Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 10: “The Best of Orlando”
Original airdate January 17, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Louis wins a Best-of-Orlando Small Businessman of the Year award. Jessica is so proud, she invites nearly everybody she knows to the awards banquet (including her sister in D.C., who listens in via telephone), but Louis thanks everyone except Jessica when he gives his acceptance speech. Eddie and Emery join forces with Grandma to launch their own line of super-baggy clothing, “G-Pants.”
Good: I love these Eddie-Emery stories. It makes a lot of sense, now that they attend the same school, for them to spend more time together, and their interactions have always been super-interesting anyway. I also like the way Deidre, while still a neighborhood rival, is no longer the two-dimensional snobby villain. In the same way that Honey, once allowed to be a real person and not a stereotype, became Jessica’s friend, Deidre is slowly turning also into a real person. The dynamic works really well. I laughed aloud at the way the camera (and Louis’s gaze?) lingers on her when she turns around and Rollerblades away. I would never have guessed it possible to sashay on Rollerblades.
Bad: The writers set up a great premise that they couldn’t resolve in a satisfying, interesting way. Louis’s acceptance speech in the kitchen feels like pandering to the parents-watching-with-their-kids crowd, and while I wholeheartedly support real, guided family viewing for shows like this, the “I stand here not only as a result of that love, but in awe of it” is exactly the opposite of any kind of edginess, a disturbing trend this season. It’s so non-edgy it’s concave.
FOB moment: Grandma is a one-woman sweat-shop, keeping her hands on the sewing machine while Emery shoves candy into her mouth.
Soundtrack flashback: There’s an impossible-to-hear song in the segue from Eddie’s locker to the awards banquet. Other than that, I couldn’t find anything. Disappointing! EDIT: Thanks to Joz’s watching the episode with the captions, we now know that the song is “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest (1994).
Final grade, this episode: This is a good day to praise the art direction of this show, which makes even mediocre episodes interesting to look at. The costumers must clap their hands with gleeful anticipation when they learn that Deirdre is going to be in multiple scenes — it looks like they have a field day with her whenever she’s on screen, and bizarre little touches like the palm tree made of pineapples or the bowl of wooden fruit make nearly every episode of Fresh Off the Boat impossible to confuse with other shows. Hard pass on the arc of the Jessica-Louis story, but I’m here for the silly Eddie-Emery story. C+.
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Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 13: “Jae Meets the Parks”
Original airdate January 13, 2017.
Let him soothe your soul; just take his hand.
Molly introduces Jae to her family, and everything’s great until Jae says he’s dropped out of UCLA to pursue his art. This makes Allison uncomfortable and sets Ken completely off. Ken forbids Molly from seeing Jae. Molly stops talking to Ken. Damona learns that Pat has lied to her about being required to wear scrubs at Welltopia. In an act of defiance, she dresses up for work but gets locked in the stairwell. Pat is putting on a few pounds and orders a reluctant Clark to become his food police.
Some people call him an evil man.
Only two things this week really bug me. The first several minutes of the show look like they’re about to get out of hand with all the Parks overacting and overreacting, and when Ken and Molly have their fight, it’s begins as just the worst version of this fight we’ve seen in a hundred sitcoms. Also, guys know when other guys shouldn’t be trusted, and Jae is sneaky untrustworthy. I mean, not in a way that puts Molly in any danger, but in that way where he’s going to make a bad decision somewhere and Molly’s going to be the collateral damage. It’s that lotus flower, I tell you, and “sweets for my sweet.” Gag me with a rice paddle.
Let him introduce himself real good.
The episode gives every indication that it’s going to be like its recent siblings, but somewhere in that diagreement between Ken and Allison, while Molly is walking Jae to his car, it shifts into super believable, drawing on decisions made by actors and writers a year ago. There’s some depth here, some realization of characters who aren’t as shallow as they frequently want us to believe. Comic relief from Clark, Pat, and Damona is better than usual as well, especially from Clark, and even D. K. is pretty much right on. “Korean Footloose” is funny too, a nice little treat for us Gen Xers in the audience.
He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood.
Last week’s episode was terrible. This week’s isn’t great, but it’s solid and respectable, not to mention pretty funny. What is it about fighting that brings out the best in these actors and characters? 3.5 ID badges out of 5.
Sonya Chung’s newest novel The Loved Ones is an intense look into love, loss, guilt, and reconciliation. Two families who share a last name find their lives intersecting. Charles Lee is the African American father in a biracial family. Hannah Lee is the daughter of Korean immigrants who babysits for his children and is present when a devastating event strikes the family. But The Loved Ones is not a simple linear tale, but rather jumps through time exploring inter-generational experiences and decisions. It is breathtaking to the end.
Chung explores desire and responsibility, reconciliation and its absence, race, family, and of course, love. She delves deep into the details that drive her characters, creating moving and nuanced portraits not only of the fulcrum relationship between Charles and Hannah, but of their families as well. Her punctuated writing style is eloquent and enthralling. It’s a novel that’s difficult to summarize, but well worth the read, as much about the beauty and heartbreak of the process as any kind of end or moral.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 12: “Ken’s New Intern”
Original airdate January 6, 2017.
Doctor, Doctor Help Me Please
Ken’s new intern is very affectionate, and although Allison at first claims she isn’t at all jealous, she becomes strangely competitive even though she knows she has nothing to worry about. The Welltopia gang learns during a weird karaoke session that Damona sang the vocals on the 1990 C+C Music Factory hit, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” but the woman in the video was lip-syncing to her voice, and she never received credit for her work. Molly admits to her grandfather that her first date with Jae, which D. K. arranged, went really well, but she hasn’t heard at all from him since. D. K. and Dave agree to go to Jae’s grandfather’s barber shop to see if they can learn anything about Jae’s feelings for Molly.
I Know You’ll Understand
The supporting roles in this episode (Clark, Pat, Damona’s boyfriend, and Dave) are all well done, especially Pat’s, which I almost can’t believe I’m saying. In an otherwise over-the-top week, Allison has one really good moment, when she’s first confronted by Damona about whether or not she’s jealous. D. K. has a moment near the end when one is reminded that Old Korean Man Strength is not something to test, which is pretty funny if you’ve ever actually tested Old Korean Man Strength. I may have had unpleasant flashbacks. Molly’s really good in this one and probably gets the game ball, the only consistently good non-supporting performance.
There’s a Timed Device Inside of Me
Damona, Ken, Ken’s intern, D. K., and Allison are just way too big, loud, and annoying. Krista Marie Yu has the performance of the week, but Jonathan Slavin delivers the line that best summarizes it all: “Okay, so this is starting to get weird.” There’s actually a sing-off. And a spit-take. And a joke that exists mostly for product placement.
I’m a Self-Destructing Man
It turns out that the Damona story is true, about someone else. The C+C Music Factory song was sung by Martha Wash of the Weather Girls, but her part was lip-synced in the music video by Zelma Davis, who performed vocals on other songs from the album. That’s Zelma Davis and Robert Clivillés in that casino scene. None of this is actually very interesting, but I don’t know what else to say about this bizarre 22 minutes of television. One of the worst episodes in two seasons. 1 JAMA out of 5.
Are Filipinos Asians or Pacific Islanders? That is a question we dealt with on 8asians a long time ago, and most questionnaires and surveys put Filipinos into the Asian category. The question does come up peridiocally, as the Fung brothers put out a video on the subject in 2014 and here on Quora in 2016. When the Adobo Chronicles, an Onion like fake news site, put out a story in 2015 that the US Census Bureau would reclassify Filipinos as Pacific Islanders, enough controversy ensued that the US Census bureau responded a month later saying that they would continue to classify Filipinos as Asians. The Adobo Chronicles was delighted, saying that they were happy that the US Census bureau follows them!
Still, not everyone follows the Census Bureau guidelines. The Wife was renewing her Registered Nurse license at the California Board of Registered Nursing web site when she didn’t find Filipino under the Asian Category. Turns out that Filipinos are under the Pacific Islander category, as shown in the screen capture above.
Looking over how the question has come up so many times in the past, two other questions come into mind. First, why do people really care enough about this question to bring it up so often, and second, why do so many people take the Adobo Chronicles as real news?
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 9: “How to Be an American”
Original airdate January 3, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Jessica and Louis spend the day at the Citizenship and Immigration Services building so Jessica can finally get her citizenship, but she is forced to explain her “criminal record” first. In explaining herself, she tells several stories–unknown to Louis–about her college days, when she was forced to pursue different options for remaining in the country. While they’re out of the house, Eddie, Emery, and Evan agree to take the minivan on an excursion, but get locked out while the engine is running.
Good: Each of us who are dealing with the results of the election this past November has to do it our own way, and part of my process has been to avoid political media (a huge lifestyle change) and political conversation. So please excuse me if I don’t bring it as strong as this episode deserves: I’m still in recovery. The episode, written by Fresh Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan, is clearly a response to last year’s presidential campaign, the second time this season the show has taken this route, and unlike “Citizen Jessica” (episode 4), you kind of don’t see it coming. This one unfolds like just another crazy-Jessica-crazy-kids episode, but it ends with Jessica reciting the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, completely free of irony, surrounded by other new citizens and their loved ones. I watched the episode four times and teared up each time.
There’s other stuff. The Eddie-Emery-Evan story is cute and funny. But by the time Jessica receives her pocket copy of the Constitution, you kind of forget that the other story even exists.
Bad: For once, the portrayal of teachers as idiots actually works, and it’s kind of funny. But c’mon. Wouldn’t it have been a lot funnier if the teachers were instead presented as hard-working, underpaid, and living in a strange world of caring about other people’s kids? Then Jessica could have had that moment of clarity when she realizes she can’t possibly be a teacher because she’s not that crazy. Or sympathetic. It’s a little quibble, but one I’ll keep bringing up because I have to stick up for my profession.
FOB moment: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely, so help me God.”
Soundtrack flashback: “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre (1992, super-censored in kind of a creative way). “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac (1977, sung by Jessica). “The Wacky World of Rapid Transit” by Del the Funky Homosapien (1991).
Final grade, this episode: Excuse me while I get a Kleenex. A.
A number of years ago I stumbled upon a series of children’s books, subtitled “Tales from the Chinese Zodiac“. There was a book for the Chinese New Year, and I eagerly bought the one for the Year of the Snake, glad to find something to help my then 3 year old daughter appreciate the coming Chinese New Year.
Fast forward to 2017 and the last of the series has come out, to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, a full dozen years after my own daughter was born in the last year of the Rooster, 2005. With a complete set of 12 published, you can now find a children’s book for every year/sign in the Chinese Zodiac.
My daughter was excited to read the latest Year of the Rooster installment, even though at 12 she’s a little older than the target audience, which is probably anywhere from 3 to 9 years of age. As with the prior books in the series, the main character (the Rooster in this case), goes on an adventure with a human sidekick, Ying.