The first five episodes of “Fresh off the Boat” exude a charm that (in my opinion) can be sourced from the writing. Simply put, I found that the appeal of “Fresh off the Boat” lies in the uniqueness and authenticity of its writing. The story is unique because it defies the expectations set by the title. The family’s struggle isn’t with moving to America from Taiwan; it’s with moving to Orlando, Florida from their previous residence in Chinatown, Washington DC, where they are no longer surrounded by their cultural bubble.
How did the writers come up with such an authentic story? “Fresh off the Boat” is based on the autobiography of the same name by guess who: the current writer and producer of the show, Eddie Huang. Huang is the primary writer for the first season, which centers mostly on his own struggles with fitting in with the white kids at his school. The show also has the secondary plot of his father’s struggle with running his restaurant, “Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse,” a real restaurant. The episodes are narrated by the real Huang, who starts off each episode with the premise of the plots and concludes with the lessons each character learned. “Fresh off the Boat” likely pulled this format from “The Goldbergs (2013)” another ABC comedy show based on the childhood of the producer/writer. Having the real protagonist narrate the show is a critical aspect because it contributes to this authenticity. These are the things experienced by Eddie, told by Eddie himself.
Because the show is only twenty-two minutes long, the writers cleverly use plot devices to save time and propel the plot. There isn’t much silence – moments where a character isn’t speaking are filled with the narrator explaining something. Backstories are often delivered via flashbacks from Chinatown, the Huangs’ old hometown. These devices not only create a rich story that provides insight into the characters’ thoughts but are also time efficient to provide as much important info needed as possible.
Perhaps the most authentic element of “Fresh off the Boat” are the plights of Eddie. The show focuses on challenges that are specific but relatable to most Asians (at least to me). Whether it was Eddie wanting Lunchables so he could fit in with the other kids, or his mom making him study, I saw myself in Eddie, despite not looking like him or having the same character traits. I understood what he felt, which is something I haven’t gotten from any other TV show. “Fresh off the Boat’s” writing is fantastic because (as of now), it sparingly uses creative license and focuses on the real stories that young Eddie faced. As a result, it has a unique story and clever humor that largely steers away from solely using cheap Asian stereotypes for laughs. Using his life story, Eddie Huang has written a charming tale that comments on the struggles of fitting in in America.