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Fresh Off The Boat - B as in Best Friend & First Day - Double Review: "A Promising Start"

I am in love with the ABC Family comedy brand, including Modern Family, American Housewife, The Middle (my favorite) and, of course, Fresh Off The Boat, which has a special place in my heart and as such I have started reviewing (albeit a bit late!). Season 1 was very amusing and well executed, but my love for the show solidified on the amazing second season and only grew bigger on season 3. This show is open to experimentation while never losing its essence and it has the most dynamic characters I have seen on a family comedy.

Fresh Off The Boat got to an amazing start this season: “B as in Best Friend” is one of my all time favorites, and “First Day” was a bold entry in the way it handled itself and the path that it puts forwards for all the characters. Unlike comedies like The Good Place, Fresh Off The Boat is not highly serialized, but we can see the season has a clear structure and arc it wants to take us and evolve its characters even further, scaring the crap of some of them (things are not looking too auspicious for until now golden boy Emery).

Let’s start with “B as in Best Friend”: it’s hard to find a more compelling friendship in television than Jessica and Honey. Jessica is the star of the show and Constance Wu drives the show with Jessica’s crazy shenanigans, to which someone has to be there to deal with the consequences, and no one does it better than Honey, and Chelsey Crisp makes sure every moment she and Wu act together are comedy gold. Their friendship chemistry is simply amazing.

The whole episode is mainly about their friendship being tested when The Huang become homeless and they have no choice but to crash with Marvin and Honey. To which they become rapidly accustomed and comfortable with to Honey’s dismay; it becomes obvious she doesn’t want them there, but she doesn’t want to say it outright, so it becomes a classic situation of bottle up feelings ready to surge in the worst possible situation.

Said situation, is the best friend edition of Wheel of Fortune. The whole segment is incredibly funny as the host and the show’s assistent show their own ongoing feud as Jessica and Honey find themselves in the middle of fixing theirs. The comedy beats are perfectly synchronized, and while predictable, the reconciliation of the host and the assistent at the end made the whole scene comedy gold. The affection showcased by Wu and Crisp feels so heartfelt that one can only applaud to both actresses actings chops.

The B, C and D storylines have their own merits. I found incredibly endearing that Louis decided to spend time with Emeric (though that would have important ramifications on the hospital) and the haunted bird house was a hilarious note to end the whole thing, especially as they end up destroying it. Evan’s story on reading light books was also pretty fun, considering how uptight he is, having the chance to chill and fall for more age appropriate books was a nice change of pace for a character that constantly acts above his age, not to mention his attempts to hide it are both ingenious, cute and funny.

But the most important side storyline is Eddie and Nicole’s, as she finally musters the courage to come out to him as a lesbian. Let’s remember the show started on 1995, so now we must be at fall 1997, a time where homesexuality was a harder topic than it is today and Eddie’s response both before and after is very telling: he is unable to react to the shock, and afterwards he starts asking a lot of stereotypical questions. At first I was very disappointed at Eddie’s attitude, but the fact that he has Nicole’s back is already very telling, and even if he has very stereotypical notions of what being a lesbian is actually about, we can see through the next episode that he was just sincerely curious to know if any of those were true.

FotB has dealt with LGBT characters before; we have seen the lesbian bar where everyone loves Jessica, we have dealt with Jessica’s broken gaydar, and we have seen the Huang’s being fairly open about the topic and have no issue about it. But seeing Eddie’s shock and his questions shows a side that FotB previously didn’t show, which was the stereotypes of the times surrounding the topic and I think the show successfully did so without antagonizing Eddie and giving Nicole a very big moment.

The follow up episode “First Day” quickly throws a joke about Nicole being lesbian showing us that she is adjusting to the situation and how little Eddie cares about it, which is an important establishment for these characters. They are true friends now, as opposed to the crush Nicole was to Eddie when the show began. We have seen a true evolution in their relationship, all for the better.

“First Days” is an episode that essentially restructured the whole show for the character’s arcs on season 4: Eddie breaks up with his girlfriend, but makes up with his friends, Emery is facing a year of bad luck as he starts Middle School, Louis has to fight for his restourant with Kenny Roger’s manager, and we’ll see soon enough what struggles await for Jessica, Evan and grandma (grandma will probably just be delivering killer one liners as always).

The main story is Eddie’s and it is usually a by the book story of break up, pretty predictable in how he attempts to pretend to fool Alison that he is a football player to keep her interested in him. This leads to the best jokes of the episode with Jessica on the football field screaming “Concussion!” and go all the way to see a child that is not Eddie and who “would have done it for 20!” instead of 50 dollars (Wu slays with these deliveries). Alison’s break up with Eddie feels like something the show has been cooking up for a while, but very rushed here. Their relationship was cute, but it does feel like a time for fresh starts for both.

The end scene with Eddie and his friends reuniting after being at odds for so long was pretty endearing, and adds a sense of camaraderie that Eddie really needs. As a character on his own right, Eddie really doesn’t stand out from the Huangs, but when he is with his group of friends it feels like he truly stands out, as a unit. And that is how they should be: together.

At the restaurant, Louis is experiencing struggles as Kenny Rogers wants to change basically everything about Cattleman’s Ranch. Jessica is at first thinking of business as always and telling Louis to back down, but when Louis can’t and Jessica realizes that the restaurant is Louis’ Eddie she gives him enough encouragement to face Rogers’ management. Which is not needed, as it turns out that the kid who got the concussion on the game was Kenny Rogers’ manager’s son, so he abruptly agrees with Louis in his despair to go see his child, giving Louis a hilarious (and well deserved victory).

The storyline that really didn’t click with me was Emery’s bad luck, it wasn’t truly fleshed out into something that kept my attention, but it’ll be interesting to see him being more down to earth as he faces the hardships of being a normal person instead of the golden boy, always noticed by girl and always having his way. I’m interested to see on where the show takes him.

All in all, these have been 2 great episodes on what promises to be a season that will make the show fresher. I hope these shifts in dynamics continue, as the Huangs are a family that keeps its core, but evolves as times goes on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

B as in Best Friend: A-
First Day: B