Asian-amer­i­can sit­com set to hit the small screen

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By KELLY CHUNG DAW­SON in New York kdaw­son@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Restau­ra­teur and TV host Ed­die Huang’s re­cently pub­lished mem­oir Fresh Off the Boat will serve as in­spi­ra­tion for a po­ten­tial ABCTV sit­com that if given the green light will be the first Chi­nese Amer­i­can-fo­cused show on a ma­jor US net­work.

Nah­natchka Khan, cre­ator of the show Don’t Trust the B— in Apart­ment 23, will serve as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on the pilot with Jake Kas­dan of 20th Cen­tury Fox TV. Huang will pro­duce.

“ABC is giv­ing us a chance to talk about Asian Amer­ica and it’s beau­ti­ful,” Huang told China Daily. “It’s the Amer­i­can-born Chi­nese dream. I hope in the next few years, when Chi­nese peo­ple see the acro­nym ABC on their tele­vi­sions, they say ‘Amer­i­can Born Chi­nese’.”

Set in the 1990s in Or­lando, Florida, and loosely based on Huang’s child­hood, the show will likely fea­ture the bawdy hu­mor that has be­come his sig­na­ture. His TV show of the same name has seen him travel to Tai­wan, Mi­ami and other cities to sam­ple both lo­cal food and cul­ture.

Be­fore he made a name for him­self as a New York City food per­son­al­ity and owner of Tai­wanese bun eatery Baohaus, Huang was a kid strug­gling to define what be­ing Chi­nese in Amer­ica should be. The show will aim to de­pict that ex­pe­ri­ence with­out re­ly­ing on heavy-handed tropes, he says.

“We all un­der­stand that try­ing to write an overly gen­eral and op­pres­sive ‘Asian’ show isn’t the way to go,” he says. “What we want is a hu­man story that ev­ery one re­lates to but rep­re­sents the idea of dif­fer­ence sim­ply with the faces on the screen and the voice of the writer. Martin, Fresh Prince, Se­in­feld, to me th­ese weren’t ‘black’ shows or ‘Jewish’ shows, they were great shows with orig­i­nal voices and in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters we hadn’t heard and that ended up chang­ing the Amer­i­can con­scious­ness.”

Huang’s book, which was de­scribed by The New York Times as a “fre­quently hi­lar­i­ous … sur­pris­ingly so­phis­ti­cated mem­oir about race and as­sim­i­la­tion in Amer­ica”, was in­spired by the feel­ing that he had been hemmed-in by the Asian-Amer­i­cans who had passed through the pub­lic eye be­fore him, he says. Au­thors Amy Tan, Amy Chua and Gish Jen have all writ­ten about the Asian-Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence in a way that in his opin­ion “pro­vide noth­ing to a 12-year-old Chi­nese kid be­ing be­rated by ‘ ching chong’ jokes in the lunch­room”.

“I would have died to see this show as a 12-year-old,” he says of the up­com­ing pilot.

The over­whelm­ing sup­port he has re­ceived for his mem­oir has only con­firmed that there’s an au­di­ence for sto­ries about the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence, he says

Khan, who grew up in Hawaii with Ira­nian par­ents who had im­mi­grated to the US, “gets” his per­spec­tive, Huang says. While the idea of ced­ing con­trol to an­other writer in telling his story is strange, he’s con­fi­dent that Khan will han­dle the ma­te­rial with hu­mor and nu­ance.

“I know this was my story, but it’s time to give it to Nah­natchka so it can be­come ev­ery­one else’s,” he says.

“Like DMX said, ‘If you love some­thing, let it go. If it comes back, it was yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.’ I want peo­ple to know that Chi­nese peo­ple are just like any other peo­ple. We’re in moun­tains, we’re in lakes, we’re on roller blades, we’re on scoot­ers and we’re on tele­vi­sion.”

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