Series: Fresh Off The Boat

The Huang Familynote 

Fresh Off the Boat is a family sitcom series on ABC that premiered in the 2015 mid-season. It's the semi-autobiographical story of food personality Eddie Huang as his Taiwanese-American family moves from Washington, DC to Orlando, FL so that his father can open a steakhouse. His family is less enthused about the move, but they try to fit in. It also explores the intra-family culture clash between the hip-hop influenced Eddie and his more straight-laced relatives.

It is notable as it's the first attempt at an Asian-American sitcom in twenty years. And unlike All-American Girl, it was renewed for a second season.

See also: Everybody Hates Chris, a show with a similar premise (semi-autobiographical show where a celebrity of color grows up, thus the show is set about 20 years in the past), Happy Days and The Wonder Years (the Trope Codifiers for nostalgic shows).


This TV Series Contains Examples of:

  • The Ace:
    • Emery, a grade-schooler, is the one having the most success in the Huang family in Orlando.
    • Wyatt, the replacement host. He's handsome, an actual cowboy, charismatic, and absolutely perfect for the restaurant. This earns him resentment from Louis, who is unnerved by his perfection, and Mitch, whom he replaced.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Evan and Emery are surprisingly articulate for grade schoolers. Particularly when Emery waxes philosophical about love.
  • Alliterative Family: All three boys have names starting with the letter E. If they had a daughter, her name would've been "Emily."
  • American Dream: A major theme of the show. Eddie's father in particular is obsessed with the idea, and wants to assimilate as best as he can.
  • Amicable Exes: Oscar and Jessica still get along fine. Oscar thinks that he and Louis are this as well, but Louis obviously doesn't think they ever dated.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "And how was your relationship with your father?" asked by Grandma Huang. This makes Louis reconsider how hard he was being on Eddie, all justified by the fact his father was always tough on him.
  • Artifact Title: The elder Huangs have lived in America for at least as long as Eddie has been alive, making them not-terribly-recent immigrants. They also arrived in Orlando by car.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Played with. Eddie wasn't a good student in DC but gets straight A's in Orlando and his younger brothers get... whatever grades all those colorful stickers represent, his mother's response is to assume their new schools are too easy and load them down with extra homeschooling. Eddie's personality isn't nerdy in the slightest, but his little brothers fit the stereotype, which Jessica encourages.
    • In the episode "Blind Spot", Eddie mentioned that because he's Asian, he is expected to make a really ingenious and spectacular project for his science project. Evan and Emery were also shown to make really amazing inventions, such as an analyzing machine, a volcano, etc and even tried to educate their older brother about science.
  • Basketball: One major theme in some episodes. In Real Life, the 1996 and 1997 Orlando Magic teams had an important rivalry with the Chicago Bulls regarding the dominance of the East conference.
    • Eddie and his school mates have an obsession over Shaq and are eager to get the chance to meet him.
    • Scottie Pippen makes an appearance as himself and gives Louis tax advice before Eddie offends him.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Grandma Huang only speaks Mandarin, but seems to have no trouble understanding English as evidenced by her interaction with her monolingual grandsons and her understanding of the O.J. Simpson trial broadcast with her sister-in-law.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Louis and Jessica talk in Mandarin about the sexual harassment speaker, only for him to speak back to them in Mandarin.
  • Bland-Name Product: Golden Saddle is Golden Corral. Hilariously, even the closed captioning gets them confused on occasion.
  • Big Breast Pride: Connie, Jessica's sister, is certainly pleased with her implants.
    Louis: "Oh! They are big!"
  • Call Back:
    • In the first episode, Jess mentions that her brother-in-law just got a brand new Miata, which Louis highly doubts is actually new. The car shows up in "Success Perm" and it turns out it's used.
    • One episode revolves around Eddie and his friends trying to buy a copy of the (notoriously terrible) video game Shaq Fu. A later episode has one of the friends mentioning that if he meets Shaq in real life, he'll forgive him for how bad Shaq Fu was.
  • Camp Gay: Oscar, Jessica and Louis' ex-boyfriend. The man is flaming, but Jessica doesn't realize he's gay.
  • Catch Phrase: "Oh, HELL no!" Usually uttered by Jessica, but Eddie has used it as well.
  • City Mouse: A downplayed version, as they're moving from DC to the suburbs of Orlando. But they find the giant grocery store intimidating and miss the "relaxing" atmosphere of the Taiwanese markets in DC (jam packed full of people screaming about food in Mandarin).
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Around Jessica's family. As Louis puts it, "sometimes you have to spend money you don't have to make it look like you have money you don't spend." In other words, they're consuming conspicuously in order to look like a much more well-off family being frugal.
  • Cool Old Lady: Grandma, despite not appearing to speak English or understand much of what's going on around her, seems to have a really good sense of humor about most situations. She's somewhere between this and a Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Cool Shades: Eddie puts on a pair of aviators in the first scene. He also tends to wear a pair in his fantasies.
  • Cutaway Gag: The show uses this from time to time to contrast the Huang's new life in Orlando with their old life in D.C.'s Chinatown, which they describe as familiar and comforting, but as the flashbacks show them... not so much.
  • Cutting Corners:
    • Jessica enforces this on Louis's restaurant, against the will of everyone working there. She gets to the point of chasting employees for putting too many sprigs of parsley on a steak, stealing a crouton from the salad bar, giving out too many napkins, etc.
    • She and her sister, Connie are like this as a way of trying to win their mother's love, who's an even bigger skinflint than the both of them! Connie wins the competition by admitting she stole Jessica's top, making it a "100% discount" and their mother just approves.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Jessica alternates between this and browbeating everyone around her through sheer volume.
    Jessica: [Seeing that Louis and the boys are awful at basketball] "Looks like we're going for academic scholarships."
  • Disappeared Dad: Dave, the kid next door whom Eddie befriends has one of these. Half of his lines reference the fact he wishes his dad would return.
  • Dramatic Drop: Jessica drops a casserole of mac and cheese when she realizes she's begun assimilating into white culture.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Walter (the black kid) used to. Eddie does as well, though sometimes he's shown eating his lunch where the janitor flies his kite.
  • Fight Unscene: Eddie's fight with the black kid in the cafeteria isn't shown. There's a Gilligan Cut to the principal's office in which the principal tells Eddie's parents most of the sordid details.
  • Fish out of Water: The basic premise of the show. An ad run not long before the show started explained that the title was meant to refer to this sort of scenario.
  • Foreign Queasine:
    • In the pilot, Eddie's classmates react with disgust after seeing Eddie's noodles, thinking it's worms.
    Brock: Hey, check it out everyone. Ying ding is eating worms.
    • Jessica makes stinky tofu for the neighborhood moms in "The Shunning."
    Jessica: (getting the plate back) How is this fuller than before?
  • Four Is Death: Jessica's fear of the number four is the focus of "Very Superstitious". She has to sell a house at 44, 4 Street, and the number of her commission check is 4444.
  • Fun with Subtitles: When we meet Jessica's sister, conversations between the two that sound only marginally passive-aggressive on the surface are subtitled to reflect the nasty things they really feel about each other. At the end of the episode after they bond, they say openly vitriolic words, but the subtitles show their genuine affection.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: Everyone but Jessica can see that she's hanging out at a lesbian bar. Louis lets her stay oblivious because she feels safe there.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry/The Unfavorite: Jessica and Connie compete to stay in their mother's good graces because she'll only acknowledge the existence of one of them.
  • Going Native: In "So Chineez," Jessica fears that this is happening to the family as they get settled to life in Orlando. To fix this, she puts the boys in Chinese school and tries to get Louis to cancel the country club membership.
  • Grunge: Eddie's cousin Justin goes from loving hip-hop to embracing Grunge, complete with downbeat attitude, flannel shirts, and a desire to move to Seattle. Eddie disparages it as "White Woman" music.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Sexually Active Today?:
    • Mitch brings up the fact he slept with Nancy basically to let people know that they had sex.
    • A variant, the teacher who gives Nicole detention really wants people to know she's married thus has been active.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Steve's describes his car as a brand new '95 Miata to the one cop in all of Orlando who knows that the color Steve is describing was discontinued in '93. This reveals that the car Steve's been bragging about was bought used and that Steve's furniture business has actually fallen on hard times as well.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends:
    • Eddie wants to fit in with everyone else at school, down to getting "American lunch."
    • Jessica has this as well in trying to fit in with the other housewives in the block until meeting a friend who not only likes Stephen King, but actually enjoys her stinky tofu.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: The kids Jessica hits with her car say they're feeling cold. She just nonchalantly lets them know that it's their bodies shutting down.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Jessica beans a fleeing youth with an onion at a distance of about fifty yards.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Jessica uses this to trap Eddie in a lie when she suspects that he did not eat the school lunch she packed for him. She asks him how he enjoyed the xiaolongbao, which she didn't actually include in his lunch, and he falls for it, claiming it was delicious.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Just about every white character who isn't overtly racist is this. Louis's white employees get their fair share of this from him as well.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: When discussing a video game, one of Eddie's classmates states that he thought Eddie was Japanese.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The show is based on Eddie Huang's book of the same name, but the network was originally going to call the show Far East Orlando to get around the politically incorrect title. Huang lobbied to keep the book title, and it stuck.note 
  • Hobbes Was Right or Rousseau Was Right: Discussed. A debate arises between Louis and Jessica over whether people are inherently good or evil (and therefore whether Louis, as the restaurant owner, should "kill 'em with kindness" or spend the bare minimum of money on things like garnishes and napkins that they use for free) based on a group of high school kids dining and dashing; Louis believes that they can be talked out of it while Jessica believes they have to be forcefully dealt with. The kids go through with the dashing, seemingly proving Jessica right and Louis wrong. However immediately after they do so, Louis's employees foot the bill expressly because Louis is a good person, showing that Louis may have actually have had a point.
  • Imaginary Love Triangle: On several levels, between Jessica, Oscar, and Louis during college. Louis and Jessica are married, but Jessica believed that she and Oscar dated, Oscar believes that he and Louis dated.
  • Kid-anova: Emery. He manages to score himself a girlfriend on the first day of school, and each time he's seen with a girl, it's a different one — sometimes there's one on each arm! This irritates Eddie, who Emery is convinced is single because he "wants it too much".
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: Louis makes one of these for his restaurant in the first episode. It leans on just about every Wild West and redneck stereotype imaginable, to the extreme discomfort of his white employees, who all play roles in the ad.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Done beautifully in "Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon." When Evan and Emery are cast in the school play, Jessica is disdainful toward their interest in acting, explaining that they'll never see an Asian family on TV, and Asian actors will always be relegated to stereotypical supporting roles. This leads her to rewrite the entire school play into an Anvilicious expression of her view that studying to become an actor is a waste of an education. At the end of the episode, the Huangs end up watching All American Girl on TV, leading one of the kids to comment "So, no Asians on TV, huh?", right before a disinterested Grandma asks what else is on. (Before FOTB premiered, it was frequently cited in the media as a potential Spiritual Successor to the ill-fated All American Girl, due to it being the first network sitcom about an Asian-American family to air in twenty years.)
  • Lighter and Softer: The show compared to the real Eddie Huang's life, whose memoir inspires the series. So much so that Huang has basically condemned the series for keeping out the more violent parts of his life that sparked his interest in rap and hip hop to begin with.
  • Minority Show Ghetto: Discussed in "Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon," with Jessica saying that there are no leading roles for Asian actors. The episode ends with them watching All American Girl and decide it's not going to last.
  • Mirror Scare: Evan attempts to give Emery the chicken pox after the latter takes a shower.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Oscar, Jessica's gay ex-boyfriend, believed that he and Louis dated for three months in college using the fact that they had weekly dinners and shared a dessert as proof. Louis points out that they were broke college students and couldn't afford separate desserts.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Eddie imagines his father playing "Taiwanese basketball" as an over-the-top Wuxia battle scene, with players flying around. Later when Eddie's team decides to play rough with the other team and score the most fouls, the game is shown with similar cartoony action.
  • My Little Phony: In "Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon", Jessica tells her sons about wanting a Sparkle Time Beauty Horse as a child and not getting one because of her strict household. She claims that even though they had brittle hair and burned to touch and every five toys had a human face, they were the hottest toy in her neighbourhood.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • The pilot features Walter, a black kid, calling Eddie a "chink." The entire cafeteria goes silent, and Eddie's face gets increasingly furious. Cut to principal's office, where the principal has Louis and Jessica in for Eddie starting a fight; they then call the principal out on why Walter isn't in for calling Eddie a "chink." (Also notable on a meta level: "Chink" is apparently something you can say on network TV uncensored, even if it gets a TV-14 rating.)
    • The first season finale "So Chineez" has Eddie berating a classmate for insulting China, which he only did after following Eddie's lead.
  • Nice Guy: Louis, to remarkable extremes.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jessica gives a speech on sexual harassment which... leads to the restaurant actually needing to take a real class to be certified, as she immediately harassed everyone.
  • Oblivious to Love: Louis is very oblivious whenever people are flirting with him. According to Jessica, his "love-dar" is broken. He didn't even realize he technically dated Oscar for three months.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The Huangs can tell if something is amiss with one another if they start expressing platitudes like "Love you!".
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Both of the actors who play the parents suffer from this at times. Randall Park isn't even trying that hard (when he's even bothering to try). It's completely averted by the children, whose characters are American-born and speak perfect English.
  • Overly Long Gag: Louis's brother-in-law trying to log on to the Internet. This being 1995, it ain't much of an exaggeration.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Louis and Jessica gross the kids out whenever they kiss or even say affectionate things to each other in front of them.
  • Period Piece:
    • The '80s: 1995 was the last year in which 80s culture was prevalent, as shown by some of the clothes (flannel shirts and plastic shades aside from some remnants of "flattops", middle-parted cuts and '80s Hair). Not to mention the Wild West-themed restaurant Eddie's dad invests in.
    • The Nineties: The setting for the show is between 1995 and 1997. Complete with scenes of mothers rollerblading in day-glo outfits. Also, 90s hip hop for the soundtrack. The episode "Success Perms" in particular is rife with 90s references with the OJ Simpson trial, Gangsta Rap vs Grunge and very slow internet dial ups.
  • Plug 'n' Play Friends: Subverted and later played straight in "Phillip Goldstein". The entire faculty assumes Eddie and Phillip will be instant best friends because they are the only Chinese kids in the entire school, but they end up hating each other. At the end of the episode, Walter, who called Eddie a "chink" in the first episode, has a rather sudden change of heart and befriends Eddie a few episodes later after seeing him wearing a Beastie Boys shirt.
  • Pokémon Speak: Dimitri, a large boy on Eddie's school basketball team.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Only in this case, he's an Asian guy. Young Eddie is into rap and black culture. As well as some of the white kids:
    Walter: This cafeteria is ridiculous.
  • Produce Pelting: Jessica manages to knock a young man unconscious from a pretty good distance - with an onion.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In "Very Superstitious," the mechanical bull has ominous red eyes and a ominous sounding low, mechanical moo.
  • Running Gag:
    • Many of Cattleman Ranch's patrons think it's actually a Golden Saddle franchise. This gag informs the plotline of "Showdown at the Golden Saddle."
    Louis: "It's a totally different restaurant! The bears aren't even the same color!"
    • The fact that the Huangs have been trying and failing to have a daughter is occasionally brought up.
    • "This school/cafeteria is ridiculous!"
    • Jessica's broken Gaydar is consistent with the series since she wouldn't know if a man is gay even when it is obvious in front of her eyes.
    • The Huang Family knows that there's something is off whenever one of them says "Love you" to another.
    • Individual episodes sometimes have their own internal running gags:
      • "License to Sell" has an almost literal example where Honey keeps stumbling upon members of the Huang family hiding while on her jogs.
      • "Very Superstitious" has Vanessa trying too hard to make raunchy jokes, and Mitch being increasingly frustrated with her.
  • School Play: Evan and Emery's class play is just the kids wearing costumes and running amok. Jessica rewrites the play, making it about how being a doctor or lawyer is better than being an actor, and featuring mostly her sons.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Jessica can't tell if someone is gay even if it's pointed out to her.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: In-Universe, the reason why Cattleman's Ranch keeps getting confused for a Golden Saddles is cause Louis copied it to look like it since he couldn't pay the fee to own a franchise.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "The Shunning" is a shout out to The Shining, as the works of Stephen King are a major theme of the episode.
    • "So Chineez" has Eddie giving a speech that's almost a word-for-word reference to Joe Pesci's famous "Do I amuse you?" speech from ''Goodfellas, only this time it's talking about China being amusing, not himself.
  • Spit Take: Louis gives an epic one when Jessica's ex-boyfriend Oscar admits that he had a crush on him.
  • Superstition Episode: "Very Superstitious".
  • Tactful Translation: When Emery's teacher is explaining to Jessica her (very complicates) sticker/grade system, Jessica mutters something in Chinese subtitled as "The woman is crazy". The teacher asks Emery for a translation and he says "She gave you an alligator with sunglasses (the top grade)".
  • This Is Going To Be Huge: Everyone assumes Shaq Fu will be amazing, but it's one of the most infamously bad games of all time.
  • Token Minority:
    • Invoked: Eddie gets into a scuffle with Walter (who is black), as now Eddie is new the token minority.
    • Discussed as well: In "Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon," when Evan and Emery are cast in the school play, Jessica calls acting a dead-end career for them. Their only chance of finding work is as a Token Minority in some show.
  • Tough Love: In Eddie's words, "my family loved each other, but we expressed it through our actions and micro-managing, so when someone said I love you, something was up." Louis attempts this in an episode, but his mother informs him that he may be going too far with it.
  • The Unpronounceable: Eddie's Chinese name is this to his teacher on the first day of school.
  • Vanity License Plate: Also counts as a Title Drop to the episode "So Chineez" as Louis puts a new plate on the van.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Loosely based on Eddie Huang's life and experiences.
  • Well Done Daughter Gal: Jessica and her sister Connie are both incredibly preoccupied with getting the slightest bit of validation from their mother, and they fight over who is mom's "favorite".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Often subverted in regards to the main family - Eddie keeps thinking his parents are going to ground him or lecture him for his actions throughout various episodes, but oftentimes, his parents understand that the situations he gets into are as a result of his trying to fit in or better handle a situation out of his control.
    • Straighter examples include Eddie's parents not being pleased with the way the principal handles Eddie's fight with Walter in the pilot, and Jessica getting pissed that Philip didn't hold up his end of an arrangement with Eddie.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Jessica's favorite hangout is a lesbian bar, and she has no idea.
  • The Whitest Black Guy: Explored in "So Chineez." Jessica flips out when she realizes that even she is beginning to identify with white culture, causing her to actively try to act more traditionally Chinese.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: It's mentioned more than once that the Huangs wanted a girl, but got Evan instead.
  • Younger Than They Look: Dimitri, the star basketball player on Eddie's basketball team, is about as tall as a grown man and has a deep voice. Turns out he's 11 and a half.