Today I was invited onto HuffPost Live to ask some questions to the executive producer of Fresh Off The Boat, the new sitcom inspired by Eddie Huang's memoir of the same title. Some people may have a problem with the title as the abbreviated FOB is usually used by more assimilated Asian-Americans to refer to immigrant Asians in a derogatory manner. I would have preferred "FOB Life!" as a title myself, but this may be why I will never have a career in television.
I have to admit, I didn't have high expectations for the show. I'd been burned once before by All-American Girl, which could be described as a "shit-show disaster," if I were in the business of writing ad copy for TV, so the bar was pretty low to begin with.
As I started watching, I couldn't help but cringe at Randall Park and Constance Wu's fake accents.
It's pretty obvious to me, maybe because I'm hyper sensitive to fake accents, or maybe because I'm a big fan of Randall's work on Veep and in the Adult Swim infomercial for the Broomshakalaka, so it's hard to shake the fact that I know he doesn't have an accent. Maybe it's because as an actor myself, I have been asked to do thick accents during auditions in order to "be more Asian."
But this is TV, not reality. Even if the basis for the show is true, a TV show is a representation of reality, an imitation like that Aristotle dude said a long ass time ago. That leaves a murky landscape to navigate through. The climax of the pilot occurs when Eddie gets into a confrontation with what seems like the only black kid at his school. The black kid calls him a chink and the entire lily-white student body watches to see what he will do. Eddie fights the black kid and later on he's show being accepted by the other children. I don't doubt that this happened in real life, but there was something that struck me as surreal- In order for this kid to fit in with white people in Florida, he had to beat up the black kid. I guess that's actually pretty realistic given that it's Florida.
What a cynical bastard I am. Geez. It's not about that, it's about standing up for yourself, and the commonality of experience! I'm totally sure that young Eddie and the black kid will become friends and we'll even learn that he has a name! To be fair, this is leaps and bounds above All-American Girl. To be less than fair, it also has been twenty fucking years. However, I appreciated the earnestness and the tone of the show. The jokes were decent, and I appreciated how Eddie's parents had his back when he got in trouble for fighting. All in all, I can't hate on this because it's progress. Kind of like Obama. There's the initial skyrocketing joy from the historical significance and then disappointment in the reality of having to play to mainstream America during prime time.
Speaking of prime time, the news that has me real excited is Brian Williams's admission that he's been lying for years about being aboard a helicopter that was shot down in 2003 in Iraq. When called out he said, “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.” I do! It's called a lie, you lying liar!
But this is TV, not reality. Does the lead anchor to one of the largest nightly news broadcasts in the country have some duty to tell the truth to the American public? I say, yes. But maybe this is just indicative of the state of journalism in this country, especially broadcast journalism. It's dead. And not just dead, but its corpse has become reanimated like it was buried in Pet Semetary, and like all reanimated corpses, it's a total embarrassment at public functions. Maybe when they were embedding journalists in Iraq back in 2003, they were also embedding memories into their minds. That would explain how complacent the media was as we were gearing up for a war started on false pretenses.
It's bad enough that we have to endure Allison Williams getting a rim job or playing Peter Pan on TV, but now we find out her dad is full of shit? Not just full of shit, but lying about something that happened in an unjust war that he helped sell to the American public, leading to thousands of American casualties and over a million Iraqi casualties? And not just any old thing that happened, but combat? Lying about getting shot down?
"Yeah I was totally there, bro. The missile was like WOOOSH and then it hit the chopper like KRA-KOW, and then it was like WUB WUB WUB BLACK HAWK DOWN!"
"Uhh, you weren't in a Black Hawk helicopter."
"Yeah, but it was like EEEEEEERRRRR WE'RE GOING DOWN! THIS IS FOR FREEDOM, BRAH!!!"
"Dude, you weren't even on that chopper. We have guys who were on the chopper that went down saying you weren't there."
“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
"Cool story, bro."
I suppose that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in that Allison Williams is no Peter Pan and Brian Williams is no Peter Jennings. It's remarkable how alike they are, they both like pretending to fly on national television!
The one good thing here is that it's less and less likely that you can spout such bullshit without getting caught thanks to the speed of the internet. With any luck, it will only be a matter of time before the issues of representation and identity that were barriers present in traditional media are shattered by pioneers on the web. The speed of communication and widening of accessibility could lead to some pretty good things. Of course, it also leads to things like this-