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.
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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.
I stumbled across Drew Pham’s story when posting a story on StoryCorps about my mother. My father was a Navy veteran, and I was curious to hear other veteran’s stories. This segment, which was played on NPR, talks about some of the incredibly difficult situations he had to go through when he was deployed as an Army Captain in Afghanistan. Since the segment first aired in March 2014, I decided to see if anything else happened to him since then. I found out that a lot more did happened and that he has a lot more interesting stories tell, such as how being Asian American played out in growing up, joining the Army, and even in provoking the Taliban’s response to him.
So what else happened to him? For one thing, he got cancer. In this story from Time, he says he is remission now (notably, after he received a bone marrow transplant). More importantly and definitely more interestingly, he had his life story told in the form of this graphic story. It goes over growing up Vietnamese American, and how media images made him think of being a good guy in the US military. I’m not going to describe it all (it’s best experienced seeing it yourself), but some highlights are graffiti that the Taliban left specifically for him, the questions that he and other veterans hate to hear, and what makes him proudest of his experiences. It will also make you think about the toll taken overseas and here at home by the wars fought for “America’s interests.”
If you thought that his story is interesting or want to preserve a veteran’s stories, consider StoryCorp’s Military Voices Initiative. We have also written about the Library of Congress Veteran history project. Another thing to learn from his story is the importance of bone marrow donations. Drew Pham’s life was probably saved by one, but other Asian Americans have not been lucky enough to get a match.
I am just going to link to ThankYouDonald and let the posts speak for themselves.
The account description is:
Thank You, Donald. Bearing witness to the #WhiteLash. Contribute photos/screenshots by tagging them with #SubmitToHate. I wish this account didn’t need to exist.
I wish this account didn’t need to exist, either.
(Note: I am not the person who started that account)
I feel that this is a good time for us to revisit one of the original goals of 8Asians– to hear the diverse voices and opinions from our multifaceted communities of Asian Americans/Asian Canadians/Asian Australians/English speaking Asians from around the world.
Our writers used to regularly TalkAbout things, but we fell out of that habit.
So I ask you, do you have something to say to our community? What is your post-election reaction?