8 Asians

Back in April, I had blogged that Ro Khanna was running  again (he first ran in 2014) against Congressman Mike Honda for California’s 17th Congressional District. Since then, I haven’t really been following that election except to see whether or not they both won and made it through the primary (since California has an open primary – the two top vote-getters make it to the general election – so it’s a Democrat vs. Democrat in November).

I was taken aback when I saw Honda’s attack ad against Khanna – probably a first where an Asian American Democrat is attacking another Asian American Democrat – only in California! Personally, I’m not sure how effective that attack ad is since Khanna is not exactly a household name and he isn’t a well know Silicon Valley tech mogul with ties to Wall Street, lobbyists or “extreme Republicans,” like a Peter Thiel. I think a label like “Wall $treet Ro” is kind of ridiculous, as the license plate on the limo in the commercial. Most people in Silicon Valley don’t have close ties to Wall Street, but do for tech.

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However, Khanna has accepted donations from Peter Thiel, whom I find an awful, horrible person, as I think most of Silicon Valley does after Thiel openly supported Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention and spoke there. If Honda’s campaign was smart, they’d be all over Thiel’s support instead of this attack ad. Personally, I’d have a hard time voting for anybody who doesn’t repudiate Thiel – everything I’ve read about him makes me sick.

What kind of cracked me up is that the actor who is playing Khanna in the attack ad kind of reminded me of actor Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle fame, currently on Designated Survivor).

I kind of have to agree, to a degree, this editorial in the local paper titled Mike Honda’s new ad diminishes him:

“On the merits of the issues, the ad is all wrong: Khanna wants to protect Social Security, scrapping the tax cap currently in place. He has written a book about American manufacturing and wants to create jobs in the United States as part of a plan to bring back money that companies hold abroad. He wants to close some of the more obvious tax loopholes for the rich. In a word, he is a progressive Democrat.

The Honda ad is really objectionable because it aims at a whole strata of people, suggesting that successful Indian-Americans are arrogant characters who want to do Wall Street’s bidding by outsourcing American jobs. Arrogance knows no race: And Honda should understand that.”

I didn’t necessarily see the attack ad as suggesting that Indian Americans are arrogant – just possibly Khanna.

What impressed a LOT recently was that former President Jimmy Carter had endorsed Khanna:

“Both candidates in the tight race to represent the 17th Congressional District announced key endorsements Monday, with Sen. Barbara Boxer backing incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Honda and former President Jimmy Carter supporting challenger Ro Khanna. … Meanwhile, Carter called Fremont attorney Khanna one of “the next generation of leaders for our country.” He met Khanna at the Carter Center 20 years ago and was impressed with the young intern’s “passion for human rights and economics” and cited Khanna’s efforts since then, including his stint with the Commerce Department under the Obama Administration and his publication of a book on American economics.”

When I saw that endorsement, I was like – wow. I think a lot of Americans admire President Carter as our best ex-President with his post-Presidential humanitarian efforts. This kind of makes up for Khanna accepting a donation from Thiel.

Personally, I am not really for either candidate since I can’t vote for either of them – I don’t live in that Congressional district. As I have blogged before, I was kind of disappointed with Honda’s debate performance against Khanna in 2014. I have attended Honda fundraisers in the past, but more because I wanted to meet actor and activist George Takei and former Ambassador to China and Governor Gary Locke.

If I had to make a prediction, I think Khanna will prevail this time around. Honda is an eight-term incumbent.  With age discrimination being rampant in Silicon Valley, I hate to say this, but I think Honda has not kept up with his tech savvy constituents and issues in Silicon Valley as he should be (as opposed to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, in neighboring 14th Congressional District – which I consider the heart of Silicon Valley – where Google and Facebook are headquartered, and similar in age as Honda). Honda has been a civic and civil rights leader for decades, but I think Khanna is probably someone more appropriate for that Congressional District.

 

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1280px-johns_creek_high_schoolWhile many white liberals declare themselves strong advocates of diversity, in her essay “Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb,” Anjali Enjeti says that for many of them, that advocacy ends when a certain percentage of those diverse people live by them.   We have written about Asian ethnoburbs and about white flight from them, but what really surprised me is that the ethnoburb that she talks about wasn’t in Cupertino, Irvine, or the San Gabriel Valley but is in the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia.   While I think that Enjeti misses a number of points, she makes many pointedly accurate observations about white fragility and the limits of racial progress in the United States.

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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 3: “Louisween”
Original airdate October 25, 2016.

fotb_s03e03-45Microsynopsis:  It’s Louis’s favorite holiday, Halloween, and he’s as enthusiastic about it as ever, but Jessica refuses to participate even a little, choosing instead to work on her horror novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain.  Louis takes her non-excitement as a challenge to scare her.  Eddie and his friends cancel trick-or-treating plans to attend the first party Nicole throws as a high-schooler.  When the party is a dud, Eddie’s friends bail, but Eddie sticks with his former crush.  Evan says he’s tired of being Emery’s sidekick in their coordinated Halloween costumes every year, so the brothers agree that Evan will choose this year’s costumes.

Good:  It was nice to see Honey and Nicole again, plus some peripheral characters from episodes past, such as Reba (the girl who has a crush on Eddie) and Shelly (played by Arden Belle) from last year’s Halloween episode.  Jessica has some good lines, and the costumes are fun–especially Honey as Elvira, and all of Eddie’s crew, four of whom have basketball-themed costumes.

fotb_s03e03-41Bad:  This is another one of the Louis-gets-carried-away episodes, and it’s mostly not very interesting or funny.  The stories resolve themselves in unnecessarily sappy ways, and the let’s-see-if-we-can-scare-Jessica sequences are kind of dumb.

FOB moment:  This is another episode without a real FOB moment, and it’s totally okay.  It’s good that the Huangs are having episodes where they could be any American TV family.

Soundtrack flashback: This is more like it.  “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel (1995).  “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Doggy Dogg (1994), unbleeped during the “smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice” part.

Final grade, this episode:  The only thing saving the last few minutes is the further development of Eddie’s friendship with Nicole, which is turning into a special relationship that belongs pretty much only to Eddie.  Nicole has no real relationship with anyone else within the framework of this show, and we mostly see her only in the context of Eddie’s life.  This is the kind of richness that turns a good show into a great show, if the show can endure while continuing to develop it over the long haul, and although the critic in me probably would have found it a bit much, the fan in me misses Eddie’s season one voiceover, which could have been great in this spot.  B.

8Questions: The Big Bachi Team

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Last week I wrote an article about my involvement with the new feature film, The Big Bachi, and why I thought it was important and worthwhile project.

I thought it’d be great opportunity to speak to some of the principals behind the production. So I asked Derek Shimoda (the director), Mark Tasaka (the writer), Oliver Ike (the Producer), and Naomi Hirahara (the original writer of the book) four questions.

  1. Tell me what drew you to Mas Arai?

(Derek) I was immediately drawn to Mas even before reading the book because I was familiar with him. My mother read the Mas Arai series and relayed that the character shared the same experiences as my father in real life – atomic bomb survivor and gardener. I think this connection will be more invaluable than any research I could do.

(Mark) As an Asian American who is a fan of film noir, literary detectives, and the mystery genre, I was immediately drawn to Naomi’s first Mas Arai book, “The Summer of the Big Bachi” because of the elevator pitch of the character: he was a Hiroshima-bomb-survivor turned gardener turned amateur detective. That description alone made me aware that Mas Arai would be a very different kind of detective. Besides, the only Asian detective character I was aware of was Charlie Chan, and it’s hard to stomach the “yellowfacing” of those old movies. Naomi’s books and her creation of Mas gave me a character who was a welcomed change of what I was accustomed to.

(Oliver) He reminded me a lot about my own father who is also a Japanese gardener.

(Naomi) Not applicable. I created him. 🙂 Inspired by my dad, but I encountered a lot of men like him during my childhood and also during my tenure at The Rafu Shimpo. These men have been invisible and underestimated. In the movie Chinatown, the Asian gardener didn’t have a name. I’ve given him one here.

  1. What are the biggest challenges you see with this project and why?

(Derek) Financing is the biggest obstacle, for obvious reasons. The most important challenge is maintaining the essence of Naomi Hirahara’s book so as to not disappoint fans of the story too terribly. With Naomi’s approval and input, we have takes some liberties on the story but we are being careful how we proceed.

(Mark) The biggest challenge of bringing “The Big Bachi” to the screen is the funding. Trying to find “mainstream” funding for a film that is set in the 1960s featuring a predominantly Asian cast that is critical of both the actions of America and Japan during the WWII is a tough sell. But that’s what so great about “The Big Bachi.” It addresses these serious issues and wraps an entertaining mystery film exterior around them. Audiences – not just Japanese-American audiences – will learn something while hopefully being entertained at the same time. It’s a highly digestible history lesson disguised as a film noir or perhaps, vice versa, depending our what part of the film you respond to the most.

(Oliver) On the surface, I think some people might see it simply as an “Asian” film and people not of that ethnicity will automatically tune out. The problem is that since Asians in cinema are so rare, whenever a film features a majority Asian cast, it will automatically be labeled an Asian film. This film can be a huge step in the direction of normalizing Asians on screen.

(Naomi) There’s really not much of precedent for something like this. A film adaptation of a mystery series written by an Asian American? And the development team is comprised of mostly Japanese Americans. How do we get people — even our own community members — to invest in this? Documentaries are more known commodities among the older generation. Younger folks seem to supporting more relationship-driven feature films. Some of my mystery writing colleagues are getting substantial film and TV deals. But an independent effort like this featuring a mostly all-Asian cast? It’s a challenge.

  1. Why is The Big Bachi important to you? To the Asian American community?

(Derek) “The Big Bachi” is extremely important to me because it represents more than a group of Asian Americans telling their own story; it represents a community who accepts that mainstream Hollywood just isn’t interested their voices. I’m hoping that “The Big Bach” is an example of Asian Americans not willing to let that detour us.

(Mark) I can say that the “The Big Bachi” is important to me because I believe that it’s a step in the right direction of correcting the wrong of having Asians in largely stereotypical roles on the big screen. Or I can say that it’s important because there’s been a lot of white-washing of Asian stories for many decades in American film and it’ll mean a great deal to a lot of Asian Americans to have a film that doesn’t take the easy way out in terms of casting or its POV. I can say that it’s very rare to have an all-Asian American film production (the director, producers, the writer, and the author of the book all being Asian American). I can say all these things and they’ll be 100% true. But probably the easiest thing to say is that “The Big Bachi” has a chance to be a hard-hitting and engrossing film noir starring an atomic bomb-surviving gardener who is trying to solve a huge mystery while keeping everyone’s lawn immaculate. That alone should get people in seats.

(Oliver) The film is important to me because it is a unique story about people we don’t often see on screen. The time period depicted in the film is a soon forgotten time in Southern California history that has yet to be told in this way. Also, from the author being Asian American to the entire filmmaking crew being Asian Americans, I think this is a film that the community can really rally behind and be proud of.

(Naomi) There’s such a paucity of full-length feature films starring Japanese Americans and their stories. Remove all the camp and identity related ones, and there hasn’t been a lot since the pioneering “Hito Hata: Raise the Banner” in 1980. This is not okay. I love “Crimson Dragon” but that still had a slight outsider’s look into the exotic Little Tokyo. “The Big Bachi” has an interesting neo-noir plot that moves the story. The neo-noir genre allows for flawed and imperfect characters, not model minorities or one-dimensional heroes and victims. I feel that we need the reclaim the missing years since the end of World War II. It’s not like we miraculously reappeared in the 21st century. Stuff happened in between, namely many of our elders worked outside on people’s lawns or inside cleaning people’s homes. In spite of being engaged in this kind of labor, they weren’t simple or simplistic. Life is complicated and the past has a way of leaving its mark.

  1. What is something interesting you’ve discovered while working on this project?

(Derek) During our first team meeting with Naomi, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that three of our fathers were or still are gardeners, the trade of Mas Arai. As such, one of our Kickstarter campaign rewards is gardening by a team of genuine Japanese gardeners – an almost extinct breed.

(Mark) I learned that this is very, very, very difficult. Adapting the book into a script was incredibly challenging. And right now, trying to raise funds for the film is extremely tough. And I’m sure pre-production, production, and post-production will be shaving years off the lives of everyone involved due to the stress and pressure. All of it is hard. But I guess it’s supposed to be hard because then it wouldn’t feel so damn rewarding.

(Oliver) I’ve received the unique privilege of learning more about my own community and history as a Japanese American. I have met many people like my own father and heard more about their unique pasts and challenges.

(Naomi) It’s been fun to watch the evolution of one of my stories in script form. There’s been some substantial changes — the time period, for one. But I really have enjoyed seeing how things need to be altered for a more visual medium. I didn’t expect this, as I’ve heard stories from other novelists with horror stories about their adaptation experiences. It’s been great to give input to the screenwriter, Mark Tasaka, as well as the director, Derek Shimoda. They both have been really open and I think that we have the same goal — to tell the most compelling story about an American-born atomic bomb survivor who is haunted by his Hiroshima past.

DIRECTOR DEREK SHIMODA produced the feature film, In My Life, as well as the acclaimed documentary, Secret Asian Man, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival. He wrote, produced and directed the film, Autonomous Soul, winner of a Visionary Award at the Pan African Film Festival. Over the past several years, Derek has worked on non-fiction series for several cable networks including, The History Channel, The Travel Channel and A&E. His debut feature-length documentary, The Killing of the Chinese Cookie, was a Best Documentary winner at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. His most recent project, June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza, is a feature documentary about Tatsuya Shindo, a high-ranking Japanese ex-mobster-turned-preacher.

SCREENWRITER MARK TASAKA graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a Critical Studies degree. During his time at the school, Mark met his frequent collaborator Derek Shimoda and they’ve been working together ever since. Mark has worked on a variety of documentaries, films, and television shows since graduating. A veteran of the television industry for over a decade, Mark is currently working as a supervising producer on a hit reality show.
PRODUCER OLIVER IKE is an experienced film industry veteran with over seven years of experience in distribution, sales, programming and production. Ike served as Associate Producer on the feature film, EMOTICON and has released numerous award-winning films as a distributor including: In the Family, Seoul Searching, Man From Reno, Patang and many more. Ike currently runs the independent film distribution company, First Pond Entertainment.

AUTHOR NAOMI HIRAHARA is a novelist and social historian based in Los Angeles. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo newspaper, Naomi has written nonfiction books, including a biography on businessman and philanthropist George Aratani, the history of Japanese American gardeners, and the lost Japanese American community on Terminal Island. In addition to her successful Mas Arai book series, she has written, 1001 Cranes (2008), Murder on Bamboo Lane (2014) and Grave on Grand Avenue (2015). She received her bachelor’s degree in international relations from Stanford University and spent a year at the Inter-University Center for Advanced Japanese Studies in Tokyo.

Follow me at @ksakai1.

Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 5: “D.K.’s Korean Ghost Story”
Original airdate October 21, 2016.

dr_ken_s02e05-10Open up and say aaaah.
Allison is heartbroken because Dave seems to be in a rush to grow up.  No longer his mother’s little boy, he eschews trick-or-treating on Halloween, and he insists he’s too old to be frightened by spooky stories anymore.  D.K. tells Dave and Ken a scary Korean ghost story, which Ken chickens out on before its conclusion.  Molly has thirty minutes to find something to wear to a costume party.

Here goes his funny bone.
There are several chuckles near the beginning, but most of this episode is really unfunny.  Dave gets a meaty plot for the first time this season, and although he has a strong start, his exaggerated, cartoonish fear at the end doesn’t play to Albert Tsai’s strengths.  There was a way here for D.K.’s silly story to put some believable Dave-specific fear into him, the kind that his mother could have been a real comfort for, and it could still have been kid-safe and fun.  Dave could have been unaffected by the intended spookiness but found something fearsome in some other level, thereby keeping the story from veering off into wacky land while developing Dave’s character and strengthening his relationships with Allison and D.K.  What he does instead is horribly unconvincing, which then makes Allison’s response unconvincing.

dr_ken_s02e05-24Doctor, doctor, is this love I’m feeling?
I admit I like the old plot device of having the characters in the show perform the in-show narrated story.  It may be old, but it’s not yet tired.

The beginning of the story-in-the-story, with Allison playing the Korean mom and Ken playing the young boy, is the episode’s best moment.  D.K. has his strongest episode this season, and if his contribution to the show is to inject some old-culture Koreanness like this once in a while, his being added to the main cast could work after all.  And darn it if I also didn’t like Pat’s extremely weird, pathetic loserness in both the main story and the ghost story.  No idea why.

Every week, I resist commenting on the actors’ physical appearances because Joz doesn’t like it and because it’s just tricky terrain with landmines everywhere, but can I be forgiven for saying that Suzy Nakamura looks great in her witch costume?  Because wow.

Post-mortem.
Not very funny doesn’t always mean bad.  And this isn’t bad.  2.5 thermometers out of 5.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook recently this TV commercial that he saw air during prime time on network television by Seamless:

“Ah, New York City. The people, the culture, the food. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Until it does. Get all your favorite New York food delivered anywhere in the city.”

(and food delivery service like GrubHub) and asked for opinions. I responded, “A bit stereotypical to say the least.” with the added unwritten thought of the commercial being somewhat racist. Afterwards, he added in his thoughtful commentary on the matter:

“The scene is the building of a skyscraper or the Empire State Building era, in the 1930’s. Poor Irish and, probably Italian, immigrants.

The delivery was for Thai food but I’ll use the parallel of Chinese food since that was the dominant type of Asian food in NYC in the 1930’s.

While Chinese restaurants existed in the 1930’s, the concept of Chinese food delivery did not exist. Moreover, that was the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act which lasted nearly 60 years and wasn’t repealed until 1943.

If the producers wanted to contrast the convenience of a food delivery service like Seamless and difficult to reach places, they could have simply use a neutral pizza delivery guy since Italian and Irish food was much more common those days. No respectable non-Asian hard hat Giovanni ate Asian food back then.

And so, there was no need for producers/ad to cast aspersions on Asians.”

aacw_seamless_commercial

Maybe the folks at Seamless thought their commercial needed some “diversity,” but the execution was kind of ridiculous. Taking a look at Seamless’s other TV commercial from a year ago was a lot more entertaining and relateable, as who doesn’t like free leftover food at the office?

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 2: “Breaking Chains”
Original airdate October 18, 2016.

fotb_s03e02-20Microsynopsis: Emery’s excitement about beginning middle school is dampened when Eddie gives him a binder in which he’s kept track of all the lies he’s told the school about his culture, lies such as a daily nap time and a superstition against locker numbers beginning with 4.  Eddie expects Emery to back him up on these fake traditions, but it’s keeping Emery from doing the things he’s looking forward to.  Evan deals with riding the bus to school alone for the first time.  Louis hires a housekeeper to help Jessica, but Jessica is insulted by the gesture, saying “I would love some help.  Getting the knife.  Out of my back.”

Good:  There is so much here to love, but the best moments are Emery’s confrontation with Eddie (and subsequent coming to terms), Evan’s lecturing Eddie about letting Emery be Emery, and Louis’s fight with Jessica, during which we get to see him raise his voice in frustration: “It’s a GIFT!”  I also love the brief (agonizing) scene at the locker, when Emery’s new locker buddy immediately becomes his locker stranger, and she turns around and becomes the girfriend of the guy with the locker on the other side.  Eddie’s lies hit him right where he lives!

It was also nice to see former Not Ready for Primetime Player Melanie Hutsell as the housekeeper.

fotb_s03e02-24Bad:  I still have issues with how stupid all the grownups at Eddie’s school are, but there’s at least a pretty good reason this time for this presentation.  Eddie’s speech during his argument with Emery has me reconsidering the stupid grownups as a meaningful device.

FOB moment:  “They’re ignorant about who we are, and where we come from.   Why shouldn’t we take advantage of that?  They see me coming down the hall — they’re nervous.  I’m keeping them on their toes, blazing trails, breaking chains.  Then they see you coming, in your gi, with your violin and your camera, and we’re back to where we started!”

Soundtrack flashback:  “I Wish” by Skee-Lo (1995).  “Zombie” by the Cranberries (1994).  “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton (1996).  Possible timeline issue: “Un-Break My Heart” was on the Secrets album, which was released in June of 1996.  The “Un-Break My Heart” single was released in November, but this is the first week of school.  It’s possible Jessica is listening to a CD in the car, but if she’s listening to the radio, it’s unlikely this song would be playing.  I know; it’s a reach.

Final grade, this episode:  Turning Eddie’s laziness into racial subversion is kind of genius.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in prime time.  And I’ve always been fond of the episodes where each of the boys gets individual screen time with his two brothers.  Jessica’s dialed up to 9 through most of the episode, and Louis is right with her for one scene, yet the brothers pretty much own this one.  Excellent performances by all the principal actors.  A-minus.

wangsJade Chang’s novel The Wangs vs. The World  follows one crazy Chinese American family as they try to piece their lives back together after the economic recession of 2008. Mr. Charles Wang  is a self-made man who immigrated from Taiwan and made a fortune with his beauty product empire. But a series of bad choices leaves him completely emptied out (house and cars included).

His family, including his second wife and three (almost all) adult children to dramatically change their lives and revisit their goals. Charles secretly hopes to the small amount of money he has left to retake his family’s ancestral land in China, while his oldest daughter Saina prepares for the arrival of her frazzled family. Instead of rags to riches, it’s riches to rags–an immigrant story turned on its head.

This book is an entertaining ride, exploring each character’s back story and current travails with wit and humor. And with a fresh voice, Jade Chang provides wry commentary on our modern life. At the heart of it all is an endearing story about a family coming together in the midst of a lot of sh**.

He never should have fallen for America. As soon as the happy-clappy guitar-playing Christian missionary who taught him English wrote down Charles’ last name and spelled it W-A-N-G, he should have known….In Chinese, in any Chinese speaker’s mouth, Wang was a family name to be proud of…But one move to America and Charles Wang’s proud surname became a nasally joke of a word; one move and he went from king to cock.

These are the moments that make you chortle to yourself quietly, or bemusedly note the bitter yet strikingly accurate commentary on the world, and turn to the next page.

 

Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 4: “Dr. Ken: Child of Divorce”
Original airdate October 14, 2016.

dr_ken_s02e04-9Symptoms?
Ken learns that his parents have been divorced for a couple of years.  He pretends to take it in stride, but it makes him wonder how confident he can be in his own marriage.  Dave has similar feelings, being now the “child of a child of divorce,” so he ends things with his new girlfriend Emily.

It hurts when I do this.
D.K. still hasn’t found his space in any of the dynamics, except for one-on-one conversations with Ken, which he’s always been great with.  I understand the temptation to pair him with Pat because the awkwardness could be enormous fun, but in this case it’s just weird and unpleasant.  Clark and Damona, lately a strength, are not great in scenes with Ken or D.K.  Everything seems exaggerated and clownish.

dr_ken_s02e04-3Reflexes normal.
There are a few highlights in this episode.  Ken Jeong’s flair for physical humor is on lovely display, as when he drops silently to his knees and then collapses, face down, onto the kitchen floor.  Molly’s playing psychologist is cute, and it works well within the framework of the story.  It also works toward developing her as having interests or inclinations similar to her mother’s, a first for this show.  I also like some of the call-outs to some Korean stereotypes: a love for golf, for example, and “Hardcore Koreans never smile for pictures: it’s a sign of weakness.”

Condition: fair.
This episode is not great, but its consistent storyline with no subplots just to keep everyone involved is an improvement over recent installments.  Call it the lowest degree of just all right. 3 forehead reflecting thingies out of 5.

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 1: “Coming from America”
Original airdate October 11, 2016.

fotb_s03e01-6Microsynopsis: Continuing the story begun in the season 2 finale, Louis follows his brother Gene back to Taiwan, hoping to bury the hatchet (again) before Gene’s wedding in order to set a good example for his sons.  He meets Gene’s beautiful fiancé (a television commercial actress) and witnesses Gene’s affluent lifestyle, and wonders if he should move back to the homeland.  Eddie spends much of his trip stressed-out about finding a fax machine so he can send notes to Alison in Orlando (before the guy at Kinko’s picks up on her sadness and makes his move).  Jessica brings the boys to her favorite spots, but discovers that something’s different now–she doesn’t seem to fit in quite the way she used to.

Good: There’s a pretty funny callback to the polite-arguments in the last episode of season 2, with a little twist, and Ken Jeong as Gene Park is once again quite enjoyable.  The episode takes advantage of the scenery, framing the characters against some fascinating backdrops, including temples, busy marketplaces, and an enormous hotel.  And there are lots of funny jabs at both cultures.  My favorite: arriving in customs, Jessica explains why she’s visiting, and the customs official has a checkbox for “wronged by brother-in-law” on the form in front of him.

fotb_s03e01-21Bad: The episode makes an embarrassing number of references to Ghost, the 1990 film with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, a film I hate.

FOB moment: The location change in this episode means that the only F.O.B.s are Eddie, Emery, and Evan, so I’m going with the short scene near the end, when Evan sits in on his cousin’s class.  His cousin volunteers an answer, and even though it’s correct, he’s slapped in the face by his teacher without being given a reason.  Evan’s cousin supposes it’s because he didn’t give his answer loudly enough.  Evan stands at his desk and says, “I am an American citizen!  Please take me to my embassy!”

Soundtrack flashback:  “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers (1965), a song I can’t stand.  “Bow Down” by Westside Connection (1996), a song I had to look up because I was completely unfamiliar with it!

Final grade, this episode: It’s just great to see these characters again.  The actors slide right into their roles with a comfortable vibrance that bodes well, and I love the mixture of absurdity, realness, silliness, and seriousness: it’s the right mix for a family show.  B+.

Support ‘The Big Bachi’

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As a programmer at the Japanese American National Museum, I have been on the front lines of Asian American culture for more than a decade. That’s why when Fresh Off the Boat came out on ABC, we were excited and proud to host some community screenings. It was exciting to see a cast of talented and amazing Asian American actors on network television. But what was more exciting—at least for me—was to see how thrilled other Asian Americans were about it too.

But what disheartened me was the fact that many Asian Americans complained that there had been no other since Better Luck Tomorrow. But of course they were wrong. Lots of people had done lots of things—including me. They just hadn’t bothered to find out what.

As a content creator, this is the heart of the problem. We—as a people—need to support our projects. I know you’ve heard it all before, but I mean it. We need to buy our books, watch our movies, go to our film festivals, consume our television, etc. Because if we aren’t willing to consume our stories, then who is?

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Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 3: “Ken’s Banquet Snub”
Original airdate October 7, 2016.

dr_ken_s02e03-7Doctor, doctor, gimme the news.
Pat is asked to host the Welltopia banquet this year, instead of Ken, who has done the honors for the past five years.  Allison counsels him to “take the high road” and allow someone else to have the spotlight for a change.  Damona and Clark reconsider their relationship instincts and briefly swap strategies, Damona holding her tongue in check with her boyfriend, and Clark speaking his peeves with his boyfriend.  Dave has an admirer in the girl next door, who has a creepy way of hanging around.

Prognosis negative.
This episode is all over the place, and the only thing holding it together is the well-established chemistry of the characters.  Each of the plots is thin and uninteresting, although the A story had some potential.  Tapping into Pat’s continued confusion over his now-ended relationship with Damona can pay off, not to mention what could be some remorse by Ken over what might have been a career in standup comedy.  The resolving scene in Ken’s car is a good effort, but it lacks any of the heft it shoots for with these characters.  It’s also becoming clear that the writers don’t know what to do with Dave, Molly, and D.K. at home.

dr_ken_s02e03-4I’m detecting a pulse.
Pat takes a well-aimed shot at Ken Park the doctor and Ken Jeong the actor when he says, “I guess maybe they wanted more a thinking man’s comedy, and less desparate man’s comedy.  You know, more cerebral humor and less of the rubber-faced clowning that is your trademark.”  It’s one of the few memorable lines.  Clark and Damona have a cute scene where they do some awkward mugging while they await Ken’s reaction to finding out that Pat’s taken his gig.  In fact, Damona and Clark are really the highlight this week: their relationship is turning into quite a nice friendship.

Refills: 20.
The nice thing about an episode like this is that, unlike the vibe last season, it doesn’t feel like it’s bombing the audition.  A bad-to-mediocre week is just a stone in the road now, and there’s no reason to get depressed about it, the way I might have last year.  We’ve got 20ish more to go, so let’s get some bed rest and come back in a week.  2 bedpans out of 5.