Out of Atlanta comes a story written by Rodney Ho about The Chin Chens, a new Asian American sitcom about a family with a Chinese American father, a Vietnamese American mother, and their three children. According to the article, the parents “own a successful chain of nail salons and Chinese restaurants.”
The creator and lead writer is named as Will Hollins, an African American, who is “trying to mine humor from Asian-American culture in a sitcom he’s calling The Chin Chens.” Though is doesn’t star any well-known Asian American actors or actresses, the cast includes seasoned actors such as Vickie Eng and Vince Canlas, as well as first-time actors. The synopsis and some of my thoughts, after the jump.
Hollins will direct the first two episodes and Debbie Allen, the choreographer and TV producer known for her work on 1982’s “Fame” TV series, will direct some future episodes, according to Tom Nguyen, a University of Georgia graduate who plays the son on the show and is helping tweak the scripts to ensure they have a proper Asian-American feel.
Nguyen said more than $3 million has been raised to fund the first 13 episodes, mostly from Chinese and Vietnamese investors.
“The Chin Chens” has a year-long commitment from a small Denver-based non-profit cable outlet CoLours TV, available on Dish Network. That network has a relatively small viewer base so Hollins hopes to get the show on a bigger network once they film a few episodes. From there, he hopes to leverage success on a U.S. network to big licensing fees from international syndication.
With obvious comparison’s already being made to Margaret Cho’s infamously unfunny and unsuccessful All American Girl, I have to say, I don’t know how I feel about everything I’ve heard so far. “The Chin Chens?” Really? It sounds eerily close to the Ching Chongs I was regularly called on the playground.
The article quotes Vickie Eng, the Atlanta actress who plays the mom, likening the show to ‘The Cosby Show’ in terms of its impact for African Americans. “The family is wealthy and educated. It brings core family values, Asian values. We hope to be funny while doing it.” Few things would make me happier than to see an Asian American sitcom as successful as The Cosby Show, but I know that one of the reasons that the Cosbys did so well was because of the lack of the use of stereotypes– or even mentions of their race, in general. And while I know there are a lot of Chinese American men who do run Chinese restaurants and Vietnamese American women who do run nail salons, it would be nice to see the parents with careers that are a little less stereotypical than that. If they wanted both parents to be entrepreneurs, they could have selected one or both of their businesses to be different from their Asian ethnic stereotype. I think that one of the reasons that Cliff and Clair Huxtable were such outstanding role models was because they were affluent and educated– instead of being stereotypically blue-collared “stay-at-home mother and a limousine driving father with two sons and two daughters” as they were originally envisioned.
I don’t know anything about The Chin Chens but more than anything else, I hope the show is funny, because I can put up with (some) stereotypes, an obnoxious title, or even some mildly racist jokes (if they have them). But if a sitcom isn’t funny, then that’s pretty hard to forgive.
h/t: Jeff Yang
Photo credit: Radio & TV Talk