Both CBS’s Criminal Minds and ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat bid their final farewells this week. It seems obvious to us which show will be missed more than the other: Although Mr. Scratch will live on in our minds, Fresh Off The Boat broke up the monotony of network family sitcoms, inviting audiences into the home of a Taiwanese American family that proved increasingly relatable over the last six years.
Created by Nahnatchka Khan, who served as showrunner until 2019, Fresh Off The Boat was loosely based on the autobiography of Eddie Huang, retracing the celebrity chef’s adolescence. Hudson Yang portrayed the young Eddie, who loved basketball and hip-hop in equal measure. Randall Park, who recently wooed Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe, co-starred as Eddie’s dad Louis, the owner of Cattleman’s Ranch restaurant. And series breakout Constance Wu starred as Jessica, the highly competent and competitive matriarch of the Huang family. The series garnered recognition from the Critics Choice Awards, the Television Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards throughout its six-season run.
Audiences will miss gathering at the Huangs’ table, which was relocated along with the show to Friday nights for the penultimate season. While Fresh Off The Boat was no ratings juggernaut, there’s no denying the impact that the show has had, not just in raising the profiles of Park and Wu but also in providing some much needed momentum to greater representation on TV. That will always be part of the show’s legacy, as Master Of None co-creator Alan Yang and Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu attest.
When The A.V. Club spoke with Yang about his latest series, the Apple TV+ anthology Little America, at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, we also discussed the mark left by the Huang family.
It’s huge. I mean, I believe when that show came on there hadn’t been an Asian American sitcom since All-American Girl, Margaret Cho’s show. That’s incredible. A show about a Taiwanese American family and it reached mainstream success. It was on ABC and it launched a bunch of careers. I mean, you look at what Randall and Constance have been able to do, that’s amazing. I’m so happy for everyone involved in Fresh Off The Boat—what a landmark show.
Yang also revealed how influential the show had been for him personally:
I’m keeping up with the Taiwanese American tradition because my movie Tigertail comes out April 10th, and it’s about a Taiwanese American family. So there’s going to be more Taiwanese people on your television. The movie’s inspired by my father’s journey from Taiwan to America. So there’s definitely more immigration related stories to come.
Jon M. Chu, who’s helming the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, was at TCA to promote his own Apple TV+ series, Home Before Dark, which was inspired by the life of young journalist Hilde Lysiak. The director recalled the lengths to which he went to watch Fresh Off The Boat when it first premiered, and also pointed to the generations of creators and performers who are bound to be inspired by the amiable yet groundbreaking sitcom.
It’s amazing to think about the stars the show made, from Constance [Wu] to Randall [Park] to those kids—you know, Hudson [Yang]. To make an Asian American family in your living room every week a normal thing, and have them be funny and not be an “other”; to see that they can have the same interactions and the same complicated nature of their relationships, but in their own specific ways. That they could laugh at themselves and not have others laugh at them—to me, that means everything.
And we don’t even know yet the effects of it on a whole other generation. Because those young kids who grew up watching are gonna be creators who are gonna make stuff without the barriers that I felt as a kid, thinking that I wasn’t good enough to be on television, or our family was too weird to be on television.