One of the best American comedies is finally being shown in the UK. If you haven’t watched it, here’s what you need to know.
Although it was billed as the first show to feature a predominantly Asian cast, the shoiw would not have lasted very long if that was all it had going for it. Actually, the show is not just a comedy that a particular ethnic group can approeciatae. It’s a great family show which packs a lot into each 20 minute episode.
Series 1 was fine but by Series 2 they had kicked things up a gear and were making classic episodes such as Michael Chang Fever and The Real Santa.
The show fiollows a American Taiwanese family who move from the Asian –friendly Washington neighborhood to all-white Orlando DC.
If the first season focused mainly on the central character of Eddie, the next started to look more at the marriage of Jessica and Louis. Now I’ve not seen either perform in many other shows much but boy can they do a great back and forth.
Of course, the writing is extremely sharp and so fresh and funny. The show pokes fun at the nineties setting. Although it takes place in what is clearly present day America, there are wonderful resferences to things ony people in the nineties can remember (yes, from Pogs to Beanie Babies and the rise of the early internet, it’s all here, lovingly recreated).
Jessica is very clearly the kind of ambitious mother who wants the best for the children (a Tiger Mum before the word was actally used) but the show wiuld not bew enjoyable if she was just a terrible and scolding woman. In fact in episode after episode she comes across as someone who simply loves and cares for her children that she wants the best for them
For example, she gets a position helping at the school play only to realize that the play is an excuse for the children to stand around onstage in fruit and animal costumes (standount epsisode). By the end, she comes round to the idea that the play is harmless fun and goes along with the other parents by clapping at the end (only to mutter, this is all a complete waste of time).
In another episode, she decides that Eddie should join a piccolo club; ‘Do you know how many unclaimed marching band scholarships go unclaimed every year?) And then, when the insufferable goody-two shoes Jewish boy deserts Eddie during a Les Mis performance, she agrees to attend a Beastie Boys concert in his stead.
There are strong messages in each episode. For example, a noted storyline looked at how Jessica felt that she was losing touch with her Chinese roots. Suddenly the family start eating food with chopsticks and the boys are marched off to after-school Chinese lessons.
For a a family show they put some edgy humour in. Eg, when their white neighbor offers to play some records where Frank Sinatra makes racially insensitive remarks about Sammy Davis and Junior.
The couples’ love for each other is never in doubt. If there is a better show on TV I’v not seen it.
Here’s a short list of my favourite episodes:
“Coming from America” (Season 3)
The family go to Taiwan so that Louis can patch things up with his brother. After her attempts to prove her Taiwanese heritage go wrong, Jessica realizes that America is now their natural home.
The scene where Jessica ends up buying the ‘bad fakes’ (counterfeit Nike trainers) at a street market is hilarious.
“Jessica Place” (Season 2)
A spoof of the nineties show which gets a lot of references in the series.
“Phil’s Phaves” (Season 2)
An episode that looks at the very early days of the internet. When the Huangs read an unfavourable interent review that describes their restaurant as boring, they try to make it more fun.
“So Chineez” (Season 1)
When perpetual slacker Eddie wants to represents Jamaica in the school’s UN preoject, his mum is mad and insists he is given China. When Eddie questions what’s cool about China, she lays it down like a boss: “You know what’s cool about China? A wall you can see from space. Who invented Gunpowder? China? Gunpowder, the compass, gambling… China! China! China!”
“Success Perm” Season 1
A really funny show because for many Asian people a perm is a sign of success despite the fact that it makes them
“Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon” (Season 2)
Louis’s attempts to help Eddie’s team win a Basketball game fall falt, so he teaches them how to be the best team at making fouls.
“Success Perm” Season 1
A really funny show because for many Asian people a perm is a sign of success despite the fact that it makes them look ridiculous.