Tag Archives: comedy

Do You Hear What I Hear? Fresh Off The Boat Episode 10 Season 4

Episode rating: ***

Fresh off the Boat has always been ‘freshest’ when it covers the holidays, whether looking at how the Huangs tried to celebrate Chinese New Year in Florida, or whenever Louis tries to impress his sons with his hilarious outfits on Halloween.

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Although this episode doesn’t go for the same meta-references as the Christmas Carol/Home Alone pastiche of last year’s Christmas special, there‘s enough here to melt the heart of even the coldest Scrooge.

There’s a pre-credit sequence which zooms in on Jessica Town (the -scale model of a traditional Victorian Christmas town from the second season – Continuity!)) – and then we’re pulled right up to present day 1997, with the mention of Titanic.  Louis has always been a Leo fan “ever since Gilbert Grape” and he’s so excited about the upcoming release that he pens “Titanic” on the Town’s Playhouse building.

Jessica, who acts a little too perfectly in this episode, accuses someone of bringing store bought to a cookie sale and tries to impose her vocal training on the town’s out-of tune singers.

Assistance comes in the form of Deidre’s friend Holly (guest star Paula Abdul), who teaches performance and movement (“maybe she can make some figgy pudding out of some rotten fruit”).

There are more jokes about Titanic, especially when Emery tells Louis he is reading a book about the Titanic and he doesn’t want to spoil the ending.  But the episode wants to get on with the subplot, and particularly the story involving Nicole’s coming out from episode 4.

Now that we are on board with the sitcom’s first gay character, we get to see Nicole attempt to approach a girl she likes for the first time.  That links nicely with the nineties craze of coffee bars. Thanks to Friends and Frasier, they were everywhere in the nineties. Nicole’s love match is Jessie, (she doesn’t take any guff from machines) tough and feisty, just the kind of girl we can see Honey being attracted to. The only thing is, Honey is still not sure how to ask someone out. But as Jessie has started to write a smiley-face instead of the ‘O’ in Nicole, she is sure that she is interested. The idea of Eddie coaching Nicole in love is unlikely, but cute, and it shows how much he has matured.

Eddie is so excited about having coffee with Nicole that he blows Louis off – I’m thinking of having mine iced. I like the idea of having the show use a coffee shop for Nicole’s introduction to dating, even if the idea of youngsters meeting and drinking coffee seemed a little far-fetched.  But on the other hand, the episode got funnier the more coffee the kids drank. I didn’t think much of Hudson Yang at first but ever since season 3 he has really grown into the role, assuming a greater confidence, it’s less of a stretch to see him growing up to be the badass Eddie Huang, the show’s creator (although he has distanced himself from the show saying it has watered down his childhood).

They really go with the Titanic theme (it was the most anticipated film of the year and went on to be the biggest) – to miss it would be unthinkable as Louis puns. It’s surprising that no-one else in the family is excited about seeing it.

But just so that Louis does not have to watch the film alone, we get Honey, overly emotional next door neighbor and no stranger to vicarious tragedy (remember the Diana episode).  They visit the cinema together because Marvin can’t watch a ship go down in public) and he promises not to let him know they are seeing it.

The auditions start for the choir and it turns out that Evan can sing, no, he can really sing. Wow, the show never prepared us for this. Total Eclipse of the Heart is such a good song for him too. But when Jessica starts singing My Heart Will Go On, it’s completely wrong. Not only is it doubtful that she would have got to to learn this song so well with the movie being so new, it’s far too saccharine for Jessica to want to sing at all. SO why have they put this in here? It’s a shame, because there are other songs she could have sung much better. First bad mistake of the episode.

So its no surprise that Holly doesn’t choose her for the carol group, especially since it was Jessica who said that the human eye can only process six people on a doorstep.

Uh-oh, Marvin has found a ticket stub, and a pack of Goobers, and now he suspects something is going on. It’s time to go on a stakeout. He usually says some funny, politically incorrect things but not really this time. He’s in more of a serious mood. Yet Honey and Louis want to watch Titanic a second time, so they choose disguises and Jessica’s ridiculous Lao Ban Santa costume gets another outing.

There are more costumes for the Carolers, with Evan as a very cute David Copperfield (the set designer has a massive Dickens fetish) and the assorted choir wearing ribbons and bonnets.

Back to Greenie’s coffee house, and Eddie’s drank enough coffee to give Nicole the best pick-up line to write on her coffee cup. The guys are drinking disposable cups (even though they would probably have the original ceramic mugs, I’m letting this detail slide). ”Hi Girl, you gay. Do you like instruments? Holler at me.” So it’s not the most romantic. But as Emery points out, it’s a haiku. So when Nicole bottles it, and gives the server her coffee order instead of the cup with the message, she thinks she’s missed her chance. Then Allison points out something on the mug and it’s a phone number. Look out for this actress appearing in subsequent episodes from now on.

What else happens? Marvin finds Honey and Louis at the cinema dressed in their disguises and decides it must be a great movie, and he agrees to see it with them. Jessica axes Holly, and then loses the rest of the choir, who feel that Jessica does not have enough Christmas spirit. The show has a good surprise in the form of Marvin’s Christmas present and a nice closing scene with a group carol in front of the lawn.

Not the strongest episode they have done, but enough to maintain interest, especially the kids in the coffee shop.

Nineties reference: apart from obvious Titanic mentions, there’s only Eddie’s reference to Friends “I feel like the show Friends makes more sense now.”

Chinese-ness: C-. The cast love Christmas like true Americans and don’t mention anything about their Chinese traditions.

Jessica’s meanness – A+. Firing Holly was petty and she’s not funny in this episode for it to be endearing.

 

Fresh off the Boat – TV’s hottest Asian comedy

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One of the best American comedies is finally being shown in the UK. If you haven’t watched it, here’s what you need to know.

Although it was billed as the first show to feature a predominantly Asian cast, the shoiw would not have lasted very long if that was all it had going for it. Actually, the show is not just a comedy that a particular ethnic group can approeciatae. It’s a great family show which packs a lot into each 20 minute episode.

Series 1 was fine but by Series 2 they had kicked things up a gear and were making classic episodes such as Michael Chang Fever and The Real Santa.

The show fiollows a American Taiwanese family who move from the Asian –friendly Washington neighborhood to all-white Orlando DC.

If the first season focused mainly on the central character of Eddie, the next started to  look more at the marriage of Jessica and Louis. Now I’ve not seen either perform in many other shows much but boy can they do a great back and forth.

Of course, the writing is extremely sharp and so fresh and funny.  The show pokes fun at the nineties setting. Although it takes place in what is clearly present day America, there are wonderful resferences to things ony people in the nineties can remember (yes, from Pogs to Beanie Babies and the rise of the early internet, it’s all here, lovingly recreated).

Jessica is very clearly the kind of ambitious mother who wants the best for the children (a Tiger Mum before the word was actally used) but the show wiuld not bew enjoyable if she was just a terrible and scolding woman. In fact in episode after episode she comes across as someone who simply loves and cares for her children that she wants the best for them

For example, she gets a position helping at the school play only to realize that the play is an excuse for the children to stand around onstage in fruit and animal costumes (standount epsisode). By the end, she comes round to the idea that the play is harmless fun and goes along with the other parents by clapping at the end (only to mutter, this is all a complete waste of time).

In another episode, she decides that Eddie should join a piccolo club; ‘Do you know how many unclaimed marching band scholarships go unclaimed every year?) And then, when the insufferable goody-two shoes Jewish boy deserts Eddie during a Les Mis performance, she agrees to attend a Beastie Boys concert in his stead.

There are strong messages in each episode. For example, a noted storyline looked at how Jessica felt that she was losing touch with her Chinese roots. Suddenly the family start eating food with chopsticks and the boys are marched off to after-school Chinese lessons.

For a a family show they put some edgy humour in. Eg, when their white neighbor offers to play some records where Frank Sinatra makes racially insensitive remarks about Sammy Davis and Junior.

The couples’ love for each other is never in doubt. If there is a better show on TV I’v not seen it.

Here’s a short list of my favourite episodes:

“Coming from America” (Season 3)

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The family go to Taiwan so that Louis can patch things up with his brother. After her attempts to prove her Taiwanese heritage go wrong, Jessica realizes that America is now their natural home.

The scene where Jessica ends up buying the ‘bad fakes’ (counterfeit Nike trainers) at a street market is hilarious.

“Jessica Place” (Season 2)

A spoof of the nineties show which gets a lot of references in the series.

Phil's

“Phil’s Phaves” (Season 2)

An episode that looks at the very early days of the internet. When the Huangs read an unfavourable interent review that describes their restaurant as boring, they try to make it more fun.

“So Chineez” (Season 1)

When perpetual slacker Eddie wants to represents Jamaica in the school’s UN preoject, his mum is mad and insists he is given China. When Eddie questions what’s cool about China, she lays it down like a boss: “You know what’s cool about China? A wall you can see from space. Who invented Gunpowder? China? Gunpowder, the compass, gambling… China! China! China!”

sochineez

“Success Perm” Season 1

A really funny show because for many Asian people a perm is a sign of success despite the fact that it makes them

“Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon” (Season 2)

Louis’s attempts to help Eddie’s team win a Basketball game fall falt, so he teaches them how to be the best team at making fouls.

“Success Perm” Season 1

A really funny show because for many Asian people a perm is a sign of success despite the fact that it makes them look ridiculous.

success

Patti Lu Pone – Leicester Square Theatre

Patti Lu Pone

Leicester Square Theatre

Sunday 16 – Sunday 23rd June

Patti Lu Pone is a big star. She has won two Tony Awards and an Olivier and was Fantine in the original Royal Shakespeare  Production of Les Miserables. As a musical theatre star they don’t come much bigger. The audience was full of men, mostly gay, who simply couldn’t get enough of her.

Starting the night off was Seth Rudetsky, himself a very funny, camp performer. He got things off to a great start by treating the audience to some hilarious video footage of The Osmonds performing a disco version of “If I were a rich Man” and Shirley Bassey singing on an oil rig. The audience laughed hysterically but you would have to be off a certain age or persuasion to find a lot of it very funny. Eventually Patti Lu Pone came on and the show got started, with Rudetsky accompanying Lu Pone on piano and singing along to some of the songs.

Lu Pone belted out two songs from Evita,- ‘Rainbow High’ and ‘Buenos Aires’-  with Rudetsky gamely playing along. Between songs he interviewed her about some of her experiences working as a serious actor and moving into musical theatre. Lu Pone came across as slightly self-effacing, as though she was afraid to show her diva side which is clearly something which has made her so successful. The songs where she took centre stage were the best, where she was illuminated by a spotlight and watched by a hushed audience. ‘I regret everything’ was a new song written by the writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lu Pone sang it as though it was the flipside to Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Non Regrette Rien.’ Otherwise things sagged a little during the non-musical numbers, and it would have been nice to have heard more songs. 

She sang ‘Fine Life’ from Oliver, which your reviewer was delighted to join in with, going on to ‘As Long as he needs me’. She did her worst cockney accent, screwing up her face and looking like a stroke victim.  The sound quality was first rate and Lu Pone’s showcased some fine singing, even if she found it hard to reach the high notes on Rainbow High.

Luckily there were two encores. The audience leapt to their feet to give a standing ovation, giving us time to hear Lu Pone preview a song from an upcoming musical of Woman on The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Lu Pone looked like she could convincingly play Pepa, the woman left by her husband who puts her into a mental hospital. As for Rudetsky, it’s nice to see that as well as supporting Lu Pone he has his own show at the same theatre later this month, Deconstructing Broadway. It sounds great, seriously.

Three stars.