TV Recap: Fresh Off the Boat, ‘Family Business Trip’ (Season 2 Premiere)

Written By Aaron Sarnecky

Fresh Off the Boat returns for a second season on ABC
Fresh Off the Boat returns for a second season on ABC

Based on chef/TV personality Eddie Huang’s book of the same title. In the sophomore premiere of this ABC sitcom, the Huangs go on their first family vacation after Jessica (Constance Wu) discovers that her husband, Louis (Randall Park), is going on a “business trip” to Gator World. Eddie (Hudson Yang) sees this as an opportunity to come up with a story to impress his classmates.

 I chose to review the season premiere of Fresh off the Boat for one specific reason, which is the show happens to be the first thing I ever reviewed for Pop-Break. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait an entire year to review the Season 2 premiere because it aired in the fall, as opposed to in the winter, like the series premiere did. Though, to be perfectly honest, I’m surprised that this show is still on. As I said in my first review, race is a touchy subject, and since the series premiere, it’s gotten even more sensitive in the U.S. But, somehow, both Fresh Off the Boat and sister program Black-ish have survived.

Disregarding race though, considering the quality of the series premiere, I’m dumbfounded that Fresh Off the Boat is still on TV. Though it turned out that some critics gave the show higher grades than I did (shockingly), I stand by my original review score for that premiere, 6 out of 10 (Average). In that review, I had said that I hoped the show would evolve. Shows do sometimes take time to find themselves. Sometimes it takes until the second season for that to happen.

That doesn’t appear to be the case for this series. It still has the same formula, with black culture-obsessed Eddie, the jovial but clueless dad, the domineering mom, and the eccentric grandma (Lucille Soong). It does seem that Eddie has made some friends, but he still looks to be an outsider. While comedies and procedurals are notorious for maintaining the status quo, you would think he would have found some social group. But maybe he has more friends than is apparent in this episode, or maybe that’s how it happened in real life, though I’m sure most of the plot is fictional.

The episode does provide a few funny moments, though they are rather sparse. One involves what Jessica buys Eddie for back-to-school shopping, while another mildly humorous moment involves a guest appearance by comedian Rob Riggle. His character isn’t hilarious, but his explanation of Gator World’s special discount is amusing (though it’s also kind of messed). In addition, Louis tells a weirdly random anecdote that I enjoyed, though he’s still not a funny character overall. And the show, in general, pales in comparison to the Muppets premiere that preceded it.

But while the series cannot hope to match the wit of The Muppets, the episode does admittedly have a few instances of clever writing. They involve Louis explaining to Jessica that everyone needs a few days in the year to recharge. While how Jessica takes that advice isn’t gut busting, it eventually ties into a subplot established early in the episode. I didn’t really think the subplot would go anywhere, so it’s nice to be proven wrong. It does have me wonder though if the subplot will continue in future episodes. I somehow doubt it, but I could be mistaken again.

While I like to think that I’ve improved since my first review, I can say that, at least based on the Season 2 premiere, Fresh Off the Boat has not. Maybe there are a handful of great episodes in between the two premieres, but I’m skeptical. It’s still not as cringe-worthy as it could be, which is good, but the laughs are too few and far between, and a couple moments of slick writing are not going to change that. While there is something to be said about consistent quality, in this case the quality is not high enough.

It’s by no means terrible, but I don’t know if I expect the series to get a Season 3. But if so, here’s hoping the show will have found what it needs by then