Based on his memoir, "Fresh Off The Boat" is Eddie Huang's story.
It's certainly not my story.
I've never been an 11-year-old son of Taiwanese immigrants moving from Chinatown in Washington, DC to the suburbs of Orlando.
"Fresh Off The Boat" can't be my story.
But I hope Eddie Huang would forgive my feeling that, at least to some degree, "Fresh Off The Boat" is absolutely my story.
In the early '90s, I was a 13-year-old son of Canadian immigrants living in Mississippi, going to a middle school in which I was one of a dozen white kids and the only Jewish kid. I didn't have to explain stinky tofu to my colleagues at lunch, but I assure you that my bagels were plenty confusing. I spent a lot of time being called Bud Bundy, because at the time, all of my classmates were watching a lot of FOX and the most prominent representation of young, white masculinity they knew was embodied by David Faustino.
So I hope Eddie Huang would forgive my feeling that "Fresh Off The Boat" is also somewhat my story, but I'd understand if he wouldn't.
"Fresh Off The Boat" is more important as a specific story.
People will talk about "Fresh Off The Boat" as the first Asian-American-centric comedy on TV since "All-American Girl," but that's selling short how unprecedented it is. The coming-of-age story is as foundational a structure as we have, narratively. I don't wanna get all "Bildungsroman" on you, but this is a primal storytelling vehicle and you've never seen it through an Asian-American lens on TV. And I'd be hard-pressed to think of more than a couple examples in American cinema.
It's in specificity that "Fresh Off The Boat" makes its bones and it's in favor of specificity that Eddie Huang railed in his now-famous Vulture column (which is funnier and more sharply written than 95 percent of all network TV pilots to air in the past decade).
But it's in its variable degree of universality that "Fresh Off The Boat" deserves to become another family hit for ABC. His protests aside, Eddie Huang's version of growing up as an outsider is specific and it's at least somewhat what's depicted in "Fresh Off The Boat" and it's an experience that only a very few people can share. And yet in his experience, I see a lot of my own outsider experience, which is pretty unique in its own right. We're all delicate snowflakes and we're never more delicate and afraid of being unique than we are in those formative years around adolescence; and even the pretty and popular people who were, in practical reality, not outsiders at all, still probably feel some connection to the outsider experience. [And screw those people, I say. Go watch your own darned shows about pretty people with perfect skin and good haircuts. And with that, I've "other"-ed the popular people, so they can relate to being outsiders, too.]
"Fresh Off The Boat" is significant for the vacuum it fills in a TV landscape that is belatedly being forced to realize that if you fill a vacuum you can make money.
But maybe you should just watch "Fresh Off The Boat" because it's funny.