As much as I am in love with the success of recent hit shows starring and created by my kinfolk— Blackish, Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and the Larry Wilmore Show—I can recognize that diversity is not just for black people. There is a staggering lack of representation of any other POCs on television. This last TV season saw the addition of the Cristela show, an ABC comedy about a Mexican American working woman who’s trying to get her law career off the ground while dealing with her family. I caught a few episodes, which were unfortunately relegated to a Friday night timeslot.
ABC should be applauded for moving us all a bit closer to being represented in primetime. Although, I’m sure their move toward diversifying their shows is strictly money-based, at least they have the balls to know that the viewership exists and wants to be fed and are actually feeding them. In the same way Scandal’s success made it easier to see a network on Empire, I’m sure the Empire phenomenon will spawn a whole new crop of diverse shows and I am happy for that.
In the meanwhile, I haven’t seen an Asian family on network TV since Margaret Cho’s show aired in the nineties. It was hilarious and she absolutely does not get enough credit for being a trailblazer. When I heard about Fresh Off The Boat, I was intrigued. One, I worked at a bookstore at the time and the book it is based on by Eddie Huang was selling like gangbusters. The cover was hysterical looking and the title was eye-catching and after reading through a few chapters, I was sold.
This guy was hilarious and relatable. Also, his book and the show are set in the nineties, which, in my opinion, was the best decade ever. His tale of growing up in Orlando and then New York being the fish out of water is universal. Most of us have been there. It offered me a new take on the family experience through Huang’s eyes. He also has a great writing voice: funny, unique, and clever. After last night’s pilot premiere and second episode I was thrilled to find out that the book translated beautifully into a sitcom.While they definitely toned down a lot of Huang’s sentiments, it all still worked. The opening scene of a young Eddie trying on his b-boy outfit in the dressing room and having his mother deny him his swag because of the price point had me in stitches. The show is wonderfully cast and I genuinely look forward to seeing how many of the tales from the book make it into future episodes.
I hate that this show and Blackish have to go up against Empire, which is dominating Wednesday night TV for the foreseeable future. In a dreamworld, I would love to see Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat take the 8 o’clock hour so their success is not derailed by the titan that is Empire. ABC could place proven hits Modern Family and The Middle in the 9 o’ clock hour and retain much of its core audience. I want so desperately for all these shows to have their time in the sun. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen a programming hour encompass the essence of the America I live in.