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Series / Fresh Off the Boat

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The Huang Familynote 

Fresh Off the Boat is a family sitcom on ABC which premiered in the 2015 mid-season. It's the semi-autobiographical story of chef and TV food personality Eddie Huang as his Taiwanese-American family moves from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida so that his father can open a steakhouse. His family is less enthusiastic 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. Randall Park and Constance Wu star as Eddie's parents Louis and Jessica.

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 plus positive reviews. It ended its run in 2020 after six seasons, which needless to say makes it the longest-running show with an Asian-American cast in network television history.


See also: Everybody Hates Chris, a show with a similar premise (semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story 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).

Fresh Off the Boat provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed with Jessica, since the only time she hits Eddie on the show is Played for Laughs, by attacking him with a giant plushie to demonstrate why not to date rape.
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • Achievements in Ignorance: "Blind Spot". Eddie sees his brother come down with chicken pox, realises he can back out of making a project for the upcoming science fair if he also got it, and ends up doing enough research on chicken pox to get started on his own project.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Grandma Huang is delighted that she will be able to watch her old British soaps on TV. The soap she is seen watching? Coronation Street. The young woman we see on the screen? A much younger Lucille Soong, who plays Grandma Huang (yes, she really did appear in Coronation Street).
    • In the season 5 Christmas Episode, Jessica comments that Eddie has invited his friend Trevor to join them for Christmas dinner, only to be corrected that his name is Trent. Trent is played by Trevor Larcom.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Jessica and Louis Huang are noticeably much nicer to their children on television than they were in real life. Eddie and the boys are also portrayed as misguided at worst, while Eddie Huang was getting into fights on a regular basis by the time he was a teenager.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: The real Louis Huang was an abusive father, complete with whips, and was a gangster in Taiwan. TV Louis is a typical Nice Guy who serves as The Conscience for Jessica when she goes too far in her parenting.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Evan and Emery are surprisingly articulate for grade schoolers. Particularly when Emery waxes philosophical about love.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Louis and Steve share one drink and one thing (drinking lit shots) led to another (drunken mooning) before Louis somehow ended up in the driveway with a half-eaten burrito on his chest.
  • The Alleged Car: To show Steve's continued fall on hard times, he's reduced to driving a beaten-up Geo Metro with a faulty ignition when he and his family visits for Thanksgiving in Season 2.
  • Alliterative Family: All three boys have names starting with the letter E. If they had a daughter, her name would've been "Emily."
  • 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.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Jessica mentions in "Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon" that "there was once a little girl that all she wanted was a sparkle time beauty horse but instead got something even better: a strong work ethic." It later turns out near the end of the episode that it was herself.
  • 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. Within the Chinese-American community, "fresh off the boat" would be used to refernote  to families like the Huangs no matter how long they had lived here, so the trope is averted in that sense. However, in real life, it's been a long time since Asian immigrants came to the U.S. by boat. Certainly since long before the Huangs came.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In 4x06, Nicole mentions to Marvin that the tent he gave her isn't large enough for her. He responds with "We'll go to Big 5 and get a new one." Big 5 Sporting Goods is an outlet store that is primarily west coast based, with its furthest location from its headquarters in El Segundo based in Texas. There are no Big 5 Sporting Goods stores in Orlando, Florida.
  • Art Shift: Towards the end of "Pie vs. Cake", the show briefly shifts to comic book-esque style while Stan Lee reads Eddie and Emery's comic submission.
  • 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.
  • As Himself: Various figures of the 1990's make appearances as 20-years-younger versions of themselves.
    • Scottie Pippen shows up to dish out tax advice.
    • Ed Love does an MTV news bulletin and busts out his catch phrase: "C'mon, son!"
    • Jeremy Lin works alongside Louis in a sweatshop flashback in "The Fall Ball."
    • Shaquille O'Neal makes a cameo as the brains behind "Shaquille O'Neal Motors" and talks about how he regrets...Shaq Fu. He also lampshades his noticeable difference in appearance by commenting that he's let himself go in the off season.
    • DMX appears in "We Done Son," hiring Eddie to take care of his baby daughter. Reason he looks so old? Fatherhood ages you.
    • Billie Jean King shows up in "Michael Chang Fever" offering to coach Emery in Tennis.
    • Michael Bolton shows up after Buying a controlling stake in Louis's restaurant in an attempt to compete with the Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant chain (Rogers, however, is played by a stand-in)
    • Subverted with Stephen King. Jessica spends an entire episode looking for him, only to narrowly miss him several times and receive a restraining order.
  • Badass Boast: In the Season 2 episode "Michael Chang Fever":
    Evan: Grandma, are you sure you know how to play this game [pogs]?
    Grandma: I know how to play all the games.
  • Berserk Button: It's not a good idea to call Eddie a "chink".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The normally calm, collected, and upbeat Emery has an epic meltdown in the episode "Jessica Place", when Eddie cheats at a breath-holding competition and Louis doesn't even notice. His usual demeanor is explained by him basically bottling up his frustration in "scream jars" and not happening to have one handy when he was in the pool.
  • 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!
  • Breakout Character: Jessica has basically become more of the main character, as she has had more plots centered around her.
  • Brick Joke: Shaquille O'Neal Motors' head manager's office contains a door that has peeling paint across the top of the frame. Aside from a brief comment, it's not mentioned again until the stinger, where it's shown that the paint is peeling because Shaq constantly forgets to duck when coming to and from work.
    Shaq: Raise this damn door!
  • But Not Too White: A frequent comedic device.
    • In "Dribbling Tiger, Bouncing Pass Dragon", Barefoot Dave wears old-school basketball shorts, revealing so much pasty white thigh that it reflects the light and blinds his opponents.
    • Trent, being a ginger, is considered the very whitest of Eddie's white friends, which is sometimes exploited for gags. He expresses worry that redheaded people will die out (a commonly-reported urban legend in The '90s), he comments that he knows how it feels to be oppressed now that he's a high school freshman (to the disbelief of Eddie and Walter), and his favorite condiment is (of course) mayonnaise.
    • In one thanksgiving episode, Oscar brings along his new boyfriend, who is so white that the actor appears to have been coated with white foundation. Even the other white characters seem vaguely put off by him.
  • 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.
      • That ep ends with Jessica mimicking Eddie's victory dance from "Home Sweet Homeschooled".
      • "Shaquille O'Neal Motors," Eddie explains to his father that going to the eponymous car dealer doesn't mean Shaq is going to be there—he accepts licensing money so that people can put his name on products he otherwise has no involvement in. He then mutters "Shaq Fu" in a disappointed tone. Shaq also mentions Shaq Fu with the same disappointment toward the end of the episode.
    • A season after encountering Scottie Pippen, Louis tells a bunch of his vacation friends, "And then I said, 'Hey, I don't need your tax advice, Scottie Pippen.'"
    • In "Hi, My Name is...", Jessica comments that Evan's signature is the signature of a doctor. In "Michael Chang Fever", Evan's career aptitude test says he will be Surgeon General.
  • Camp Gay: Oscar, Jessica and Louis' ex-boyfriend. The man is flaming, but Jessica doesn't realize he's gay.
  • Catchphrase: "Oh, HELL no!" Usually uttered by Jessica, but Eddie has used it as well, and Louis used it once in Persistent Romeo.
  • Chickenpox Episode: Eddie's subplot in the episode "Blind Spot" has him try to catch chickenpox from Evan so he can skip school and not go to the science fair, while Evan tries to infect Emery so he can't win the science fair. However, Eddie's research on how to catch chickenpox ends up being good fodder for a science fair project. Jessica's gay ex-boyfriend Oscar also catches chickenpox at the end of the episode.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Extremely common.
    • Eddie's rival in season 1, Brock, disappears after the second season premiere.
    • Eddie's other rival Philip Goldstein, the only other Asian at Abraham Lincoln Middle School, is last seen in season 2. The disappearance of any characters who dislike or challenge Eddie, along with the solidification of his crew, inadvertedly turns him into a Big Man on Campus, drastically altering the dynamic of school scenes.
    • Mitch and Nancy, the two most prominent employees at Cattleman's Ranch, stop appearing after season 3, though the actors return for a brief flashback in season 5 to retroactively explain their disappearance.
    • Although Eddie breaks up with his first girlfriend Alison at the start of season 4, the two remain friends and she continues to appear through the rest of the season. But come season 5, she's nowhere to be seen.
  • 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. She's also revealed to have quite an active social life.
  • Cool Shades: Eddie puts on a pair of aviators in the first scene. He also tends to wear a pair in his fantasies.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: In "The Taming of the Dads," Jessica gets jury duty. During the end, Honey says she could have just said she's in the US on a green card and not gone into it.
  • 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 chastising 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.
    • But even Jessica finds Grandma Huang's habit of fishing coins out of wishing fountains a step too far.
  • 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.
    • Walter, the black kid at the cafeteria (See Pretty Fly for a White Guy).
  • 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.
  • Distant Finale: The series finale is set in 2008, eight years after the rest of the second season.
  • Dramatic Drop: Jessica drops a casserole of mac and cheese when she realizes she's begun assimilating into white culture.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first episode featured more direct racism that Eddie has to face at school, instead of the Innocently Insensitive and passive-aggressive events that make up the drama for the rest of the series.
    • The first season as a whole featured narration performed by the Real Life Eddie Huang. This was dropped in Season 2 due to behind-the-scenes drama and the real Huang wishing to distance himself from the show.
  • Easily Forgiven: In "We Done Son," Jessica decides to cut off her relationship with Honey because the latter dared to question her spending $500 a month on a fortune teller while dismissing Honey's own ideas to make the house-flipping a success. When she sees how lonely Grandma Huang is after cutting off friends from her own life for the smallest slight, Jessica decides to make amends... and tells Honey that she will forgive her. Naturally, Honey does not accept this.
  • 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.
  • Election Day Episode: "Citizen Jessica" is about the 1996 Presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Emery even gets aggressively defensive of Bob Dole and acts hostile towards anyone who doesn't endorse Dole.
  • Everything Is Racist: The Huang family can easily be offended of Asian stereotypes. Jessica in particular is very thin-skinned and will try to make friends with people just for being Asian/Chinese, which of course makes her a hypocrite because then she's the one being racist.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Parodied on "Hi, My Name Is..." with Honey, Marvin and Deirdre being in Jessica's flashback cause white people look the same to her.
  • Fag Hag: Jessica and Connie's mother absolutely adores Oscar (Jessica's gay ex-boyfriend). She even calls him "Chow Chow".
  • Faking the Dead: In-Universe, Eddie and his friends (minus Dave) come to the theory that Tupac Shakur faked his death.
  • 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 explaining 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.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In "The Taming of the Dads," the Huangs' address is shown as 808 Meadowbridge Lane.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Conversations between Jessica and her sister Connie 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 "Success Perm," having bonded over the course of the episode, they say openly vitriolic words, but the subtitles show their genuine affection.
    • "Sisters Without Subtext" uses the gag to spook Connie when Jessica, being openly proud of Connie's decision to go back to school, says genuinely supportive words, and the subtitles simply match whatever Jessica is saying. It then gets played to ridiculous effect when Jessica and Connie start duetting Miss Celie's Blues (Sister) and the subtitles play out an entire conversation in which Jessica apologies to Connie (with a few sidebars).
  • Game Show Appearance: The Season 4 premire has Jessica and Honey competing on Wheel of Fortune.
  • 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.
  • Gaydar: It's now a running gag that Jessica is unable to tell that someone's gay even when the evidence is in front of her. In season four we find out that she didn't even realize women could be gay!
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe, everyone in Taiwan loves the movie Ghost (1990).
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Jessica and Connie compete to stay in their mother's good graces because she'll only acknowledge the existence of one of them. Connie even goes so far as to use marital problems as ammunition to try and gain her mother's sympathy.
  • 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.
  • HA HA HA—No: Jessica says this while reading an ad for a job that requires "team players". She crosses it off the list after laughing.
  • Halloween Episode: "Miracle On Dead Street" for Season 2. "Louisween" for Season 3.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Illegal: Hector the cook is one of these. Surprisingly, Jessica is one as well for failing to renew her green card.
  • 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.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Tight Two has the boys talking about who'd eat who if they were stuck on a desert island after watching Ducktales.
  • 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.
    • She repeats the feat with an egg in the dark.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Jessica with an onion to knock a "dine and dasher" down.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: When discussing a video game, one of Eddie's classmates states that he thought Eddie was Japanese.
    • In "Year of the Rat", when the Huang family shows up to the Asian American Organization of Orlando's Chinese New Year event, they discover to their dismay that the organization is run by white folks and the resulting celebration is an awkward mishmash of Asian cultures, including Indian and Russian.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: In "Huangsgiving" Eddie's cousin Justin shows him how to look for pictures of sexy ladies on the computer, since pictures of sexy ladies is what the internet is, according to Justin.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In "We Done Son," Louis finally cuts his friend Larry out of his life so he doesn't give money to his latest scheme...called eBay.
  • 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.)
    • Season 2's "Good Morning Orlando" serves up a huge dose of this when Louis goes on a morning talk show to promote his restaurant, does some wacky impressions, gets his 15 minutes of fame for it, and promptly gets chewed out by Jessica for basically being Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles. So he goes back on the show to set the record straight, tries to make some serious commentary on how he as a Chinese-American shouldn't be stereotyped or marginalized, makes everyone uncomfortable, and predictably gets chewed out by Jessica for that. His ensuing realization that he's just one guy and he can't be all things to all people is a clear echo of the show's stance that it can't be expected to represent all Asian-Americans.
    • Many celebrities make guest appearances as themselves from 20 years previous. The show occasionally has them provide flimsy excuses as to why they look much older than they should.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: In "Phil's Phaves", Louis and Jessica find a website named that reviewed Cattleman's Ranch. You can visit the website if you want.
    • And, later in the episode, Louis and Jessica have Evan make a website called to get back at Phillip for giving them the B- (which later changed into a C+). You can actually find that website here.
  • 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.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: "My Name Is..." reveals that this is how pretty much every member of the Huang family got their American name.
  • Literal-Minded: Two customers at the restaurant tell Mitch they're splitting the bill. Mitch rips it half.
  • May–December Romance: Between Marvin and his second wife, Honey. The actors who play them (Ray Wise and Chelsey Crisp) were born 36 years apart.
  • 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 deciding it's not going to last. invoked
  • 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 Greatest Failure: In "Shaquille O'Neal Motors," Jessica considers losing out on free floormats when she and Louis bought the minivan to be this.
  • 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.
  • Mystical Jade: Believed in-universe. Louis has had a lucky jade pendant his whole life, and when he takes it off for even a moment, he feels like he's being affected until he puts it back on. Given there's no Magical Realism in this sitcom, the pain and voices were likely all in his mind.
  • 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.
    • In the third season episode, "Neighbors with Attitude" (the title itself a reference to the legendary rap group), Jessica calls her Neighborhood Watch Association "NWA". Eddie recommends changing the name, but when asked why he runs into this problem.
      Eddie: I'd pick a new name, Mom. NWA's already a thing.
      Jessica: What's it stand for?
      Eddie: [looks back & forth at both his parents] I can't say.
  • 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.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Louis believes in this trope, with some limits. He won't give paid vacation to Mitch, for example, because "your job is a vacation from poverty."
  • Nine out of Ten Doctors Agree: Parodied on "WWJD: What Would Jessica Do?", when Marvin introduces Louis to his four other dentist friends, one of whom, Ted, always disagrees with the group.
  • No Name Given: Grandma is never referred to by her first name until Season 2's "My Name Is...", when she reveals that her American name is Jenny.
  • 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) and Constance Wu has gradually toned down the accent she uses. 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.
  • Papa Wolf: Louis realizes in Boy II Man why he's glad he doesn't have a daughter; if his daughter had her heart broken like Eddie did, he'd hurt the boy responsible.
  • Parental Favoritism: A recurring theme.
    • Jessica's mother initially favored her until she moved to Orlando, when she then began to favor Connie.
    • Louis appears to be the favorite of both his parents, his late father and his mother (who does, after all, live with him). Her mother is very fond of her other son however and even goes to live with him for a time.
    • Jessica seems to favor the intelligent, studious, and obedient Evan over his two older brothers, however several episodes throughout the show's run make clear her actual favorite is her eldest "problem child", Eddie; her constant frustration with him (and vice-versa) just makes it difficult for them to bond most of the time.
    • Louis doesn't heavily favor any of his three sons over the others, though he doesn't interact or bond much with Evan since he so clearly favors Jessica.
  • 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.
    • Inverted in "Love and Loopholes", when Emery is disappointed that his parents are spending Valentine's Day doing their taxes instead of something romantic. They try to kiss in front of him to prove their romance is still alive, and they turn out to be the ones who are squicked out by it.
  • Parody Episode: The main plot of "Jessica Place" gradually morphs into a parody of MelrosePlace, complete with 90s-inspired opening sequence and dramatic musical stings whenever a plot twist is revealed. Courtney Thorne-Smith even makes an appearance near the end.
  • 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 and the family's boxy, fake-wood-bedecked first generation Chrysler minivan.
    • The '90s: 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.
  • Playing Gertrude: Cheryl Hines plays Honey's mother Fay, despite being only 18 years older than Chelsey Crisp.
  • 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.
  • Politeness Judo: Louis and Jessica get into their fair share of judo matches when Louis's brother Gene comes to visit, including fighting over who gets to carry his luggage, who pays for dinner, how to give back the $200 Jessica owes Gene without him noticing, etc.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Parodied in "The Real Santa". The Christmas show at the school has Panny the Pan-Cultural Seasonal Entity. Nobody likes him and he gets chased out of the school.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure:
    • One of the kids dresses up as The Mask twice and people fail to recognize who he is. Especially during Halloween!
    • In the Halloween episode, Louis mistakes Emery and Evan's Hannibal Lecter and lamb costume for a UPS delivery lamb wheeling a lazy goalie.
  • Present-Day Past: In "Workin' the Ween" , there are four trick-or-treaters dressed as Britney Spears in her infamous "...Baby One More Time" sexy schoolgirl attire, even though the music video was released in 1999 and the episode took place in 1998.
    • In "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", Eddie plays a game called The Sims, which was released in 2000 and takes place in 1999.
    • "Clean Slate" takes place in 1996, however, Eddie takes Simon to a Build-A-Bear Workshop, which didn't get founded until 1997.
  • 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.
    • Happens again in Miracle On Dead Street when Jessica flings an egg at one of the running teenagers, and in the dark!
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Heck, it's pretty hard not to resist Evan's.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In "Very Superstitious," the mechanical bull has ominous red eyes and a ominous sounding low, mechanical moo.
  • Remember the New Guy?: In "The Fall Ball," Grandma Huang's boyfriend dies and Jessica's only just finding out that everyone knew the guy.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The Season One DVD kept all the hip-hop tracks intact, but the Cattleman's Ranch commercial at the end of the pilot used a replacement instrumental track.
  • 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!
    • Jessica's excellent singing getting cut off by herself to snap about something.
    • 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. Taken a step further with lesbians, since she didn't even know they existed until the fourth season.
    • 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.
    • Shaq Fu's status as one history's great disappointments is semi-regularly touched upon.
    • Every time Jessica talks to Connie subtitles appear to show us what they're really saying.
  • Satellite Character:
    • Eddie's friends are an example of a group of satellites. They are never seen without him (until season 5 when one of them, Trent, gets a job working at Cattleman's) and don't really have any meaningful interactions with the characters outside their friend group.
    • Emery's "girlfriends" in the early seasons are even more blatant. They only exist to follow Emery around and fawn over him.
    • As is typical for the Alpha Bitch, all of the other women in the HOA function as Deirdre's lackeys and don't really have storylines of their own.
  • 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 Saddle is cause Louis copied it to look like it since he couldn't pay the fee to own a franchise.
  • Scare Chord: In "Week In Review," anytime someone says they have lice, a chord pays and people back away.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In "Family Business Trip," Eddie is just inches away from getting on the ride he wanted to go on...only to see a kid come out in a gurney puking his guts out and having needed to be revived. That's when he gets out of the line.
    • In "The Manchurian Dinner Date," Eddie slips out of a date at home by leaving the water running in the bathroom so he can slip over to his girlfriend's. At the end of the episode, soon as Jessica brings up the water bill, the boys run the hell out of the room!
  • Ska: In "Huangsgiving," Eddie's cousin Justin replaces listening to grunge music with listening to ska music.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Eddie's victory strut with Grandma turning on a boombox may remind some viewers of the "Thug Life" meme.
    • "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.
    • When Jessica dons a qipao and hair ribbons in "So Chineez," Eddie says she looks like Chun-Li.
    • In "Week in Review", when Evan is banished outside due to having lice, he and Jessica hold their hands up to opposite sides of the window in an obvious homage to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Jessica even quotes Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
    • Both Square One TV and Chris Rock's Bring the Pain HBO special get a shout-out when the Huang brothers fight over which one to watch on TV in the season 2 finale.
  • Slow-Loading Internet Image: Eddie and Justin have to contend with this in "Huangsgiving", so they have to choose carefully which celebrity photo they want to download. Eventually they opt for Tracy Chapman, and are disappointed at how chaste the final image is.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Subverted, they do, it's just that in the television show the Huangs are not as abusive to their children as they were in real life. In fact, the reason they get called is because the new guidance counselor at Eddie's school thinks his arm got broken due to child abuse due to Eddie telling Blatant Lies about how he got into a gang fight, to become class president.
  • Spit Take: Louis gives an epic one when Jessica's ex-boyfriend Oscar admits that he had a crush on him.
  • Sticky Fingers: Let's just say that both Jessica and Grandma Huang have a very liberal interpretation of the word "free".
  • Straw Loser: Eddie's friends, as a unit, serve this function. During the show's six-season run, all of them remain single and are explicitly said to have never dated anyone (unless you count the episode when all of Eddie's friends are "dating" all of Alison's friends) just so we know they haven't been romancing when we haven't been watching; mostly they seem happy to live vicariously through Eddie (this point is explicitly made in season 4 after he and Alison break up, and Walter remarks that "she was like all our first girlfriend"). This is to make Eddie's own lackluster love life look more successful by comparison. None of them seem to have anything going on in their lives outside of their friendship with Eddie (which they lampshade in a season 5 episode when they finally tire of his endless rambling about Tina), except for Trent who gets a job working at Cattleman's and is the only one of Eddie's friends who is given a substantial amount of screentime without Eddie also being present.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: Eddie is clutching his head when he has to suffer through listening to Frank Stallone while making a mixtape.
  • Superstition Episode: "Very Superstitious".
  • Tactful Translation: When Emery's teacher is explaining to Jessica her (very complicated) 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)".
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Evan and Emery tape over the Chris Rock special that Eddie had surreptitiously taped in the middle of the night. They knew exactly when to say "Don't say 'hell'" right after he blurts out "What the hell?", but then the trope is subverted when they thank him for the compliment, assuming he would call them nerds, and he doesn't.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Huangsgiving" in Season 2 and "No Thanks-giving" in Season 3.
  • 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. Later episodes acknowledge this.
  • 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.
    • Starting in Season 2, Honey becomes the token minority member of the cast.
  • 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.
  • Tranquil Fury: In "Huangsgiving," Jessica is very mad at Louis for screwing up Thanksgiving, but she's bottling it up for when her family heads back to Washington DC.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: One of Eddie's friends lights one up in The Stinger of "Bring The Pain" as he tosses his Cleveland Browns jacket in after hearing a rumor they'd be moving cities.
  • The Unpronounceable: Eddie's Chinese name is this to his teacher on the first day of school.
    • Evan deals with this when trying to open a bank account. The banker can't pronounce his Chinese name no matter how many times he's corrected.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jessica imagines Honey and Marvin as her college classmates in a flashback, and is quickly called out on it by Louis.
  • The Unreveal: In "Fall Ball," Louis has an important announcement for his employees that will change their lives... but we never find out because he gets distracted by the Fall Ball preparations.
  • 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.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Discussed in the episode "So Chineez," in which Jessica is afraid that her children will forget their roots.
    Jessica: That's how we end up with grandchildren named "Bitsy," by joining country clubs to make business deals!
  • "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. When they do ground him, it's for things like getting his ear pierced, or lying to win a presidential election.
    • 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.
  • Wham Shot: Played for laughs in the third season premiere stinger when Alison shows Eddie a headline of Shaq being traded to the LA Lakers.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The Distant Finale unsurprisingly shows Eddie to be a restaurateurnote  (with Trent running things so Eddie can attend his brother's graduation), Emery as an actor featured in commercials, and Evan as a graduate of Harvard University. Jenny is still alive at age 80 and is attending her grandson's graduation, as are Jessica and Louis.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The Denim Turtle is Jessica's favorite hangout, and also a lesbian bar. It took her four seasons to figure it out.
  • 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.

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