The premiere of the highly anticipated ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat is just around the corner. Here are some quick behind-the-scenes facts to know before watching.
1. Fresh Off the Boat is based off the same named memoir written by celebrity chef Eddie Huang.
The memoir discussed Huang’s life from a kid in Orlando to opening his successful restaurant, BaoHaus, and documents his struggles with identity and culture throughout life. It was met with generally positive reviews and landed on the NY Times Best Seller List.
2. There have (predictably) been a series of offensive mishaps.
As the network and creative teams attempt to find out how to make an Asian American sitcom not about race, there have been a few events that stand out as embarrassing missteps.
Recently, a tweet boiling down different cultures to different hats on the official Fresh Off the Boat twitter received wide backlash even by Huang himself.
Another example would be that producers of the show originally wanted to rename the show Far East OrientalOrlando, thinking the title “Fresh Off the Boat” to be too provocative to viewers, but Huang stood his ground and insisted that “Fresh Off the Boat” was a reclaiming of a once offensive phrase. There have also been generally racist prompts during show panels, most infamously, the chopsticks question.
3. Hudson Yang, starring as Eddie Huang, is the son of well-known journalist Jeff Yang.
Yang and his son. [Photo Cred. New York Times]
Jeff Yang writes commentary on Asian American pop culture and media as well as business and economic news. Today, he writes for the column “Tao Jones” in the Wall Street Journal. He has been extremely involved in the Asian American writers community and was the publisher of A Magazine, the largest circulating English-language Asian American magazine in the United States from 1989-2002. Here is his article discussing how his son got the role of Eddie Huang.
4. Huang likes to call out his own show.
Best known for creating Don’t Trust the B– In Apt 23 and for working on American Dad, Nahnatchka Khan was named the head of the new sitcom quite early in development. Huang has questioned the efficiency of hiring a non-East Asian writer to run the show. Huang has also butted heads with Executive Producer Melvin Mar, calling him a “good chinaman” and implying Mar to be one of the driving forces in changing his stories to appease white viewers.
[Photo Cred. Vulture]
Perhaps the largest controversy is the personal essay Eddie Huang first published in New York Magazine and then in Vulture. He talks about his personal journey from novel to network. In the long text, he talks about his concerns, worries and doubts along the show. Though Huang ends his essay proud of his show and network. His critiques set off a huge flurry of reporters writing that Huang hates his own show and “bites the hand that feeds him”.
5. This is the first Asian American sitcom on a major broadcasting network in about 20 years.
Cho and Huang. [Photo Cred. Margaret Cho]
The last Asian American family sitcom to air was comedian Margaret Cho’s All American Girl which lasted for one season and was generally panned by critics as unfunny and offensive. Since then Cho has gone on to have a successful career as a comedian, most recently parodying Kim Jong Un at the Golden Globes. Huang calls Cho a mentor-type figure. After Huang’s novel was picked up by ABC, Cho urged Huang to fight for his vision every step of the way.
Fresh Off the Boat premieres Wednesday 2/4 at 8:30 EST on ABC.