Eddie Huang continues to complain that his edgy memoir Fresh Off The Boat got turned into an ABC sitcom. After this week’s episode, Huang took to Twitter to savage the series again, announcing he does not watch the program he now calls “unrecognizable.”
But even before Fresh Off The Boat debuted on the network, Huang’s began trashing the TV adaptation of his memoir.
ABC describes the show – the first Asian-American series on the broadcast networks since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl two decades ago, thusly: It’s the ’90s and 12-year-old, hip-hop-loving Eddie (Hudson Yang) just moved to suburban Orlando from D.C.’s Chinatown with his parents (Randall Park and Constance Wu). It’s culture shock for his immigrant family in this comedy about pursuing the American Dream.”
In January, in anticipation of ABC’s presentation of the show to a couple hundred journalists at the TCA Winter Press Tour (with Huang participating), New York magazine published an essay Huang had written, in which he torched the series, its exec producer and the head writer, then attempted to undo the arson toward the end of the essay.
Huang is one of those “food personalities” with a carefully crafted bad-boy image; he hosts a Vice show and an MTV cooking series and famously got tossed from TED after being named a fellow in 2013. When his autobiography Fresh Off The Boat was published in 2013, Publishers Weekly called it (and, by association, him) “brash, leading edge and unapologetically hip.”
And then it got turned into an 8 o’clock family comedy for Disney-owned ABC. Bad optics. So, Huang penned the piece that broke the day before the show’s Press Tour Q&A.
He wrote this about exec producer Melvin Mar:
I’d known Asian-Americans like Melvin my entire life. Those Booker T. Washington-Professor X-Uncle Chans, willing to cast down their buckets, take off Cerebro, and forget that successful people of color are in many ways “chosen” and “allowed” to exist while the others get left behind.
He said this about writer/EP Nahnatchka Khan:
The network’s approach was to tell a universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans resembling moo goo gai pan written by a Persian-American who cut her teeth on race relations writing for Seth MacFarlane. … And why isn’t there a Taiwanese or Chinese person who can write this? I’m sure there’s some angry Korean dude in Hollywood who grew up eating Spam, watching his dad punch his mom in the face, who knows how to use Final Draft!”
He described the series:
This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won’t take that gamble right now. … Randall was neutered, Constance was exoticized, and Young Eddie was urbanized so that the viewers got their mise-en-place. People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network’s approach to pacifying them is to say we’re all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit ’em with the soy.
But by the end of the piece – 15 pages later, by Huang’s count — he’d called the comedy series historic:
But for all the bullshit I heard at studios about universal stories and the cultural pus it perpetuates, I felt some truth in it.… It takes a lot of chutzpah to launch a network comedy with a pilot addressing the word “chink”, yet it works because it’s the safest bet the studio could have made. The feeling of being different is universal because difference makes us universally human in our individual relationships with society. We’re all f***ing weirdos.