Entitled “Showdown at the Golden Saddle,” the seventh episode of season one finds the Huang family pretty well settled into life in Orlando. Keith Heisler wrote this episode and several other episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, as well as numerous episodes of American Dad! and Guys with Kids. In addition to writing for these shows, Heisler has also produced multiple episodes for each show. (see: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1510546/)
“Showdown at the Golden Saddle” is written very similarly to most episodes of Season One: Jessica and Louis argue/make up/bond, Eddie desperately tries to get a pretty girl to notice him, and Emery and Evan are perfect angels.
Since I knew I would be focusing on the show’s writing as I watched this episode, I paid extra close attention to dialogue, music, and references made by characters. As with all other episodes, “Showdown at the Golden Saddle” is narrated by the real-life Eddie Huang, so it’s as if grown-up Eddie is reminiscing on his childhood. This perspective shows viewers that our narrator knows exactly how everything will turn out because he lived it.
Intercharacter dialogue doesn’t make up all the noise in the show—we hear lots of exclamations and comments that characters make to only themselves. However, we don’t get much silence in Fresh Off the Boat. While there are frequent periods in which nobody speaks, these gaps are typically filled by rap songs, R&B songs, or background chatter. This constant noise creates a stimulating, fast-paced effect, and I believe this intentionally symbolizes the tone of Eddie Huang’s childhood.
Generally, Fresh Off the Boat characters drop plenty of pop culture references: Eddie’s friends talk about the latest coveted video game, Jessica is obsessed with Stephen King movies, and of course, Eddie frequently shares his latest obsession in the rap music world. However, in this episode, I found my favorite reference ever: Caddyshack. When Jessica learned that Louis’s success at Cattleman’s Ranch landed the two of them a spot at a party at the local country club, she expects the place to run exactly as Bushwood Country Club did. Even though she embarrasses Louis when she quotes the movie at the dinner (“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”), her enthusiasm over visiting a completely new environment is palpable. I think the show was intentionally written that way, too. Jessica’s only expectations for a country club came from a highly stereotyped sports comedy, so naturally, her assumptions greatly differed from reality. When the characters get most of their expectations from movies and TV, their reactions when they actually experience these things is humorous.
Overall, Fresh Off the Boat is written lightheartedly, but below the comedic surface, it depicts childhood the way Eddie Huang remembers it. Every kid struggles to fit in at some point, but as the child of immigrants, that difficulty is magnified. With both comedy and not-quite-but-almost-documentary, Fresh Off the Boat’s writers certainly have a full plate, but so far, they’re excelling.