Update: Video replaced with YouTube because it’s easier to embed.
This trailer successfully made me laugh several times, particularly at jokes that seem targeted towards intra-communal humour, which was both surprising and refreshing. I found the jokes about the White people’s supermarkets hilarious, and actually also appreciated the first joke in the trailer about the parents wanting the youngest Huang son to have been a daughter (a joke that challenges the myth that Chinese Americans are universally anti-girls). Also, I couldn’t help but crack up at the overly-litigious reactions of Mom and Pop Huang in the principal’s office.
Last week, ABC made history by green-lighting two new sitcoms for their fall lineup that will include Asian American men in leading roles.
Earlier in the week, ABC announced it was picking up Selfie, a sitcom adaptation of My Fair Lady. Scottish actress Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) plays Eliza Dooley who enlists the help of Henry, an arrogant marketing expert (and likely love interest) played by John Cho (Star Trek, Sleepy Hollow, Harold & Kumar, Better Luck Tomorrow), to help her rebuild her image after a humiliating break-up goes viral and launches her social media presence into the stratosphere.
Selfie features a racially diverse cast, and with its pickup, Cho will join only a small handful of Asian American men currently on TV as lead characters in primetime sitcoms.
Middle-class families imagine their stereotypical dinner-time routine as an intimate setting when parents and children might gather over a hearty meal to share funny stories of the day; for mine, as (I suspect) many others, dinner-time conversation is too awkward to be fun. I didn’t care about workplace politics. My parents weren’t concerned about my classroom gossip. Here’s my confession: we really didn’t have much to talk about. Instead, for my family (as I suspect it was for many others), our family-time was watching our favourite family sitcoms over dinner. In some ways, we were inviting the characters of those shows into our lives, to become part of our families, to replace our own (boring) dinner conversation with their (hilarious) adventures.
Since the 1940’s and 1950’s, the American family sitcom has presented an idealized version of the American middle-class family: a nuclear (or oddball) family, facing obstacles with a grin and overcoming them with reaffirmations of love.
Not surprising, therefore, that these images — from Full House and Family Ties and Boy Meets World — are inextricably linked to my generation’s definitions of love, family and Americana. And, from its inception, the sitcom has also been a covertly political tool, pushing our definitions of those very same concepts.