“Fresh Off the Boat” premiered its fifth season Oct. 5 on ABC, picking up right where the Huang family left off back in their mid-’90s Orlando, Florida suburb.
Eddie (Hudson Yang), the oldest brother of three and main character of the show, is still the same old Eddie. He loves rap, food and his friends, but when his next-door neighbor and best buddy Nicole informs him that she is moving away for the school year, Eddie’s unexpected lack of affectedness causes a rift between the two young pals — can they make up before Nicole leaves?
The mother, Jessica (Constance Wu, “Crazy Rich Asians”), is finally ready for her book’s release. As confident as ever, she readies for what is sure to be a long line of anxious customers at the bookstore, but competition created by the release of another book about whom Jessica refers to as a “boy witch” may set her back.
Louis (Randall Park, “Ant-Man and the Wasp”), the father, wants to buy the family an RV to head out on the road for what he is sure to be a long book tour for Jessica. The man he buys it from will look awfully familiar to Milwaukee basketball fans: NBA Hall of Famer and Bucks legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar guest stars.
"The show’s acting is heavily dependent on child actors, and they couldn’t have casted better performers."
The show’s acting is heavily dependent on child actors, and they couldn’t have casted better performers. Both younger Huang brothers Emery and Evan (Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen) are equally funny and can steal the scene with their surprising timing and use of facial expressions to create even more laughs.
“Boat” also relies on veteran actors of a variety of ages to add balance. The last member of the family is Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong), Louis’ mother. Proudly sporting her motorized wheelchair and rarely speaking English, the accompanying subtitles offer a unique style of humor in and of itself. A large cast of recurring characters takes the show down a wide range of storylines, never feeling boring or repetitive.
Always reaching back in time with great ‘90s references — including songs, events, clothing and technology (or the lack thereof) — “Boat” frequently uses guest stars of the past as well. Show creator Nahnatchka Khan (“Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23”) leads a smart writing team. Consistency is what I’ve come to expect as a viewer — like a solid baseball player, always getting more than enough hits to win year after year.
I wouldn’t say “Fresh Off the Boat” is the best or even funniest show on TV, but that’s why I recommend it so highly. It never feels like a struggle to watch because it always has light-hearted humor. The plots and stories never become ridiculous or over-the-top, which allows the show to explore dramatic narratives and discuss social and cultural topics that would expectedly come up by being an Asian-American family in a predominantly white neighborhood.
“Fresh Off the Boat” is one of the better sitcoms on TV right now because there is something for everyone of every age, regardless of racial background. It’s always refreshing to see different faces and families represented in the media.
New episodes air every Friday at 7 p.m. on ABC. Episodes can also be streamed the day after on Hulu.