Fresh Off the Boat: Television Karma

by Jeff Yang | Originally posted at Quartz

In 1994, exactly 20 years ago, ABC decided to pick up the pilot for comedian Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, making it the first sitcom to put an Asian American family on network prime-time TV. The show was slammed by the press and rapidly faded in the ratings; after airing just 19 episodes, the decision was made to cancel it. In her book, Cho cited bad reviews from Asian American cultural critics as being a key reason for ABC’s lack of faith in the show, calling out one in particular — me.

Two decades have gone by, and no network has aired another Asian American family sitcom since. But this weekend, ironically, ABC officially picked up Fresh Off the Boat — a sitcom based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s New York Times bestselling memoir of growing up with his two brothers and immigrant parents as a hip-hop-loving outsider in suburban Orlando, Florida. Playing little Eddie: My son, Hudson Yang.

The irony — or is it karma? — in the situation led me and my friend, illustrator Louie Chin, to collaborate on this comic.

Ed. Note: ABC has just released a trailer for Fresh Off the Boat.

Go to and vote for FOB as your favorite one.


Jeff Yang is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist. He is the author of several books and co-editor of the Asian American Superhero Anthologies Secret Identities and Shattered. His Tao Jones column appears at the Wall Street Journal Online.

5 thoughts on “Fresh Off the Boat: Television Karma

  1. That is irony Jeff. On the other hand you could say that Asian Americans have progressed to the point that a show can suck with or without an Asian lead. In the end you can only cut a show so much slack for being progressive. I’ll watch the show!

  2. Wow, I remember 20 years ago moving to America and seeing All American Girl and and thinking: “Wow, an all Asian cast???? America has EVERYTHING!” I really enjoyed the show and was very disappointed when it was cancelled (when you are 11, you really dont know any better). Karma or Coincidence, I am elated to see another primarily Asian cast on American T.V.! I just hope it lasts more than one season, and it is not another 20 years before we see another show about Asian Americans, lol.

  3. IMHO, a Rom Com with John Cho hooking up with Karen Gillan, is more significant and barrier breaking than Fresh Off the Boat, which looks like it’s filled with stereotypical jokes…

    They cast JOHN CHO to play HENRY HIGGINS… now THAT’S progress people!!!

    Selfie – Trailer

  4. Well, with two seasons done and a third coming up, I think we can all see where exactly this karma kicked in. I’m talking about the fact that the character of Eddie Huang has been completely overshadowed by the amazing mom character played by the even more amazing Constance Wu. So thoroughly has Wu taken over the show (absolutely for the better I should add) that a newcomer to the show with no knowledge about the book it was inspired by, could hardly guess that the kid was supposed to be the central character. Fresh Off the Boat went from being the new Everybody Hates Chris to being something more akin to I Love Lucy, and people seems to agree it was for the better.

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