can make everyone more believable. On the other hand, there’s more unexplored territory here: we’ve only recently begun to hear about Clark’s life away from the office, for example, and I don’t know if I want the Damona and Pat relationship to be a long-term thing, but it demonstrates how much room there is for connectedness among the characters, and how great that can be for the overall vibe of the program. Clark’s excitement for his cowboy party, combined with his devotion to Damona in her time of need (as silly as that need is) works so, so, so much better than the weird reverence he has for Ken, which we were just supposed to accept in early episodes with no context or background. So, more of the same, please.
I am assured by Joz Wang that neither she nor her guest co-host was drunk during the taping of this week’s Post Show and Tell. It’s funny, whatever their BAC, so check it out.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 11: “Year of the Rat”
Original airdate February 2, 2016.
Microsynopsis: The Huangs are excited about flying back to D.C. to join their family in Chinatown for Chinese New Year, but a Louis screwup keeps them in Orlando, where they seek some way to have a traditional celebration.
Good: This is the twenty-fourth episode (thirteen in season one; eleven so far this season) of Fresh off the Boat, so we’re looking at what would normally have been the last episode of the season if it had begun in the fall, and it shows in the acting. This cast knows its characters: you can see it in the timing, blocking, and reactions. There’s a scene where Jessica is on the phone with her sister in D.C., and when she’s asked to explain why the family won’t be there, she wordlessly hands the phone to Louis, who recites his line and hands the phone back. This exchange happens again, and the only ambient noise in the whole scene is the sound of that phone slapping glumly into one hand from another. It’s not at all frenetic, as many of their scenes together are, but it’s controlled acting that only two actors who know each other can pull off. It’s the funniest scene in the episode, too.
There’s also a funny scene where the Huangs get together for a Chinese New Year celebration with the Asian American Association of Orlando, set up really nicely with a dialogue between Jessica and Louis where they try to pronounce the group’s acronym, AAAOO.
Bad:. The episode leans two ways I’m not especially fond of. It gets a little syrupy near the end, and although for a family show I normally approve of that, there was probably somewhere a little edgier it could have gone, since the scene that sets it up is already very touchy-feely. Also, there’s kind of a long, teachy bit that gets tiresome. It’s ostensibly for the staff and guests at Cattleman’s Ranch, but it feels like it’s aimed rather ham-fistedly at the audience.
FOB moment: “You should see how crazy it gets in Chinatown. If you can breathe properly the next day, you weren’t there.” (Louis)
Soundtrack flashback: “One of Us” by Joan Osborne (1995, sung by Honey), and “Get Ready for This” by 2 Unlimited (1991).
Final grade, this episode: This may be the first fictional prime time representation of Chinese New Year, so points for that, but the final act is a little weak. Strong acting through most of the show and a couple of scenes of determined (amusing) silliness earn it a B+.
Working in Silicon Valley and as part of my job, I’ve checked out and played around with a few smartwatches. Personally, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of them – having to charge an extra device, and most of the watches are a bit bulky and not very stylish (there’s a reason why I love my Skagen watch – thin and stylish).
However, what is interesting is that traditional premium watch manufacturers are launching their own lines of smartwatches – no doubt for fear of being disrupted, as well as trying to capture the youth market that have abandoned or never having bought or worn a watch. TAg Heuer apparent has announced a line of TAG Heuer Connected watched based on Android Wear “designed in collaboration with athletes” – including Jeremy Lin:
“Just a few days ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (C.E.S.) in Las Vegas, Tag Heuer showed off its newest Connected watches – designed in collaboration with athletes Tom Brady (quarterback for the New England Patriots football team), Jeremy Lin (professional basketball star) and Giancarlo Stanton (professional baseball star with the Miami Marlins MLB team). The watches represent the first “personalized” dials for the TAG Heuer Connected watch that was just unveiled to the world late in 2015. … The TAG Heuer Connected watch, created with Intel Inside and powered by Android Wear™, is a 46mm watch crafted in the Carrera style in titanium with an option of black or bright-colored rubber straps. Its retail price is $1,500.”
I like the design of the Jeremy Lin watch, but I’m not willing to spend $1,500 on any watch – smart or not. I wonder what kind of volumes these watches will sell?
Also, the thing with smartwatches is that new versions will be coming out every year or so, with new features, etc. In my opinion, a watch needs to be “timeless.” And beyond tell time, the number one feature that needs to be improved for a smart watch is battery life …
Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who never smoked yet was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and died last year at the age of 37. Between his diagnosis and eventual death, he and his wife Lucy had a child, and he wrote the book When Breath Becomes Air. His wife talks about him and the book in the interview with Katie Couric above. While being a neurosurgeon might seem like a very stereotypical Asian American thing to do, upon reading more about him, he was the opposite of those stereotypes, and I found him to be an inspirational modern renaissance man.
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 13: “D.K. and the Dishwasher”
Original airdate January 29, 2016.
Symptoms: Ken’s father D.K. visits for a couple of weeks while his wife is in Korea. He immediately begins to take care of long-neglected repairs around the house, repairs that have been on Ken’s to-do list for ages. Ken is resentful and purposely sabotages his father’s efforts. In the Welltopia offices, Damona confesses to Clark and Julie that she slept with Pat after a night of partying. Damona is stressed about the awkward conversation she’s sure she’ll have with her boss when he expresses an attachment to her, but Pat disappoints her with a much cooler attitude.
Diagnosis: The denial-by-an-accidental-lover plot device has been employed in other sitcoms, but it’s a good one, and this episode’s writer Mary Fitzgerald doesn’t take any cheap shortcuts. Damona doesn’t laugh off the experience with easy jokes about sleeping with Pat; neither the humor nor the seriousness inherent in the situation is ruined by jokes about anatomy or function. There is one quick “filling the void” joke that’s hinted at and deliberately avoided, but the laughs come from reasonable tensions and interactions all around.
This is brave writing, the sort that I’ve been longing for since episode one. Putting characters in relatable, difficult situations and letting the characters work things out trusts them to let the humor emerge, to coax the humor out of the situation rather than to treat the situation as a reason for wackiness.
I was almost sure, once I saw how gently this subplot was being treated, that its resolution would teeter over into excessive sweetness or poignancy, as has been this show’s tendency. Instead, the actors, director, and writer all hit exactly the right note by letting the characters treat each other like human beings. I’ve had issues with Damona and Pat being presented two-dimensionally, but here they simply give in to their mutual understanding of shared intimacy, and rather than offering a syrupy Blue Mountain monologue of resolution, they acknowledge each other the way real people should (but often do not). This is some of the most character-driven, character-developing writing all season.
The A story isn’t quite as deftly handled, but D.K. even recognizes this when Ken tentatively asks whether or not they should hug. “We did that at Thanksgiving,” says D.K., which is funny because it’s in character and because that’s exactly what we were all probably thinking about the Blue Mountain pep-talk he delivers, which sounds a heck of a lot like the one he gives in the Thanksgiving episode.
Prognosis: The best thing about the main plot is that Molly and Dave get some of the attention they’ve needed for several episodes. It’s mostly played for the joke, but there’s something encouraging about the way Molly listens to her grandfather’s strict rationale for an earlier curfew, and his insistence that it’s time for Dave to “be a man” confronts Dave’s quirkiness. Don’t read me incorrectly: I love that Ken and Allison give Dave all kinds of space to be interested in whatever he’s interested in, but I also love that D.K. insists there are things he needs to know how to do, and I love that Dave’s response is positive, as if to say he’s ready not to be the baby of the family anymore.
Almost the entire B story is encouraging as well. Despite my disappointment in a lot (a lot) of this show’s decisions, I’ve grown fond of the characters, and this plot is strong indication that the show’s producers, directors, and writers care about them too.
Rx: I’ve highlighted some specific, well-done things about this episode, and while I still have a few issues, an effort like this just needs to be given a gold star, followed by a “keep up the good work” note at the top of the page. More like this, please.
Don’t forget to check out this week’s Post Show and Tell, in which Joz Wang interviews Jonathan Slavin on the Dr. Ken set!
According to Men’s Wearhouse’s YouTube channel, their commercial starring Vera Wang about her first collection of formal wear for me has been around (or at least hosted on YouTube) since March 2015 – but I just caught this it on TV recently.
The last time I think I blogged about Vera Wang was when I saw her promoting her LOVE collection at Zales. I still mostly think of Vera Wang as a fashion designer for wedding gowns, popularized – at least for me, through being mentioned in Sex in the City.
I caught this Snickers commercial about their new candy they are launching called Crisper:
“Crispy satisfaction is on the horizon with new SNICKERS® Crisper – a delicious combination of crisped rice and peanuts topped with a layer of caramel and coated in creamy SNICKERS® Brand milk chocolate.Boasting multiple textures, SNICKERS® Crisper delivers on its satisfaction pledge with the chew of caramel and the crunchy crispiness of rice and peanuts. Singles packs feature two pieces, each with 100 calories, allowing for a snack for now and another for later.”
What I like about this commercial is that it shows an Asian American college student boasting about his partying ways – kind of breaking with the “Model Minority” stereotype, though I have to say the glasses he is wearing are kind of geeky.
Not sure I totally get the premise of the commercial, but nevertheless I found it entertaining.