‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The Real Santa”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 10: “The Real Santa”
Original airdate December 8, 2015.

IAN CHENMicrosynopsis: In order to provide Evan with a better role model, Jessica embellishes Santa Claus’s persona, giving him multiple graduate degrees and a Chinese ethnicity. Emery stresses out over the perfect gift for Jessica while Eddie advises him just to “let it ride,” espousing his philosophy of things eventually working themselves out.

Good: Jessica’s miniature Christmas town is hilarious, and although her Santa characterization story gets a little crazy, it’s difficult not to smile at her sincere efforts to give her youngest son an inspiring model. And yeah, I’m a sucker for the sentimentality of the season, so Evan’s unironic embracing of everything his mother shares kind of hits me right here.

This is another episode where Emery is more Eddie’s younger brother than Evan’s older brother, and it’s just a really good dynamic. Emery knows his brother well enough not to take everything he says at face value, but there seems also to be a sincere fondness between siblings that gives Eddie some of his best light. Eddie is also helped by his special relationship with his grandmother, who’s really funny in this episode.

fotb_S02E10 (17)Bad: Jessica’s solution to the Santa problem is just sooooooooooooo ridiculous, the only thing that keeps it from ruining the episode is the sincerity of her speech when Evan confronts her.

FOB moment: Jessica prepares zongzi for Chinese Santa’s visit.

Soundtrack flashback: “Dear Mama” by 2Pac (1995).

Final grade, this episode: It takes a few weird steps over the line into absurdity, in a way that seems out of character even for this show, but “The Real Santa” is a funny episode, with laughs from unexpected places (the Pan-Cultural Seasonal Entity for one, and Honey’s reminiscing about her cranberry bog experience for another), and some nice interactions between Eddie and Emery, Louis and Jessica, and Jessica and Honey. The actors seem to have found most of their places in two dimensions, enabling them now to delve a bit more into the third. B.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “We Done Son”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 9: “We Done Son”
Original airdate December 1, 2015.

HUDSON YANG, DMXMicrosynopsis: Jessica and Honey, disagreeing about their investment house, have a falling out. Eddie takes a job helping hip-hop artist DMX with domestic chores. Louis opens his home to an old friend whom Jessica does not trust. J.B. Smoove and John Ross Bowie (Barry Kripke on The Big Bang Theory) also have guest roles.

Good: I am not a fan of cameo guest appearances in sitcoms; they’re gimmicky and cartoonish, and they tend to destroy the illusion actors work so hard to create. However, this DMX storyline is genuinely funny, and I admit I laughed aloud multiple times, even on repeated viewings. Jessica’s spat with Honey is well done, too, and it looks like the costumers had a lot of fun with Honey in this episode.

Fresh off the Boat has frequently been creative with camera angles and framing, and there are two shots this week I loved: Eddie’s first appearance at DMX’s door, in which he looks incredibly tiny in front of a Taj-Mahal-scale palace, and a cute inside-the-locker shot when Eddie takes his stress out on his girlfriend Alison.

Alison is such a normal person (hip-hop arrangements on piccolo aside), she lends believability to scenes at Eddie’s school and, in this episode, scenes away from school with Eddie’s friends. It’s not a huge role if you count the number of lines she delivers, but it’s playing a big part in the realness of Eddie’s world. Hers is an unexpectedly steadying influence.

HUDSON YANGBad: The Louis story isn’t very interesting. J.B. Smoove is funny as always, but as Louis’s friend in the C plot, he basically serves only as contrast for Honey’s relationship with Jessica, and it feels like a distraction.

FOB moment: Jessica pays five hundred bucks a month for the advice of her fortune teller, Madame Xing.

Soundtrack flashback: “Born Loser” by DMX (1993).

Final grade, this episode: “We Done Son” has good laughs, fun visuals, and surprising dialogue. A strong episode for Jessica and Eddie. B.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Huangsgiving”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 8: “Huangsgiving”
Original airdate November 17, 2015.

fotb_S2E8 (1)Microsynopsis: Jessica’s mother announces that Thanksgiving dinner will be at the Huangs’ house this year, over the protestations of Jessica’s sister Connie. Louis and Jessica feel pressured to outdo Thanksgivings past with their special Huangsgiving, but Jessica believes Connie’s supposed marriage problems with Steve are a staged effort to steal the attention. Susan Park, C.S. Lee, and Rex Lee return as Connie, Steve, and Jessica’s college boyfriend Oscar.

Good: Jessica and Connie are an interesting combination, and the subtitles gag is as cute as it was in their first episode together. It’s also kind of cute to see the grandmas hanging out together. Evan and Emery are in charge of the table decorations and are about as adorable as you expect by now.

fotb_S2E8 (3)Bad: This episode is all over the place and very little of it is very interesting. Oscar’s a huge distraction, Eddie and his cousin are good for two jokes (one about changing musical tastes and one about sexy women on the Internet) but mostly just take up space, and I’m a big fan of Honey, but she and her husband show up for dinner just to serve the plot, and it’s boring. The main conflict, Jessica’s and Louis’s efforts to salvage a doomed feast, is just kind of a yawn.

FOB moment: Grandma hears the live game hens and brandishes a knife in anticipation of slaughtering them.

Soundtrack flashback: “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest (1992), the part where Busta Rhymes sings, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Probably the highlight of this episode for me.

Final grade, this episode: It’s like the writers don’t expect anyone to watch the Thanksgiving episode and don’t want us to miss anything good, because if you skipped this one, you certainly didn’t. It doesn’t suck, but it’s boring, which is almost as bad. C minus.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The Big 1-2”

Fresh off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 7: “The Big 1-2”
Original airdate November 10, 2015.

fotb_S2E7 (22)Microsynopsis: Eddie is about to turn twelve, but this year he informs his parents that he doesn’t want a party or any gifts except cash. He asks if he can have a “chill, regular day” hanging with his friends at the mall. Jessica and Louis agree, but they later discover that Eddie is throwing his own party without his family’s involvement. They confront him, and he confesses that he feels his parents are “too strict” and that he “can’t be himself” when he’s at home. Emery and Evan decide that they’ve had enough of being the invisible sons at home, and set out to be bad boys in order to get some attention.

Good: There’s some good stuff here about being raised in an Asian American family: Eddie pushes back against his parents’ strictness, while from the opposite end, Emery and Evan take a few comedic, satrical shots at parental expectations, demonstrating what they think being bad sons means to Louis and Jessica (in a hilarious montage of rebellion). My parents were strict in a lot of ways, and my experiences sleeping over at friends’ houses was a lot like Eddie’s. It’s kind of a nice tribute to the tension between resenting our strict parents while also appreciating how their strictness is good for us in some ways.

IAN CHEN, FORREST WHEELERBad: I’m not sure how bad it is, but I was more than a little uncomfortable with the portrayal of Dave’s family. I know it’s an exaggeration of sorts, and I’ve known families that weren’t too far off, but it felt just a little mean-spirited, and I can’t say why. It’s the only downer on what’s a pretty upbeat episode.

FOB moment: “Where are all the streamers, and scallion pancakes…?”

Soundtrack flashback: “Slam” by Onyx (1993)

Final grade, this episode: Another pretty good episode. If FotB can settle into this groove, it’s going to be one of the best family shows on television. B.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Miracle on Dead Street”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 5: “Miracle on Dead Street”
Original airdate October 27, 2015.

RANDALL PARK, LUCILLE SOONGMicrosynopsis: Louis and the boys are excited about their first Halloween in the suburbs, but Jessica doesn’t share their enthusiasm. Instead, she takes up arms in defense of the investment house she and Honey have renovated, as a group of teenaged boys have sworn to attack it with eggs on Halloween night.

Good: The costumes are adorable, especially Emery and Evan in a Silence of the Lambs combo. The Jessica vs. Teen Boys story goes a little overboard, but it touches on some interesting themes I haven’t seen in a family show, and it plays with certain power dynamics I find fascinating. I still can’t get enough of Jessica and Honey together; their friendship is a bond of alienation that feels bigger and stronger than the neighbors who pushed them to the fringe, and their interactions are great for character development. Oh, and Eddie dresses up as Humpty Hump from Digital Underground, one of my favorite hip-hop acts of all time.

IAN CHEN, FORREST WHEELERBad: Just the usual going too far off the edge with some of the gags. The A-Team themes are pretty funny, but they get a little wacky. The teen boys are way over the edge.

FOB moment: “Begging for candy in a disguise, to hide your shame? No thank you.”

Soundtrack flashback: “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” by Geto Boys (1991).

Final grade, this episode: It’s a cute, fun episode, and it’s nice to see Eddie and his friends having nice, wholesome fun together. B.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Fall Ball”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 4: “Fall Ball”
Original airdate October 13, 2015.

HUDSON YANG, RANDALL PARKMicrosynopsis: Louis is beyond excited about Eddie’s upcoming Fall Ball, the first school dance for the middle-schooler. He offers to give Eddie and his friends pointers on making the evening a “life-changing experience,” including advice on dancing, attire, and hair. Jessica is surprised to be the only one who didn’t know Grandma was dating someone, a dentist who’s just died. When she learns that Grandma is receiving an inheritance, Jessica sees an opportunity to get involved in house-flipping.

Good: New character development with Honey, Jessica, and Grandma is strong, the kind of character-driven relationship-building I’ve longed to see more of in this show. Louis is over-the-top enthusiastic about the school dance, but that’s made up for with a sincerely progressive kind of parental advice centered not on his expectations for his boy, but on his boy’s comfort levels and self-confidence. I’m really big on family sitcoms being something young people can discuss with their parents (or whoever), and Fresh off the Boat consistently does well in this area.

Other pluses: The flashback with guest Jeremy Lin, not as himself, is cute, and it highlights something primetime television and professional basketball have in common. Eddie and Allison (the piccolo-playing girl from episode 2) get some time together at the dance, Honey is especially gorgeous this week, Simple Minds is in the soundtrack, someone finally calls Jessica out on her rudeness, and the school dance is one kind of awkwardness stacked on other kinds of awkwardness, like almost all middle-school dances.

RANDALL PARK, JEREMY LINBad: Still not a fan of grownups at the school, and in this episode the other group of regular characters I don’t like, the Cattleman’s Ranch employees, show up in the school context too. Ugh.

FOB moment: “Don’t compare us to white people. They are the cruelest race.”

Soundtrack flashback: “Boombastic” by Shaggy (1995) and “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds (1985)! You can never have too much Simple Minds in school dance scenes.

Final grade, this episode: It’s borderline between a high B and a B+, but the writing in this episode is tight. B+.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Family Business Trip”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 1: “Family Business Trip” (Season 2 Premiere)
Original airdate September 22, 2015.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT - "Family Business Trip" - When Louis is forced to bring his family on a business trip to Gator World, Jessica learns the art of relaxation and Eddie takes on the "Death Roll." Meanwhile, Evan loses his last baby tooth but isn't ready to join the big kid club, on the season premiere of "Fresh Off the Boat," TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 22 (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Michael Ansell) RANDALL PARK, CONSTANCE WU Microsynopsis: Eddie’s plans for entering seventh grade with a cool summer vacation story are destroyed (by a funny story from Yo! MTV Raps‘s Ed Lover) until Louis agrees to take the family to a business convention near a theme park. Evan struggles with realizing that he is no longer a baby.

Good: It was a great feeling just to see the opening credits again for another season. Many things about this show annoy me, but I really do enjoy the characters, editing, and pop culture references, so yeah: I’m rooting for its success. Evan’s opening voice-over is cute, and I enjoyed the clever way it was woven into the show’s narrative. Ditto the soundtrack music when Eddie couch-potatoes for the first three months of his vacation. One of my favorite gags, Emery’s popularity with the ladies, is played all-out this week and it’s hilarious. The character named Gator Carol is played by Sarah Baker, who had that great performance in the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of Louie; it was a nice surprise to see her turn up here.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT - "Family Business Trip" - When Louis is forced to bring his family on a business trip to Gator World, Jessica learns the art of relaxation and Eddie takes on the "Death Roll." Meanwhile, Evan loses his last baby tooth but isn't ready to join the big kid club, on the season premiere of "Fresh Off the Boat," TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 22 (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Michael Ansell) HUDSON YANG Bad: The writers aren’t making it a priority to come up with truly resonant, meaningful stories for Eddie without driving the whole show off the edge. It hadn’t been a summer hiatus secret that Eddie’s voiceovers would probably not continue into season two, but without it, his presence on the program is diminished to that of a supporting player, a move that weakens the program. Without Eddie’s being a central character, the theme song and hip-hop references don’t make any sense. He doesn’t have to be the main story of every episode; however, starting season two with this story feels like a statement about this becoming more a show about the family than Eddie. That’s going to take some getting used to.

FOB moment: Thousand-year-old egg with tofu and grass jelly drink.

Soundtrack flashback: “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan

Final grade, this episode: There’s not a lot to complain about, but neither is there much to get excited about beyond the show’s continued existence. It’s nice to see Lucille Soong and Chelsey Crisp moved to the opening credits. I’m very excited about this show’s return to my weekly routine–I’ve become a fan of the principal actors and appreciate the show’s continued attempts to deliver something creative and original. Still, everyone needs a little bit of time to get into mid-semester form after summer vacation. C.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT: SEASON 1

“Honey” to return as a regular in Season 2 of ‘Fresh Off The Boat’

8A-2015-06-29-Deadline-ChelseyCrispDeadline reports that…

After recurring in Season 1, Chelsey Crisp (Reconcilation, The Harvesting) has been promoted to series regular for the second season of ABC comedy Fresh Off The Boat. She plays the Huangs’ neighbor Honey. Based on Eddie Huang’s memoir, the 1990s-set series revolves around a Chinese family that moves to suburban Orlando. It centers on hip-hop-loving Eddie Huang, raised by an immigrant father (Randall Park) who is obsessed with all things American and an immigrant mother (Constance Wu) who is often bewildered by white culture. Crisp is repped by 3 Arts and DSA.