‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Boy II Man”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 2: “Boys II Man”
Original airdate September 29, 2015.

CONSTANCE WU, HUDSON YANGMicrosynopsis: Eddie and his lunch crew learn that there are benefits to having a friend who flunked eighth grade. Jessica and Eddie butt heads over what Eddie’s fifth-period elective should be. Louis won’t let go of his dream of having a daughter, despite Jessica’s refusal.

Good: I’m relieved to see a return to the Eddie-centric plot. Everything about this episode clicks into the place it works best, including Louis less as restauranteur and more as father, Jessica as mom and wife and neighbor, Grandma with Evan and Emery as comedic background, and Honey and Nicole as character development for Jessica and Eddie. With Eddie as the central character but Jessica as the one who holds everything together, the show is at its comic (and storytelling) grooviest, especially when Eddie isn’t being a jerk. This is a family sitcom, which means it must be tempting to tilt over into lesson-of-the-week sappiness, but the resolution here is sweet without getting syrupy. And I have to say that the second-to-last last scene, with the girl playing “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” is a completely unpredictable, brilliant idea, one that bodes well for possible new plot lines in Season 2. This should have been the season premiere.

HUDSON YANG, FORREST WHEELER, RANDALL PARKBad: This is the last time I’m going to complain about this, because I know it’s futile to waste time on it: I really miss real-life Eddie Huang’s voiceovers in this program, and I hope the show finds some way to make up for some of the edginess it loses without it. I’m still not sure how I feel about Eddie’s friends, or in fact just about anything that happens when Eddie is in school. This new administrator with the Asian wife is kind of funny but still impossible to believe, and Eddie’s friends are still like exaggerated characters from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which are exaggerations themselves. I spent sixteen years as a middle- and high-school teacher, but I swear I’m not like that retired sailor who points out all the errors in every war movie on cable (that would be my dad). I expect a certain amount of comic caricature, but everything seems so over the edge that it’s like Eddie and his brothers step through a cartoon door when they get to school and back through a real-life door when they head back for home. It feels wrong.

FOB moment: Jessica cites a Chinese folk tale, referring to its heroine by her Chinese name. I don’t know what she says, but I get the sense it’s total BS. It might even be the name of food instead the name of a character in a story.

Soundtrack flashback: “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men; “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Final grade, this episode: Constance Wu gets (possibly fair) criticism for her accent, but not enough credit for her excellent comic acting. She’s great in all her scenes with Honey, and I love her reaction to Honey’s revelation about playing Twister. When the material is strong, the acting in this program is excellent. This is the sort of thing I’d want to watch with my kids. B+.

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About Mitchell K. Dwyer

@scrivener likes movies.
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