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: “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: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode  10: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Original airdate December 12, 2017.

Synopsis:  Deirdre’s college roomie Holly (it’s Paula Abdul!) is visiting, and since she’s a “performance and movement” instructor, she offers to coach the homeowners’ association carolers.  Jessica (who still takes Christmas very seriously) doesn’t think most of her neighbors sing very well, so she insists that Holly conduct tryouts, limiting this year’s group to six participants.  Although Jessica sings very well and does a great audition, Holly doesn’t include her in the group because Jessica doesn’t have enough Christmas spirit.

Louis and Honey have fallen in love with Titanic, and since they can’t get their familes to join them at the cinema, they go together.  Marvin is suspicious of Honey, since she promised to save Titanic for when they can watch it together at home on video.

In the best thing about the episode, Nicole asks Eddie to meet her at a cafe, where she’s crushing on Jackie, one of the baristas.  Nicole doesn’t know how to approach her (It’s Diamond White, from season two of The X Factor), so Eddie tries to help her out.  In a silly gag, Emery and Alison each pop out of nowhere when it’s convenient for the story, each eager to help Nicole as well.

Right On:  The Nicole story is really sweet, and I love the way her three friends help her out with every indication that Nicole’s crush being a girl is no big deal.  The over-caffeinated gag is kind of dumb, but the strategy of using coffee cups to get attention is cute.  I know I’m not alone in trying to read into the little things the cute baristas at my local cafe write on my cups!

Some lines I enjoyed:

“I can taste the laziness.  We all can!” (Jessica)

“Did you hear me ascend the ladder?  I climbed up over Celine — I stepped on the shoulders of that French Canadian angel and I kissed the heavens!” (Jessica)

“That kind of negative energy is toxic to a group.  Just look what happened to Oasis!” (Holly)

Bogus:  The Honey-Marvin-Louis story is soooooo dumb.  It adds nothing to this episode, and while I love the cultural references, there must be something better to do with this.  If it’s all a setup for the baby announcement, it’s even dumber.  Honestly, although I love (love!) Honey, I don’t think anyone really cares whether she’s having a baby or not.  In the context of this show, it’s kind of meaningless.  And I hate to say this, but everyone knows that one of the truest signs of a shark-jump in a TV sitcom is the introduction of new kid characters because the original kids are growing up.  Is there one show that got better when new kids were added?  Please don’t let this be Cousin Oliver Syndrome.

FOB moment:  The return of Chinese Santa, in flashback and as a disguise for Louis.

Soundtrack flashback:  “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler (1983, sung by Evan).  “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (1997, sung by Jessica).

Final grade, this episode: This episode is saved by a solid Deirdre presence and the kids in the cafe.  Otherwise it’s annoying, and I am normally a sucker for Christmas episodes on sitcoms.  Add the gratuitous group carol as the closing credits close, and yeesh. C+.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The First Day”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 2: “The First Day”
Original airdate October 10, 2017.

Synopsis: (deep breath) It’s the first day of school for the Huang boys. Eddie gets a little insecure when he sees the jocks flirting with Alison, so he tries out for the football team without his mom’s permission. Emery is excited to finally have middle school to himself, now that Eddie’s in high school, but the charmed life he has lived seems to have turned: the girls don’t respond to him, and he spills a droplet of milk on his school pants — right on the pleat! Evan has a little surprise for Emery too. Louis has some trouble with a Kenny Rogers representative, now that Michael Bolton has sold his interest in Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch (now Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch). I sorta can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

Yay: Evan and Jessica don’t really have their own stories here, and that’s completely okay! There’s still too much going on, but maybe the writers are coming around to one of my biggest complaints about this show: they try to cram too much story into each episode. There’s a teeny bit of further development of the secret Nicole shared with Eddie in episode one; I like that the writers don’t feel the need to push it way up front. I’ll be pleased if it takes its time.

I was worried last season that Hudson Yang as Eddie had hit a dead end as an actor, but he seems to be growing into his skin. He’s still a little cardboard at times, but he has his moments, especially with his timing in dialogue with his mom. That’s probably a reflection on Constance Woo as an actor too. Isabella Alexander as Alison continues to be the best of the regular young actors.

In case you’ve lost track of the timeline, it’s the fall of 1997. The Huangs move to Orlando in the spring of 1995 (as it still says in the opening music), so season two begins in the fall that same year, season three begins in the fall of 1996, and here we are in 1997, as confirmed by Grandma’s declaration that it’s the year of the ox in the Chinese zodiac. It’s good that they give us enough to keep this straight.

Eddie’s cafeteria scene with his estranged friends is really well edited. Not quite an O Captain My Captain moment, but you know, at least a distant cousin.

Boo: This Cattleman’s Ranch arc is getting ridiculous. The acting by Forrest Wheeler (as Emery) and Ian Chen (as Evan) is both awkward and charming at the same time. I’m not sure what I’m reading here, especially after Wheeler’s very good season last year, but I suspect they’ll find their groove.

FOB moment: Grandma tells Emery that everyone has bad luck during his or her zodiac year. Emery is smart: why doesn’t he ask her why it doesn’t seem like everyone else in his grade is also having a bad luck year?

Soundtrack flashback: I didn’t hear anything. Did you? Seems like they missed the chance to flash us back to almost anything great when Nicole is driving Eddie to school.

Final grade, this episode: Kind of a boring episode, but I do like the way what seems to be the A plot resolves fairly early while we get resolution on the antagonistic friends, which seemed to be a C plot at best. Nicely done. The Dolly Parton jokes are bizarre and funny, but this Kenny Rogers story has to go. B-minus.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The Gloves Are Off”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 14: “The Gloves Are Off”
Original airdate February 21, 2017.

Microsynopsis:  Jessica unknowingly befriends Sarah (hellllooooo Heeaaatherrrrrrrr Lockleeeeeeear!), Marvin’s ex-wife and Nicole’s mom.  Honey is frustrated because Sarah hasn’t been doing her part in parenting Nicole responsibly.  Caught between friends, Jessica first attempts to bring Sarah and Honey together, but when that doesn’t work, she tries to get Sarah fired from her department store job, thinking she’s helping Honey out.  Emery is determined to prove that Grandma’s age qualifies her for an electric wheelchair, since Grandma doesn’t know how old she is.

Good:  I think there’s something wrong with me.  I watched this episode five times (this is how long it takes to put these reviews together most of the time), and while there are several laugh-aloud moments, I laughed hardest each time at this.

Emery:  I called the toll-free number and they said immobile seniors can qualify for a free Jazzy Powerchair, if they’re sixty-five or older.  And Grandma is…

Louis:  I don’t know.

Emery:  You don’t know?

Louis:  You don’t know!

Evan:  But she made you!

Louis: Do you know your mom’s age?

Emery: Thirty-one.

Evan:  Twenty-eight.

Eddie:  Forty-three.

Louis:  That’s the combination to the padlock on the shed.

You really had to be there.  It’s not nearly as funny read off a computer screen like this, although I just read it on the screen and laughed aloud again.

Bad:  Ugh.  Sarah calls Honey “hussy” and “whoreface,” and refers to Honey’s “slapping cakes” with Marvin.  Am I wrong about Fresh Off the Boat being a family show?

FOB moment:  Grandma says she doesn’t know the date or year of her birth because “when I was born, they didn’t keep good records.”

Soundtrack flashback:  Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” (1993), which is a very good song, but with Heather Locklear guest-starring, it would have been so, so, so much cooler to get one song each from Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Jack Wagner.  Darn it.

Final grade, this episode:  This is an interesting episode, because the A plot is really more about Honey and Sarah than about Honey and Jessica.  I can’t think of a time on this program when the central story wasn’t about one of the Huangs.  And the B plot is mostly all Grandma, and Grandma has the funniest lines.  I liked seeing Louis, Jessica, Eddie, Emery, and Evan all relegated for one week to supporting roles.  Also, I still think there’s something subversive going on with the language.  There’s mention of “secret mating habits of the whale shark” early in the episode, and later we get “hussy,” “whoreface,” “fake clankers,” and “slapping cakes.”  Someone break this down for me, please.  B+.

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

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.

‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Returns for Season 3

Fresh Off the Boat Season 3 Premiere. Tuesday, October 11, 2016. 9:00 on ABC.
Fresh Off the Boat Season 3 Premiere. Tuesday, October 11, 2016. 9:00 on ABC.

The Huang family returns to Tuesday nights beginning October 11 at 9:00 with Fresh Off the Boat’s season 3 premiere, “Coming From America.”  The show picks up where season 2 left off (in “Bring the Pain“), with Louis feuding with his brother Gene, and Grandma following Gene back to Taiwan to make sure he’s okay.

Louis flies the entire family to Taiwan in an effort to make things right with Gene (Ken Jeong). Upon meeting Gene’s beautiful fiancé, Margaret, and seeing the wonderful life he has built for himself, Louis questions whether his life in Orlando is just as great as it could be in Taiwan. Meanwhile, Jessica takes Eddie, Emery, and Evan to her favorite childhood locales, including Dihua Street and Shilin Night Market.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “The Manchurian Dinner Date”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 23: “The Manchurian Dinner Date”
Original airdate May 17, 2016.

fotb_s01_e23 (3)Microsynopsis:  Alison finally gets to meet Jessica, but she panics when she learns that Jessica has always wanted Eddie to date a Chinese girl, so she sends Audrey, a piccolo player in her youth orchestra, to pretend she’s Alison.  Emery prepares the valedictory address for his graduation from elementary school.  Grandma volunteers to sew Evan a new suit so he can look good for Jessica at the family graduation celebration.

Good:  The dialogue is excellent in this episode: quick, sharp, clever, and mostly quite funny.  I love when, as Eddie stresses out during his phone call with Alison, Audrey and Emery seem to find something in common.  Audrey asks Emery, “Do you use the eyes-mouth method or the most prominent feature?”  Eddie, annoyed, says, “Both of you: shut your eyes-mouth.  No one cares!”  I also really like the sweetness of Emery and Audrey getting along as Jessica realizes that while Audrey is perfect, she’s not perfect for Eddie.

I’ve missed some of the visual creativity of earlier episodes, but there are a couple of cute visual effects where Eddie’s parents speak to him while he’s still in the womb.

fotb_s01_e23 (29)Bad:  The Grandma-Evan story is lame and uninteresting, although Evan gets a couple of nice lines (“That’s not even a real ruler; that’s Bubble Tape!” and “I have two blazers, three khakis, and six shirts that I mix and match to create thirty-six different looks!”).  And geez, that stupid bit where the boy is forced to leave the graduation ceremony as his principal mocks him isn’t funny.

FOB moment:  Audrey brings a huge box of oranges for Jessica, and she takes her shoes off before entering, something nobody in Dr. Ken ever does.  I was beginning to think Asian Americans on the continent had completely abandoned this practice.  Or maybe it got lost sometime between the mid-90s and the mid-2010s.

Soundtrack flashback:  “Poison” by Bel Biv DeVoe (1990, sung by Reba).  “California Love” by 2Pac (1995).  “Come Fly with Me” by Frank Sinatra (1958).

Final grade, this episode:  Funny episode.  B+.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Keep ‘Em Separated”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 15: “Keep ‘Em Separated”
Original airdate March 8, 2016.

fotb s02 e15Microsynopsis: Now that he’s spending less time at the restaurant, Louis keeps intruding on Jessica’s time with Honey. To get him out of their hair, Jessica encourages Louis to get back into an old hobby: shooting pool. Louis jumps in with his usual unbridled enthusiasm, pleasing Jessica until she learns that his new partner is a woman. At school, Nicole breaks up with her boyfriend, which means she’s more available for hanging out with Eddie, but Eddie hasn’t yet told Alison that he used to have a crush on her. Alison turns out to be cool with it, but Eddie’s reaction, when he discovers that Alison used to have a crush on Dave, is not as understanding or tolerant.

Good: There are some really fun visual gags in this episode, as when one scene ends with Jessica saying that Louis “just needs a little nudge,” and the next scene begins with a shot of Louis’s pool cue nudging him in the arm. A slo-mo montage illustrating Honey’s point that “everything is sexy” when Alannah Miles’s “Black Velvet” is playing on the jukebox is pretty hilarious too.

We get a brief bit of mean Eddie, but he’s quick to see the error of his ways, and he immediately patches things up with Dave in a sweet scene in front of the ice cream truck. There must be something in the air lately, because there’s nothing especially creative, interesting, or even earned about the payoff, but dang it: I was still moved (I responded similarly to a touchy-feely moment in last week’s Dr. Ken). It’s nice when good characters recognize the goodness in each other and put a voice on it. Like almost everything else in this episode, it works for me.

fotb s02 e15Bad: I like it best when an episode’s stories are Eddie-centric and Louis-Jessica-centric, as most episodes were in the first season. The downside is less screen time for Emery and Evan. And this is really picking nits, but the episode is named after a line in everyone’s favorite Offspring song, which Walter even quotes, but the song itself is nowhere to be heard.

FOB moment: There is one strange, funny moment in Jessica’s list of rules for Louis having female friends when she slips into a very FOB inflection (the part where she talks about the lazy eye).

Soundtrack flashback: “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles (1989), “La Grange” by ZZ Top (1973), “Baby Baby” by Amy Grant (1991). And for the third time in three Denim Turtle appearances, I cannot recognize the song that’s playing when the ladies are in the bar. Also: anyone know what that song is when Louis first shoots pool? It has lyrics that sound like “Luanne,” “dance until the sun comes up,” and “…can’t stand still.”

Final grade, this episode: Boy was this a fun episode. I laughed almost all the way through. B+.

‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Phil’s Phaves”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 13: “Phil’s Phaves”
Original airdate February 16, 2016.

phil's phavesMicrosynopsis: Louis brings home his family’s first “Internet computer,” and thanks to Evan’s proficiency, the family immediately discovers a website that’s given Cattleman’s Ranch a B-minus grade. Horrified, Louis and Jessica invite the critic to give them another try. When he shows up for his reservation, the Huangs discover that the Phil of “Phil’s Phaves” is Philip Goldstein (Albert Tsai), the other Asian kid in school, who once ditched Eddie at a Beastie Boys concert. Phil refuses to raise his grade, so Jessica enlists Evan’s help in creating a revenge website.

Eddie makes a mixtape for Alison because he’s uncomfortable with the idea of chatting with her on the phone, but the mixtape falls into the hands of Reba, who has an unabashed crush on Eddie and thinks the mixtape is meant for her.

Good: I usually roll my eyes at stories that make fun of the early days of the Web (it’s just too easy), but some of the jokes are pretty funny. Louis and Jessica are in their us-against-the-enemy mode, which is always entertaining. Eddie and Alison are turning into a fun part of the show, but the real treats for me are Eddie’s scenes with Emery and one scene with Nicole, who’s been absent for several episodes. I’ve been very critical of the way teachers and administrators at Eddie’s school have been portrayed, so it was nice to see a fairly-close-to-realistic biology teacher. And props to the writers for not letting Eddie be mean to Reba.

phil's phavesBad: Philip Goldstein is one of the worst characters from the early episodes, and while Albert Tsai has won me over as Dave Park on Dr. Ken, I still can’t stand him as this character. And although the Phil’s Phaves story is a good idea, the way it plays out, after the initial website discovery scenes, is kind of a yawn.

FOB moment:
“Uh oh. They give out letter grades to all the restaurants.”
“Dad’s got a — ”
“B minus?”
“That’s a Chinese F!”

Soundtrack flashback: “Summertime in the LBC” by the Dove Shack (1995). “Weak” by SWV (1992, sung by Reba). “Moody Girl” by Frank Stallone (1983, and I kid you not). “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” by Tupac (1996). “Sadeness, Part 1” by Enigma (1990).

Final grade, this episode: There’s very little to be annoyed about, but the main storyline just doesn’t pay off well, except that for once Jessica doesn’t get away with being mean. The Eddie-Alison story is sweet, and it’s fun to watch them get to be friends as well as their version of boyfriend-girlfriend. B.