Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 7: “The Taming of the Dads”
Original airdate December 6, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Eddie and Alison celebrate their first anniversary with a night at the 1996 Romeo + Juliet. Louis discovers that Alison’s father also loves Shakespeare, sparking an awkwardly chummy friendship. The dads have so much fun together that Alison realizes she and Eddie no longer have that kind of fun, prompting her to break up with him. Jessica is called for jury duty, but is furious that she’s not elected foreperson. Emery and Evan receive a gift Tamgotchi from their cousin in Taiwan. They are at first elated, but the little virtual pet becomes a nuisance.
Good: The Alison-Eddie stuff is pretty good. I love that Eddie has matured in his thinking about women, but he’s also still a young man with a lot to learn. Alison continues to be a bright spot whenever she’s in an episode. Louis is awful in this, but Randall Park’s acting has some really nice moments, especially near the end, in two one-on-one scenes with Eddie.
Bad: Jessica’s story is unremarkable, and although the Tamagotchi idea is cute, there’s really not enough there. They might have done better to move up in the craze, to where many young people had three or more Tamagotchis and had to ask friends to sit for them sometimes. As it is, the little toys haven’t been released in America yet, so the device itself is the story, which isn’t as interesting as the mania that surrounded it for such a brief moment.
I can’t decide if the Louis-Gary relationship is so bad it’s good or so bad it’s horrifying. Either way, it’s bad!
FOB moment: Jessica tries to bribe the other jurors with oranges.
Soundtrack flashback: “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors (1993). Your reviewer is not ashamed to say he approves.
Final grade, this episode: It’s an utterly forgettable episode, I am sorry to say, with a few moments but little else. C+.
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Given the fact that 62,759,366 Americans just voted for a misogynist to take the highest office in our land, the work of courageous individuals such as Amanda Nguyen are more important today than ever before.
Nguyen was assaulted in college and her rape kit was removed and almost destroyed. There’s a limit to how long a rape kit can be kept in Massachusetts, where she went to college, unlike in states like California and Texas, where kits are not destroyed.
Her activism has led to an official Federal Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, the first time the term “sexual assault survivor” has been used in federal law.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 9: “D. K.’s New Girlfriend”
Original airdate December 2, 2016.
The patient’s immediate condition.
Allison and Ken have problems with D. K.’s not respecting boundaries while living in their house. When Ken tries to talk about the issue with him, D. K. decides to move in with his girlfriend of three weeks, an arrangement Ken is not comfortable with. Allison, on a mother-daughter spa day with Molly, confesses that she’s having trouble with her adjustment to Welltopia, and although she likes Clark and Damona, she’s frustrated with their involvment in her personal life. Ken lets Dave attend a jazz festival with Pat. When a pretty woman strikes up a conversation, assuming Pat is Dave’s adopted father, Dave plays along so that Pat might get to know her better.
Some indicators questionable.
The execution is a little shenanigany for my tastes: an orange bra and men’s dress socks strewn across the living room couch, Clark and Damona stealing someone else’s couples massage, for example. But it’s a small quibble in an episode where the central characters for once act like normal people with normal issues.
Vitals are stable and within normal limits.
Well heck. That’s certainly not something I’ve seen before. I just Googled “later life crisis,” and it’s apparently a thing. While the setup is only marginally interesting, the concern Ken feels about his dad’s state of mind when D. K. moves out is convincing, and when he talks to him about it, D. K.’s existential response is also convincing, in a way that doesn’t come out of left field like some of this character’s serious moments in recent episodes. It’s well done, and the characters don’t force the poignancy, as is their wont.
Unforced is a nice way to describe the whole episode. There’s a nice theme through all three plots, where Molly, Dave, and Ken play grounded, self-aware, sensitive children advising their parents — in Dave’s case, advising his real dad and his fake dad. What I really love is that this all works because the characters have already been established this way, not as wise-beyond-their-years children, but as well-adjusted, independent thinkers who have been encouraged to become these people.
It all works together to allow Clark and Damona to go a little crazy, and their comic relief is genuinely funny, and well timed. When the show doesn’t depend on zaniness, the zaniness does its job.
Patient is conscious and comfortable.
A pleasant surprise. While the episode neither goes for nor achieves wow, it’s a solid, thoughtful, believable half hour. 4 ice chips out of 5.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 6: “WWJD: What Would Jessica Do?”
Original airdate November 29, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Jessica’s Sunday excursions to Costco with Evan are threatened by her son’s sudden interest in church. Louis accepts some free dental care from Marvin, who gives him extra-extra white teeth without asking first. Emery and Eddie struggle to consume all the bad cereal from the variety pack so Jessica will buy them some more Frosted Flakes.
Good: This is probably meant to be way, way down on the list of good things about the episode, but I’m used to seeing cynical or condescending portrayals of churchgoers in the mainstream media. It’s nice to see a funny but fair take on a topic Hollywood seldom treats with any sincerity. The Jessica-Evan story is really silly, but they make it work on the strength of their well-established relationship and Constance Wu’s great acting. The Eddie-Emery story is kind of a throwaway, but it has its moments too. I like it when the usual Evan-Emery dynamic is broken up so each character can spend time away from the other.
Bad: I’m going to admit that the bright teeth gag got a few laughs out of me, mostly courtesy of grandma, but this is a crazy plot idea. It feels like a three-joke gag that reaches for nine jokes.
FOB moment: Jessica is completely unfamiliar with the Noah’s Ark and Jonah stories.
Soundtrack flashback: “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones (1965, sung by Evan). “Playaz Club” by Rappin’ 4-Tay (1994). “Missing You,” the Tina Tuner cover of the John Waite song (1996).
Final grade, this episode: I dislike the dumb story ideas, but I like the jokes and acting, plus the non-cynical portrayal of a young boy’s exploring spirituality. It’s also nice to see Yeardley Smith’s face instead of just hearing her voice. Give it a solid B.
Wendy Lee’s latest novel, The Art of Confidence, takes readers through the tale of a single forgery, its making and unmaking. Liu Qingwu is a poor artist hawking goods outside the Met in New York City, when he’s approached by a Chelsea dealer to recreate a work. Little does he know her motivations (to save her aunt’s gallery) or her intended price ($2 million). All he knows is that it is a job, and he long ago failed to become as successful as some of his friends.
As the tale unwinds, Lee takes us through the stories of all the different players, shifting narrative voices between chapters. In one, we hear from Liu. In another, from Caroline Lowry, the gallery owner. Later, from Molly, Caroline’s college best friend’s daughter and now gallery assistant, and from Harold, a Taiwanese businessman intent on buying an expensive piece of art.
I haven’t caught this on TV yet, but saw this Kay Jewelers’ commercial posted on Facebook recently – where Kay Jewelers shows men proposing to women asking them to marry them.
What is notable of course is that in one particular case, we see a handsome Asian American man proposing to an attractive blond white woman. Usually, the pairing is often the opposite … I think the first time I noted this was in a McDonald’s commercial. Kudos to Kay Jewelers on going against the grain …
Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen is the book you need right now, a walk through a diverse array of bad ass women across time and across continents. Subtitled “100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World,” this beautifully illustrated volume contains short profiles of women you know — Joan of Arc, Billie Holiday — and women you probably don’t — Khutulan, Junko Tabei. Each is entertainingly and accessibly written.
I speak only for myself when I say that on November 9, I needed this book. A reminder of stories told and untold of women who have been breaking barriers and rules since Lilith in the Garden of Eden. And it’s the kind of book I want for young girls (and adult girls like me) looking for inspiration and encouragement. It’s a reminder of why it’s important to think and live outside the lines.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 8: “Allison’s Thanksgiving Meltdown”
Original airdate November 18, 2016.
I’m hot-blooded: check it and see.
Allison asks the family to change its plans for a quiet Thanksgiving at home in favor of visiting her parents at their new home in Santa Barbara. Nobody’s very happy about it, but Ken puts up the biggest fuss, and when he causes a mishap involving Allison’s berry crumble and the sunroof on the car, Allison has a meltdown in the car while the family is stuck in stand-still traffic.
Clark convinces the Welltopia gang (and their plus-ones) to help him serve Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless shelter. He has a little meltdown of his own over details like centerpieces and burnt biscuits. When his boyfriend tries to console him, Clark shares a story about how a homeless shelter once gave him hope and inspired him to make things right with his estranged family.
Got a fever of a hundred and three.
This episode means well, but it’s just sooooooo stupid. The Clark story is well conceived and poorly executed, with cartoonish behavior by Damona’s boyfriend and Damona. The resolution involving The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” is painfully bad. How bizarre is it that the unimaginable pairing of Damona and Pat last season was one of the show’s saving graces, while Damona’s completely understandable relationship this season lacks any kind of credibility?
The Molly story about her friend’s fish is unnecessary, uninteresting, and unfunny. And although the fight between Ken and Allison is a pretty great idea, it could have been a little bolder without resorting to the now-standard D. K. voice of wisdom and fatherly advice. In fact, if the writers really felt the need to resolve things right there on the freeway shoulder, why not do something different, like have Dave do it, or maybe a stranger in one of the nearby cars? D. K. is part of Allison’s problem; why not let Allison work it out away from him, as she also needs to work it out away from Ken?
Ain’t there nothing I can take…
The episode gets props for two very interesting, you-don’t-see-that-every-day moments. Clark’s story about his coming out to his family is truly well done, and Jonathan Slavin’s delivery is just about perfect. Clark’s boyfriend says exactly the right thing, too, when he reminds Clark that it wasn’t a bunch of gourds in a tablescape that made such a difference. A nice moment that devolves rapidly from there.
Allison’s fight with Ken is unlike the usual sitcom fight, and unlike the fantastic fights these characters have had in past episodes. There’s something real going on here, and you can tell by the stunned silence from their children that this is extremely out of the ordinary. No smart-alecky remarks from anyone is just the right note here. And when Allison gets out of the car, she does the second-scariest thing kids can see one parent do to another: leave. It’s also daring not to let Ken and Allison resolve things right there at the side of the freeway. The whole sequence is gutsy, and well played by the actors, right up until D. K.’s words of wisdom.
…to relieve this belly ache?
I don’t blame anyone for this episode’s falling flat. It attempts a couple of interesting things and can’t stick the landing, but it was cool to see the attempt. I know I’ve written this somewhere on 8A before, but I once heard Sid Caesar say that great comedy makes you laugh until you cry, and great drama makes you cry until you laugh. In two moments of honest drama, rather than let the laughter come, the show tries to force laughter upon both situations, and that almost never works. It deserves an A for the best parts and an F for the worst parts, so we’ll split the difference and tack on an encouraging half-grade bump. 3 Band-Aids out of 5.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 5: “No Thanks-giving”
Original airdate November 15, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Claiming that the annual family get-together for Thanksgiving is a ridiculous amount of unpleasant work for a tradition that’s not hers, Jessica convinces the family that profiting from the holiday makes more sense, so Cattleman’s Ranch will open on Thanksgiving Day. Eddie has an epiphany: as long as he’s set to graduate eighth grade, none of his grades really matter. He announces that he will do no more homework until he’s in ninth grade, but Jessica fights back by taking away his bed, saying that beds are for boys who get good grades. Evan and Emery, overhearing Jessica’s assertion that they (and not Eddie) might inherit the restaurant, take an interest in learning the business.
Good: Eddie’s protest against school work is pretty funny, and he makes a strong case, soliciting testimony from Honey and Marvin in his support. I like Eddie’s N.W.A. family tree, too.
Bad: Jessica’s make-up speech with Louis near the end is beginning to feel a little formulaic for this show, and this one kind of comes out of nowhere.
FOB moment: “Do you ever ask yourselves why? Why do we put ourselves through this holiday nonsense? Through all the headaches of visiting relatives? Through all the squash? All for a day that we have no cultural ties to? Why do we do it? Why? Why?”
“Because that’s what we do every year. It’s tradition.”
“It’s not our tradition.”
Soundtrack flashback: Nothing this week, unless that vaguely G-Funk instrumental bit during the fadeout after Jessica tells Eddie that his mom is a little bit crazy is something, but it sounds like stock music.
Final grade, this episode: Meh. Eddie’s story is the only part of the show that has anything new or interesting, and that’s not really developed well. C+.
The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam is a moving and intimate portrait of a man caught up in Sri Lanka’s civil war. Set in and around a refugee camp, this debut novel offers a peek into just a few short days of Dinesh’s life. Arudpragasm delves deep into this one man’s thought process, drawing it out in eloquent and elegant prose. Moments that take but a few seconds traverse multiple pages, yet the book does not feel like it drags on.
The prose captures the disrupted mindsets of one whose life has been completely overturned by war–one of moving from camp to camp and avoiding being drafting. And then the confusions and small joys and larger anxieties of entering into marriage with a stranger. As Dinesh and Ganga’s relationship slowly, sometimes excruciatingly unfolds, the search for human connection is deftly explored and exposed. Continue Reading »
You might have seen this story going around social media, about a harassment incident ending up with her being handcuffed by University of Minnesota police. Thinking about sharing it? Don’t. The University of Minnesota police answered questions about this supposed incident by saying they never responded to the incident described.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 07: “Dave Goes on Shark Tank”
Original airdate November 11, 2016.
Dave is invited to appear on Shark Tank to pitch his new product, the Hot Legs Duvet. Allison is thrilled for him, but Ken is wary once he gets a look at how harsh the TV Sharks can be. Molly begins an internship at Welltopia, where Pat says he’d be happy to write her a letter of recommendation if she does well. Things don’t work out quite as Molly expects when it becomes clear she and Pat have had a miscommunication. One person at Welltopia is unhappy with Molly: Clark, who’s peeved that Molly didn’t “like” a photo he shared on Facebook.
It’s only a flesh wound.
What’s the deal with computers on TV having those obscenely loud keyboards? We’re not idiots; we know what a keyboard sounds like. There’s really no need to amp up the clickety-clacketing. That’s a small complaint, but one that should be pointed out in case anyone who makes these decisions is actually reading this. Then again, I live in a bubble and might not know what keyboards in California sound like, because all I know is what’s around me on my small rock in the Pacific. Perhaps I shouldn’t weigh in on this one.
My bigger complaint is the whole crossover thing in primetime television, which I categorically dislike even though I admit it kind of works in this episode.
A family history.
The gags in this episode are so stupid they’re funny, a line Dr. Ken seems to strive for but has trouble crossing more than once or twice per week. Ken’s silliness works a lot better in the context of his family life than in his professional life, possibly because of the family dynamics. And Clark’s juvenile grudge with Molly is good for more laughs than you’d expect. I was laughing aloud even as I muttered “So stupid!” to myself.
More encouraging than gags that inspire actual laughter are plots that allow Dave and Molly out of the living room and into the real world. Dave interacts with TV celebrities with an aplomb that’s believable because of good character development over the past year, and it’s nice to see Molly as a motivated young woman rather than just a daughter or big sister. Of course the grownups at Welltopia respond well to her: she’s smart, inquisitive, and confident.
What I love most about this week’s stories is that there’s every reason to believe these kids have been reared by these parents. If nothing else, Ken and Allison have raised their kids to use their heads and to be resilient. I’m not dumb enough to expect real-world parents to take lessons from television characters, but it can’t hurt that Allison and Ken model a kind of parenting that encourages their children to take chances, to pursue interests, to be comfortable with themselves, and to be prepared for failure while not fleeing from it.
I’ve said this in my reviews of Fresh Off the Boat when Ken Jeong has guest-starred: he’s a generous and strong supporting actor, leaving all kinds of room for his fellow actors. They succeed largely because he succeeds.
Props to the writers for trusting the actors and their own writing. They let their well-developed central characters take supporting parts while Dave and Molly get the rare all-to-themselves episode.
She’ll be turning cartwheels in no time.
Maybe I’m just in the need for a laugh wherever I can get one, or maybe the writers found something different to tap into this week. Whatever it is, it works, and I like it. 4 x-rays out of 5.