‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Mo’ Chinese Mo’ Problems”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 5, Episode 5: “Mo’ Chinese Mo’ Problems”
Original airdate November 9, 2018.

The ladies will kick it:  While going door to door as a U.S. Census volunteer, Evan discovers there’s another Chinese family in the neighborhood (Reggie Lee, Ming-Na Wen, and Jimmy O. Yang).  The Huangs and the Lees are overjoyed, but Louis feels his new buddy moving in on his friendship with Marvin, and Jessica becomes disillusioned when Elaine turns out not to be the role model she hopes.

Eddie and Emery, inspired by Evan, pose as Census volunteers in order to find out which neighbors have their own swimming pools and when during the day nobody’s home.

The rhyme that is wicked:  I’m not going to lie.  I’m totally here for anything Ming-Na is in (okay, except Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), so I was going to like this episode almost no matter what.  Add Jimmy O. Yang, this year’s runner up (to Awkwafina) for Summer of ________ status, and I’m willing to forgive almost anything.  I love the decision to play Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First” when Elaine saunters up to the mural wearing her low-rider jeans.  Everyone bows to Ming-Na.

There’s an interesting and almost surely deliberate irony when Jessica twice, in the company only of Louis and the Lees, utters stereotypes of Chinese people and Jewish men in an episode where she protests the stereotypical portrayal of Asians in a school mural.  I am not smart enough to break it down, so somebody please do it in the comments!

Deirdre is hilarious in this episode.

Lines I enjoyed:

“You always find fresh ways to be boring.” (Eddie)

“I’m usually four times more beautiful than this.” (Elaine)

“My oldest son’s middle name is Elvis.” (Louis)

“I hate racism and I love a trap.”  (Jessica)

“Betrayed by my beautiful face.” (Jessica)

“Maybe turn you into a sausage man.” (Marvin)

Those who don’t know how to be pros:  

I said I’d be willing to forgive just about anything.  Among “anything” are tons of overacting by all the principals including the guest stars (but not including Yang).

Is “whale tale” an anachronism?

FOB moment:  The Huangs welcome the Lees with a fruiting lemon tree.

Soundtrack flashback:  “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah (1989).  If you haven’t heard the early Latifah stuff, I recommend it highly.

Get evicted: The episode is rescued from a C by the end, with Horace’s redo of the We Are the World mural, plus of course the guest cast, whom I adore.  B.


‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Workin’ the ‘Ween”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 5, Episode 3: “Workin’ the ‘Ween”
Original airdate October 20, 2018.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

Marvin and Honey ask Louis and Jessica to be their baby’s godparents.  Jessica eagerly agrees, mostly so Marvin and Honey can have a date night, leaving the Huangs to babysit on Halloween night, and shutting down Louis’s efforts to persuade Jessica to dress in a couples costume with him.

Jessica and Louis are alarmed to discover that they aren’t the naturally talented parents they thought.  Their claim that Eddie was weaned from the pacifier with no problems is a deception by Louis; their claim that Emery’s weaning was even easier is a deception by Jessica.

Eddie gets a job selling mattresses (his boss is played by George Wendt) and works Halloween night to prove he has what it takes.  Trent comes by to help, but he’s much more of a hindrance.

Evan and Emery, dressed as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, get to hand out candy at the front door, where they have a problem with a girl who shows up repeatedly, each time in a different costume.

That never learns to dance

Another silly but mildly entertaining Halloween episode.  The costumes are great, and it’s nice to see the continued development of Eddie’s character (in two separate plots!).  There’s a moment at the end of the teaser where Louis gives his dejected face.  That face is some excellent Randall Park acting.  My favorite costume in the episode is Grandma as Freddy Krueger.

Despite this being a really meh episode, the tag at the end is completely unexpected, perfectly in character (which is a brilliant paradox), terrific character development for Eddie, and genuinely sweet.  Sweet Eddie is the best!  Eddie made Evan!

Lines I enjoyed: “Alf was a puppet?” (Jessica).  “You love black dresses and putting words into my mouth” (Louis).  “Not being wise is being dumb.  You make me dumb” (Jessica).  “Damn you, perfect Evan!” (Louis).

It’s the dream afraid of waking

Trevor Larcom as Trent was, last season, regularly the best actor among the young men who play Eddie’s friends. He has an off episode here, and it may not be his fault.  Trent’s part in this episode is idiotic.  Hudson Yang as Eddie feels pretty off as well, although he has a few good moments in the mattress store.  All three plots feel like something out of the sitcom plot handbook.

FOB moment:  “A Japanese man saved my father’s life once, so you’re hired.”

Soundtrack flashback: “The Rose” by Bette Midler (1979) and the theme from The X-Files by Mark Snow.

That never takes a chance: The wonderful final few seconds of the episode give it a boost, but not much of a boost.  B-.


‘Fresh Off the Boat” Episode Review: “The Hand That Sits the Cradle”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 5, Episode 2: “The Hand That Sits the Cradle”
Original airdate October 12, 2018.

I’m goin’ out tonight: Jessica volunteers to take care of Honey’s zuo yue zi (“sitting the month,” which I just learned is a thousand-year-old tradition).  Her insistence on Honey’s taking it easy makes Honey suspicious, overheated, and wine-deprived.  She has a feeling Jessica is compensating for something.  Louis takes advantage of Jessica’s being at Honey’s house for a month by trying to bond with Evan, who’s much more interested in doing his own thing until Jessica returns home.  His own thing includes reading Churchill: Lad to Legend.  Eddie and Emery are inspired by Pumping Iron to get into bodybuilding, mostly because they “just want to get stronger than Grandma.”

I’m feelin’ all right: There’s something endearing about Jessica’s not knowing how to deal with (or talk about) the failure of her novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain.  She seems humbled in a way she’s completely unprepared to understand, and rather than lash out or muscle her will into being, she wanders.  I love this Jessica, and Constance Wu does some wonderful acting in the scene where Honey calls her out.  I also will not complain about any Honey-heavy episode that’s not baby-centric.

Eddie-Emery partnerships are almost always interesting, and Louis going too far while being focused on someone else is one of the best Louises.

Some lines I enjoyed: “I sleep on her failure every night” (Grandma).  “There’s no such thing as quality time.  There’s just time” (Jessica).

Gonna let it all hang out: I have no real complaints about this episode.  Even Marvin is charming (especially when he says he’s hit his pre-baby weight: before Nicole, who’s 18).  But this is the second episode of the season, so it’s apparent that there is no Roseanne joke coming.  Come on, FOtB writers.  The door is wide open for a very funny joke about Roseanne Connor throwing the Huangs under the boat and then finding herself written out of existence.  It doesn’t have to be cruel; it can just be pointed.

FOB moment:  I learned something about sitting the month.  There’s also something cultural in “There’s no such thing as quality time; there’s just time,” right?

Soundtrack flashback:  “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain (1997).

Final grade, this episode: An altogether pleasant episode that doesn’t distinguish itself from the rest of the utterly competent episodes making up most of the corpus. B.

Non-Spoiler ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Fresh Off the RV”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 5, Episode 1: “Fresh Off the RV” (season premiere)
Airs tonight, October 5, 2018 at 8:00.

It’s the end of summer, 1998 in Fresh Off the Boat time, and it’s time for Honey to have her child, and it’s time for Marvin to give up his sports car, and it’s time for Jessica’s novel A Case of a Knife to the Brain to finally see its release.  Nicole and Eddie have some Saturn Time: Nicole’s got some big news for her best friend.

The official summary from ABC gives more details than I would, so skip this paragraph if you’re very sensitive about spoilers.

While Honey and Marvin celebrate the birth of their baby, Jessica’s book is finally released, and she’s optimistically looking forward to a book store reading that’s been set up by her publisher to help boost sales. Louis is so excited to promote the book across the country that he buys an RV from Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who owns an RV dealership which is managed by underappreciated Calvin (Jaleel White, “Family Matters”). Meanwhile, Emery and Evan are concerned about Eddie after Nicole tells him that she’s moving to New York, and he seems completely unfazed about losing his best friend.

It feels like the show is slipping into its groove.  All the characters feel familiar, and there’s even a celebrity cameo in the RV sales lot across the street from Shaq Motors.  It has a few surprises and laugh-aloud moments, and everyone looks great.  Especially Jessica.  I’ll comment on a couple of disappointments in my review of episode 2 next week.

Part of the plot is suspect.  People line up for a certain novel published in the U.S. on September 1, 1998, but I don’t think it was quite the phenomenon its successors were in following years.

Soundtrack flashback: “Everywhere You Look” by Jesse Frederick, the opening theme for Full  House.  “Back in the Day” by Ahmad (1994).

My grade for this episode: B.

‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Renewed for Fifth Season

Aaaaaaaaand EXhale.

I’m often optimistic to a fault.  A Pollyanna.  An extreme benefit-of-the-doubt-giver.  Yet if I’d had to bet, I would have lost this one.  I thought things were looking horribly grim for Fresh Off the Boat’s chances at a fall return.

First there was an uncharacteristic lack of advance late-season info about upcoming episodes.  Disney-ABC’s media site, which usually has synopses, promo video, still photos, and behind-the-scenes photos for the next two or three shows, was unusually quiet.

I’ve reviewed for 8A each episode through the show’s run, something that requires a bit of planning.  Suddenly without my advance info, I couldn’t find word anywhere about why the well was dry.

Then there was the abrupt ending to season 4.  Heading into the 19th episode’s broadcast, FOtB‘s actors on Twitter congratulated each other on another fun season, with ABC hyping it as the season finale.  This is after a 24-episode season 2 and a 23-episode season 3.

Then, because I was pathetically slow to connect them myself, the dots finally connected themselves for me.

Roseanne was coming back for a short, late-season run, complete with its original cast.  On ABC.  On Tuesday night.  At 8:30.

In FOtB’s slot.

I didn’t watch the two-episode return because I was working on something else.  The next morning, it was all anyone could talk about.  Eighteen million viewers for Roseanne.

That’s fourteen and a half million more than FOtB drew for episode 19 the week before.

Okay.  No reason to panic, right?  I mean, there’s plenty of room on the weekly schedule for two sit-com families.  I said it aloud, but even I didn’t believe it.  My heart prepared itself to find something else to cheer for; my fingers to find something else to type about.

“What about music reviews?” I asked jozjozjoz one evening.  “Maybe I could do that.”

Randall Park shot a video literally pleading for a renewalOthers chimed in.  It was not looking good.

Then Roseanne Connor cracked a joke about Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, hitting a nerve like classic Roseanne.  I wasn’t as insulted by it as many others, but I saw where people were coming from.  Former FOtB writer Kourtney Kang laid it out very well in a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter.

Maybe in a world where unfair representation were merely a memory, the joke would have slipped past anyone’s notice.  But America’s only major-network, prime time, Asian American sitcom family was teetering on the precipice, and Mrs. Connor was not only kicking it over with a privileged toe, but joking about it at a time when we’re especially sensitive to the way many in this country would use our Asian-ness to question our American-ness.

Was the mild controversy good for FOtB’s chances or bad?  I hoped it put ABC in an awkward position, almost demanding that it bring the show back for another season if only to avoid the appearance of the Connors throwing the Huangs under the boat.  I want to believe there are principles in play, but maybe it all comes down to 18 million and 3.6 million, and maybe affirmative programming action isn’t really a thing.

I’ll probably never know whether this was ever part of the conversation at ABC, but after leaving FOtB’s fans hanging for so many weeks, the news came out Friday.  Season 5.

I’ll repeat what I’ve written many times (usually while reviewing a Dr. Ken episode).  For all the big-picture reasons I want AA-centric shows to succeed, I don’t want them to get a free pass.  I want the shows to succeed because they’re excellent, because there’s no reason for them not to be.  While I was sad to see Dr. Ken fail, it did get a fair shot and never took full advantage of its opportunity.  FOtB, however, despite slipping into a rut or two last season, is still creative, interesting, and (best of all!) subversive.  Up to a point I’m not smart enough to define, these by themselves are a fair trade-off for a few million viewers.

Especially the subversion.

Now that it’s coming back, I’m begging the writers to go tapioca-balls-to-the-wall with creativity and subversion.  It’s playing with its second life now.  Fresh Off the Boat should go into each episode begging to be thrown off the air, the way season 1 Eddie would do.  Better to blow it all up than to be turned away at the border.



‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “King in the North”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 19: “King in the North”
Original airdate March 20, 2018.

Synopsis:  Honey needs time away from home to relax and get ready for the baby, so Jessica tricks her into going north to Maine (instead of south to the Keys) in pursuit of a book jacket blurb from Stephen King for A Case of a Knife to the Brain.  Louis orders a new sign for Louis Huang’s Cattleman’s Ranch (disappointing me and surely countless others by not naming it Louis Huang’s Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch).  Grandma plans to move out, so Emery wants her room, leaving Evan alone in the room they once shared.  Eddie and Nicole rebel against the school dance’s policy requiring boys to wear pants and girls to wear skirts.

I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped:  The several silly Stephen King references are cute, but I have a feeling I missed a whole bunch.  I’m waiving my usual distaste for cameos this week because the rule doesn’t apply when it’s a Kristi Yamaguchi cameo.  I enjoy this show when it’s subversive on multiple levels.  In this case, I think it’s just the one obvious level, and that’s okay too.  Can’t put my finger on it, but Randall Park’s acting is especially good in this.  And the “Somewhere Out There” gag is cute and funny!

Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps:  The Jessica-Honey story is too long and only interesting because you spend the whole time looking for Misery references.  I Googled the name of the diner (Downy’s Diner) and hospital (Penobscot Memorial Hospital) thinking they might be King references, but alas.  I think some kind of spoof on King horror stories might have been more interesting.  Unless this story is a spoof and it just flew over my head, in which case I apologize.

FOB moment:  “I know what it’s like to be treated differently because you’re not the same as everyone else. It sucks! But if we don’t take a stand, then we are the same as everyone else.”

Soundtrack flashback:  “Every Heartbeat” by Amy Grant (1991, a song I love).  “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail (1987, sung by Evan, Emery, and Louis).  “ATLiens” by Outkast (1996).

Final grade, this episode: This feels good for a season finale (what? with the nineteenth episode?) and it works for a series finale if FOtB isn’t renewed for next season.  Here’s hoping we get at least one more season out of Eddie and the Huangs. B.




‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Measure Twice, Cut Once”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 18: “Measure Twice, Cut Once”
Original airdate March 13, 2018.

Synopsis: Louis has second thoughts about buying Kenny Rogers’s half of Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch.  This frustrates Jessica, who’s sure it’s a good deal.  Jessica accuses Louis of always overthinking decisions in his life, and she flies her psychic to Orlando from D.C. to spur Louis into action.

Evan gives up Live with Regis and Kathie Lee for Lent.  His behavior annoys his brothers, so Eddie and Emery try to trick him into breaking his Lent commitment.

I been in the game for ten years making rap tunes:  This episode is a good example of how well Constance Wu and Randall Park work together.  They make little moments super believable even in the middle of a plot where Louis is literally a turtle and Jessica is literally a white infant.

I also like that Evan’s faith isn’t just something used once for the sake of an interesting plot a year ago.  I often hear people claim that boys his age are incapable of having a serious faith, especially in non-religious families, but this just isn’t true, and the writers respect Evan’s adherence even while Emery and Eddie make fun of it.  Yes, Evan is being silly in his earnestness, and older brothers will tease mercilessly about such things, but there’s a way to tell this story while respecting all parties, which this episode does.

That turtle sequence is absurd but pretty dang funny.

Lines I liked:

Jessica: You have to act first and apologize later, like I learned to do.
Louis: You never apologize.

Eddie: I can’t wait to be reincarnated.  I know who I’m coming back as.  The RZA.

Jessica:  Pee or get off the toilet.

Ever since honeys was wearing SassoonWhat was up with the lobster subplot?  It feels like something thrown in just to give Matthew Chestnut something to do.

FOB moment:  This is a bit of a reach, but Grandma’s explanation of yin and yang is interesting.  It seems unlikely that both Louis and Jessica would have come this far in their lives without already knowing this stuff, so that’s kind of unbelievable, but Grandma’s explanation is one of the best I’ve seen in pop culture.

Soundtrack flashback:  I watched this three times and didn’t pick up anything, which is a disappointment in an episode where the RZA does a cameo.  Geez.

Final grade, this episode: It feels like kind of a throwaway episode, but I laughed aloud at least five times on my first viewing (zero laugh-alouds on the next two), so it certainly doesn’t stink. C+.




‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Let Me Go, Bro”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 17: “Let Me Go, Bro”
Original airdate February 27, 2018.

Synopsis:  Eddie stuns his family when he announces he’s to be inducted into the National Honor Society.  Evan isn’t surprised, but he’s furious with Eddie for not thanking him.  Evan has secretly been supporting his brother’s good efforts because he’d like to visit him “at Stanford, not prison.”  When Eddie says he doesn’t need Evan’s help, Evan schemes to set Eddie up for failure.  Jessica, still getting notes from her editor for A Case of a Knife to the Brain, goes on a ride-along with police officer Bryson, in order to make her police language more realistic.  She’s disappointed when Bryson’s work seems mostly to involve getting coffee and helping citizens bag their dog poop.  Kenny Rogers tells Louis he’s going to sell back his half of Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch, now dubbed Kenny O’Rogers’s Michael O’Bolton’s Cattleman’s O’Ranch in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.  Louis is overjoyed, but Kenny Rogers tells him he has to fire Matthew Chestnut, with whom Louis has developed a close friendship.

Know When To Hold ‘Em:  Awww.  We get a major, massive dose of Nice Guy Eddie, plus Evan in kind of a cute not-so-psycho-but-still-intense mode.  Emery gets to play the amused observer, a role that suits him.  I really like the way Emery’s character is growing.  You’d like it if your daughter wanted to date him.  Jessica gets to do some physical comedy that works well for her (including a textbook faint).  And as I’ve said recently, Louis directing his energies for someone else’s benefit is one of the better Louises.

Good lines:

“Hey.  I still need you.  Do you want to make me pancakes or something?” (Emery to Evan)

“The Saturn is where we talk when things get real, and he said he wanted to make sure our safe space stayed safe.”  (Nicole to Evan, about Eddie)

Know When To Fold ‘Em:  This is just far too big a role for Bryson, who’s okay as a very minor character but annoying in anything larger.  I’ve been glad to be rid of Mitch at Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch, but Matthew Chestnut has been an equally irritating replacement.  I would have welcomed his firing, but Louis keeps him aboard, which likely means we’re not through with him yet.  Bleah.

FOB moment:  Didn’t spot one this time.  Did you?

Soundtrack flashback:  “Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill (1993), the second time this song has been used on FOtB.  “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers (1978).

Final grade, this episode: Did anyone else think this had the feel of a series (not season) finale?  If they cancel FOtB tomorrow, and this is the last we see of the Huangs, it would be a good note on which to part.  I love Eddie in this, and I like the overall vibe of the whole episode.  There’s a lot of vulnerability going on, and the actors are there for it.  I’m pleased to see a strong episode that’s not one of my issues episodes!  A-minus.




‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Ride the Tiger”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 16: “Ride the Tiger”
Original airdate February 6, 2018.

Synopsis:  In celebration of Chinese New Year, the Huangs have a contest to see who can go the longest speaking only in Mandarin.  Grandma is apparently exempt, and the game comes down to Evan and Jessica.  Their dialogue through nearly the whole episode is in Mandarin.  Emery is pleased that his year of bad luck is over, and he’s eager to ask his crush Celeste to the Spring Fling.  His confidence is down, so Louis tries to help, much to Emery’s displeasure.  Eddie doesn’t understand why he didn’t get a red envelope from Big Auntie, with whom he’s been in a fight he wasn’t aware of.

Yo! Microphone check one-two what is this?:  What a cool idea.  FOtB writer Jeff Chiang in the Hollywood Reporter explains that he wrote half the dialogue in Mandarin “because he could,” which by itself sums up the importance of this sitcom’s existence.  I think it’s funny, predictable, and wholly realistic for Eddie only to be able to utter the same phrase in Mandarin repeatedly, conceding early because he doesn’t know how to ask for the dumplings, while Emery and Evan seem pretty adept with their parents’ language.  I can’t speak to how authentic the dialogue is, but it sounds pretty good to me.

This is how I like Overly Enthusiastic Louis: overly enthusiastic on behalf of someone else, in this case Emery.  The guy is so eager to be helpful you kind of forgive the thousands of other stupid things he’s done this season.

The Jessica-Evan interactions are just great, and not merely because they’re in Mandarin.  They play well off each other when Evan isn’t going psycho.

Some lines I enjoyed:

“Connie Chung called and she was pissed!” (May May)

“Diversity: check!” (Gus)

“You tried to use Hanson against me?  They’re just boys!” (Evan)
“Boys?” (Jessica)

“Congratulations, everyone, especially our African American friends.”  (Deidre)

“Nobody questions my integrity.”  (Grandma)

“We need to have a serious talk, which is impossible while you’re wearing a mesh tank top.”  (Louis)

“Ride the tiger low, and with measured enthusiasm.”  (Louis)

“You know who the winner is here?  A child’s love for his mother.” (Evan)
“And the loser is you.”  (Jessica)

The five-foot assassin with the roughneck business:  I can’t even really complain about Marvin this time.  He lameness actually plays a nice part in the conflict between Jessica and Evan.  I’m okay not having any minuses this week.

FOB moment:  Duh.

Soundtrack flashback:  “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang (1979).  “MMMBop” by Hanson (1997), a song I totally love.

Final grade, this episode: I hate that giving this episode a grade of anything better than B+ is predictable of me, since I’ve historically favored shows (kind of to my surprise) highlighting Asian American issues.  This one isn’t quite an issue episode, but it’s something of a statement, as the other Chinese New Year episodes in this series have been.  Can’t help it: I really like it.  A-minus.



‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “We Need to Talk About Evan”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 15: “We Need to Talk About Evan”
Original airdate January 30, 2018.

Synopsis:  Evan and Jessica notice a Student of the Week at Abraham Lincoln Elementary bumpersticker on someone else’s minivan.  Shocked that such a thing would exist and not go to Evan, they are determined to ramp up their Good Student game.  Evan joins the School Dance committee and the French club.  He organizes a school garden.  And in a moment of breaking under pressure, he throws glitter in a girl’s face.  He is referred to Mr. Tim, the school counselor, which Jessica does not take well, since “counselor is school language for therapist.”

Louis is tired of so many things on the menu at Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch being named for Kenny Rogers, so he names the chili Louis Huang’s Five-Alarm Chili, but nobody wants to order it.

Eddie and Emery decide it’s time they learned to unhook a bra.  Grandma’s bra.  On a pillow.’

Some good lines:

Older kid: You guys know how to take off a bra?
Evan: Goodbye.

Eddie: I’ve got mad bra game.
Emery: Yes.  I, too, have bra experience.

Evan: Real corn is not nibblets in a can!  Sorry to blow your mind!

Jessica: My axe is love.

Grandma: Evan!  Breathe into your mother’s knock-off purse!

Chuck D:  Okay, although it’s kind of ridiculous, there’s something pretty dang funny and cutting edge about teenaged brothers puzzling together over unhooking a bra.  I was disappointed that ABC didn’t provide a promo photo of the boys and their pillow, because it’s a hilarious image.  And what they do with it at the very end of the episode, when Evan oberves them with a Mrs. Claus lawn figure, has to be a first in broadcast TV.

Although the rest of the episode is nothing to get excited about, it’s nice to see the return of Port in a Storm Louis.  His talk with Jessica about helping Evan is nice to hear.  I had flashbacks to Richie and Howard Cunningham, and that’s seldom a bad thing.

Vanilla Ice:  The other two (or three, depending on if you count the framework of the rival moms) stories are just kind of terrible.  As soon as Louis says, “Shall we take a joint family road trip to the Grand Canyon?” I knew his part of the episode was going to be terrible.

FOB moment:  This is weak, but the best I can do is, “I would love to cook you a traditional Taiwanese meal.”

Soundtrack flashback:  Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” (1991).

Final grade, this episode:  I’m beginning to feel bad, but I have to be honest.  The stories are beginning to feel like variations on established themes with no real character growth in the adults.  I can see now why the writers want Honey to have a baby.  It gets Honey more involved (always a good thing) and breathes some fresh life into the cast.  It’s not really working.  This season seemed promising with Eddie, Emery, and Nicole getting into some new stuff, and that’s consistently been interesting, and with Grandma’s taking English classes, but that arc seems to have ended.  Now I just feel like I’m riding out the season. C+.




‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “A Man to Share the Night With”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 14: “A Man to Share the Night With”
Original airdate January 30, 2018.

Synopsis:  Louis sees Eddie shaving for what he believes is the first time.  Overjoyed that his eldest son is now a man, he extends Eddie’s bedtime, long enough so he can watch the first part of The Late Show with David Letterman on school nights.  Eddie, puffed up by his new manhood, takes Louis’s declaration to mean he can decide for himself what he can do with that extra time, opting instead to spend it roaming around the neighborhood at night with his friend Barefoot Dave, who of course has no bedtime since his single-parent mom works graveyard shifts.  Jessica, heartbroken that Michelle Kwan has taken silver (and not gold) at the ’98 Winter Olympics, lies to Emery and Evan, telling them that Kwan has won.  The boys, upon learning the truth, develop a conspiracy theory involving a Kwan imposter, which Jessica tries to convince Nancy Kerrigan to confirm.

BDP:  Ooh, a reemergence of Bad Guy Eddie was overdue, and he brings it.  What I like about the resolution is that Nice Guy Eddie executes his own turnaround not through the intervention of his parents, but on his own, when confronted with a possible very bad choice.  He later credits his decision to his father.  There’s some good stuff here for families.

Eddie’s self-correction combines with Evan and Emery’s sneaky resilience, not revealed until the last scene, to give us a structure we haven’t seen in this series.  Jessica thinks she’s contructing a lie in order to protect her children, but we find that rather than be taken in by it, they use the lie to create their own lie so they may protect Jessica.  Sweet!  Did Richie and Joanie Cunningham ever turn the tables and dispense good parenting messages to Marion and Howard?  I don’t think so!

I really like angry dad Louis in this scene.  We don’t get enough of that in this show, and I understand because there needs to be room for Jessica, but like Eddie, I was happy he could be counted on when we needed him.

Some lines I liked:

“Take a lid.”  (Louis to Eddie)

“Can I have our razor back?”  (Grandma to Eddie)

“Told you.  You come for Lipinski, you best be ready.”  (Honey)

“Louis, you can stay up and watch that old man and his piano gremlin, but I’m going to bed.”  (Jessica, about David Letterman)

ICP:  Honey can do whatever she wants with her hair, but that Lipinski cut did not do it for me!  Also, Marvin continues to be too weird even for this show.  I was into the Olympics story, as nit-witty as it was, right up until the Nancy Kerrigan cameo, which just doesn’t work.  Or maybe, like the Huangs, I was rooting for Michelle.

FOB moment:  Like you, I was there in ’98.  I remember what it was like, that weird American pride combined with Asian American pride, and the amazing deflated feeling when Kwan lost, when we were all so sure she had it sewn up.  People where I worked put up signs in their workspaces, saying “We still love you Michelle!” as if she might somehow see or feel the sentiment halfway across the Pacific.

Soundtrack flashback:  I didn’t hear anything!  Did you?

Final grade, this episode: The Eddie story is pretty good, but the Jessica story, while expressing some feelings I think many of us had, felt out of place.  Even the weird hugging Emery and Evan do when they learn that Kwan has won gold seems like it belongs in another show. B-minus.




‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The Car Wash”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 13 : “The Car Wash”
Original airdate January 16, 2018.

Synopsis:  Jessica’s deeply involved with edits on her novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain, and Louis worries that he and his wife are growing apart because of it.  Taking Marvin’s advice, Louis plans several surprises in order to keep the spark alive, but Jessica is not very receptive.  Evan gets bumped up to seventh-grade English, where he and his classmate Emery compete to be their teacher’s favorite (it’s Tig Notaro!).  It’s clear that the teacher doesn’t favor either of them, so they raise their teacher’s-pet game, asking Eddie for advice, since he seems to have had a great relationship with her.

Dope:  Eddie and Jessica are each really good in this, as our Nice-Guy Eddie streak continues, and Jessica’s slow, simmering irritation by Louis is fun to read on her face.  I usually like Emery and Evan better when they’re working together, but this is a cute story, playing really well into their characters, and the Eddie twist is funny.  The sprinkler gag at the end of the teaser is stupid but I laughed out loud, and the disapproving looks by the Poe, Dickinson, and Shakespeare posters are kind of hilarious.

Lines I liked:

“Taking on classic literature, family style.”  (Evan)

“I don’t care enough about this to watch it conclude.  I’m gonna see Spice World again.” (Eddie)

“You got flowers on my keyboard!” (Jessica)

“If you’d seen Spice World, you’d realize that life is about trying to find a way to make genuine connections with people.”  (Eddie)

“Aah!  My Keroppi!” (Evan)

“We all heard what Jessica said.  That voice carries!”  (Corporal Bryson)

“Goodbye Yale.  Hello Georgia Tech.”  (Evan)

Wack:  Marvin’s getting to be a pain, and Louis’s over-the-top behavior is wearing thin.  I can’t stand the way the principal and the detention teacher treat “Stripes,” the student they pretty much bully.

FOB moment:
“It’s hard to believe that the Michelin Man is made up of a bunch of these.”

“I never really thought about that, but yeah.  Why is he white, though?  Shouldn’t he be black?”

“Let’s not get into that whole thing.  We’re having a nice time.”

Soundtrack flashback:  “The Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh (1986).  This was sort of the musician’s introduction to the mainstream, but if you listened to FM rock radio in the early Eighties, you might have heard his “Don’t Pay the Ferryman,” which is a real rocker and sounds like a completely different artist.

Final grade, this episode: Despite Louis’s lunacy, this is an enjoyable episode, the rare pretty-good episode with no Eddie story.  Eddie makes the most of his appearances, though! B.