Press Conference For New US Sitcom Based on an Asian Family Gets AwkwardPosted: 01/16/2015 9:00 am
It’s unclear if the upcoming ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat will use awkwardness as a comedic device to get audiences laughing, but a meeting between the press and the cast and crew of the first American-Asian network comedy in 20 years was undeniably awkward.
Fresh Off the Boat joins a modern trend that celebrates ethnic diversity by casting actors from all types of backgrounds. However, the press might not be quite as ready for an Asian sitcom as audiences seem to be. This was the first question posed to the cast of Fresh Off the Boat at a media event in California:
I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks. And I just love all that. Will I get to see that? Or will it be more Americanized?
But Asian culture didn’t prove to be the main source of friction at the press junket. The show is based on the memoirs of Eddie Huang, a famous chef and author of Taiwanese descent who had previously been very critical of the way ABC was turning his book into a TV show. Huang wrote in the New York Magazine that the network turned his life into a “universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans resembling moo goo gai pan written by a Persian-American [writer and producer Nahnatchka Khan] who cut her teeth on race relations writing for Seth MacFarlane.”
When a reporter asked Khan for her reaction to Huang’s suggestion that she shouldn’t be writing for the show because she’s not Taiwanese, the following happened:
“That’s actually not the point of the article,” Huang interrupts before Khan could answer.
“I’m not asking you the question,” replied the reporter. “I’m asking her reaction to that.”
“I’m just debating your reading comprehension skills,” Huang replied.
The critic quotes Huang’s article: “And why isn’t there a Taiwanese or Chinese person who can write this? I’m sure there’s some angry Korean dude in Hollywood who grew up eating Spam, watching his dad punch his mom in the face, who knows how to use Final Draft.”
“Absolutely let me ask you sir–“
“So I would now ask Ms. Khan to answer the question–“
Khan tries to answer: “I mean, I would–“
Huang interrupts again: “But when you frame the question incorrectly that’s why we have terrible laws and the EPA doesn’t have to talk to scientists any more—it’s because the framing of questions. So sir, I’m going to debate you and make you frame this question in the proper manner. Because that statement was made on about Page 3 and … it’s a 15-page article and people’s opinions change and meta-morph and they reach resolutions. I mean, that’s even how TV shows work.”
Counters the reporter: “If there was a point in that article where you went back and said you were wrong, I didn’t read it. If you can point that out–”
“It’s an experiential inversion article.”
“This question is not about you, and this press conference is not about me,” the reporter says. “Could [Khan] please answer the question–“
And with that, Khan is able to reply: “Absolutely. When I read his memoir, the specifics were different to my growing up experience, being Persian-American and him being Taiwanese-American, but what I related to was the immigrant experience of the show, being first generation and having parents who weren’t born here. And that, to me, was my access point. When you take something from the source material that’s such a strong voice and make it into an 8 p.m. family sitcom on broadcast TV, you need a lot of access points. And feeling like you don’t belong, and trying to figure out the rules, and trying to help your parents figure out the rules… to me that’s what a lot of people will relate to. If you’ve ever felt like an outsider, this show is one you’ll be able to relate to.”
Fresh Off the Boat will make its debut on February 10.