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Fresh Off The Boat - Kids - Review: "Where's the energy?"

19 Oct 2017

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Fresh Off The Boat is very pleasant as of right now, the 4th season is so far only 3 episodes in and all of them have been very good installments, but we are not quite there yet when it comes to “Great”. Some of the best episodes of FotB are parodies (Jessica Place), plays Immigration stories with care and heartwarming comedy (Hi, My Name Is…) or pushes the the world around them into play with some wackiness (The Best of Orlando). There have been glimpses of those elements so far, but we need to truly dive into them in order for Fresh Off The Boat to keep its edge, because as of right now, it feels oddly comfortable, more so than others start of the season that usually have something big for them by now.

That’s not to say the show is doing a bad job at entertaining me (far from it!), but I know it can do better. I, for one, I’m very excited to see Emery’s bad luck coming into play to help Grandma “destroy” her enemies, that’s the kind of out there hilarious storytelling the show excels at and I am sure there is a great hilarious episode coming down the line, as that last part with both of them plotting against Grandma’s enemies got me to laugh really hard: but it’s more a promise than pay off on itself.

The A story with Jessica and Louis trying to get Marvin and Honey (mostly Marvin, really) to reconsider about having kids was ok, it had a lot of funny gags in between, such as Jessica and Louis depressingly singing karaoke together (and then deciding to do it again before scheming to change Marvin’s mind) and Marvin’s leaving for the bus, which worked because of how excited Constance Wu and Randall Park played the scene, which made me giggle. But for the most part, it was super predictable.

To be honest, I’m a bit burnt out of shows telling me having kids is exhausting. I am 100% aware of this fact, and every now and then shows keep reminding me, especially as of late I have felt I have seen the argument “kids are terrible! They dry up all your energy!” and I’m sick tired of it. I know it’s an easy gag to write in comedies, but I’m just tired of it and I did not appreciate FotB getting on this railroad (although I did learn vasectomy reversals are a thing, I looked it up, and I found it fascinating that something considered so permanent could be undone like that).

ABC Family comedies often complains about the growing pains about having kids, and that’s fine, but I’m just tired of the constant frightening looks of newly parenthood television is portraying, again, not because it isn’t true, but because it has been done to death, and that short scene with the newly parents being essentially lifeless zombies I feel like I have seen a million times and FotB could have used a new spin on it.

So I wasn’t a fan of it, and I hope Marvin and Honey take their sweet time before deciding for it (and seriously, if you are going for it, adopt, don’t do a vasectomy reversal, it is far too complicated), but I was seriously laughing when Honey asked Jessica not to interfere in their lives and Jessica said “no promises”. Nicole’s gag was just mostly threw away for the sake of it at the end, so it didn’t truly made an impression beyond the cast’s priceless reaction.

Then we got the B storyline with Evan in the middle of the fallout of Alison and Eddie’s relationship. It was classic heartwarming stuff for FotB as Eddie came to the realization that he doesn’t have to forget about Alison, but rather learn to treasure their time together and move on to an amicable relationship that can be friendship. It’s a very sweet sentiment, but it would have worked out better over time since these two just broke up, so this kind of sweet resolution felt too fabricated for the sake of simplicity and FotB is usually above that. If we go by sentiment, it is all good, but both Alison and Eddie should be given more time, especially Alison considering how neglecting and forgetful Eddie showed to be.

But those are nitpicks, overall it was pleasantly fun. Which is alright, but I like when the show aims higher than just pleasant and goes for the chaotic fun energy it brought. I believe the “Fresh” in the title is not just to represent the expression “Fresh Off The Boat” or to live by the memoir it was based on, I believe it is also there to reminds us that this is comedy that tries to keep itself fresh (interestingly enough, ABC promos now just call it “New Fresh!” instead of the whole title).

Overall, I need more chaos into the pleasant lives of the Huangs. So far it has been far too quiet for a comedy that usually settles into high energy with its family members and its high jinks. In between Randall’s obsessive personality, Eddies’ attempt to gather swager, Jessica’s need for perfection, Evan’s neurotic personality, Emery’s relentless optimistic, and Grandma’s mischievousness we have a family that irradiates energy that can be (and has been) exploited for amazing comedy alongside heartfelt character growth. It shouldn’t feel like the show is just pleasant, it should feel very energetic.

Writing 4 seasons of any television show is hard, it’s a long time and a show as energetic as Fresh Off The Boat will find some valleys in the way, but we also need the highs. I’m perfectly fine with these low key episodes, they are fun and relaxing, but I am more than eager to get back to schemes, high jinks and overly complicated plotting. Like the Huangs do best.

Grades: B