Fresh Off the Boat Season 2 Episode 6 Review: “Good Morning Orlando”

Fresh Off the Boat

At first, “Good Morning Orlando” seems like a pretty innocuous, Eddie-focused episode of Fresh Off the Boat, picking up on the threads of the Fall Ball to tell a fun little story about middle-school “dating.” Had this episode just been that, “Good Morning Orlando” would be funny enough – from Eddie’s theories about “trickle down lovenomics” to Brian’s budding relationship with Edith, there’s plenty of humor to be found in Eddie’s first girlfriend story. But “Good Morning Orlando” wanted to be a lot more than that – and it’s there where “Orlando” stumbles a bit, before sticking its landing with a terrific third act.

The real issue at the heart of “Good Morning Orlando” is the portrayal of Asian Americans in popular culture, particularly film. When Louis takes an opportunity to go on local news to do silly impressions of Donald the Duck and The Ah-nold, Jessica chides him for turning himself into a laughing stock, the ’90s equivalent of the Long Duk Dong stereotype from Sixteen Candles. The idea here – that Louis is feeding into the racist portrayals of Asian Americans on television, in a time where no Asian Americans were on TV all – is a strong one, but feels completely incongruent from what’s going on with Eddie and his friends; and while it’s natural for a comedy to work through issues of split personality when separating its principal characters by their generation, the lack of chemistry between the two stories reduces the impact of them both, comedically and dramatically.

It doesn’t completely negate them, of course, but it feels like Louis’ story belongs in a different episode, one where Eddie and his friends would be a little more integrated into the show’s poignant observations about racial dynamics and cultural stereotypes. There’s a lot of this happening, including wink-wink references to Bill Cosby (“America’s moral compass,” notes guest star Ken Marino) and observations of casual racism in schools, but it still feels like the episode’s attention is torn between this serious meta-commentary and the naturally goofy interactions of Eddie and his friends as they try to figure out which one of the girls in Allison’s group they’re dating, while they fool themselves about how awesome and meaningful their first date (which was just them walking past the girls on the escalator) was.

Which is the more engaging story? Culturally, it’s obviously with the Huang parents, but the importance of their story is somewhat overshadowed by the hilariously relatable tale of romantic pursuit the boys find themselves in this episode, trying to understand the mixed signals of 12-year-old girls. There’s no doubting how important the Louis/Jessica subplot is, but the episode is constantly moving back and forth between the two, its priorities clearly lying more with the jokes than with the larger societal points it was trying to make (the long cutaways to the woman reporting on the tortoise in the drive-thru lane are a great example of this).

It doesn’t make for a bad episode of Fresh Off the Boat, obviously. The consistency of punchlines throughout “Good Morning Orlando” help cover some of these flaws in the episode’s construction, and the sharp observations Jessica makes about Asian Americans in cinema gives the story – which is essentially another “Look how goofy Louis is!” tale – a surprising amount of weight, both for their characters, and the show’s reflections on the 1990s as a whole. It just doesn’t mix that well together, two stories with completely different stakes and sets of priorities, and because of that, neither story is really able to elevate itself from merely entertaining into something truly memorable.

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Hey, there’s Judy Reyes as the field reporter! I miss seeing her on television in a weekly capacity.
  • Also not a fan of how Jessica’s house development story is backgrounded for the second week in a row. Was really hoping to see more of her and Honey working on that house, bonding with Grandma in the process.
  • Eddie’s body roll move makes a triumphant return – once you master a move like that, you really gotta work it to keep it sharp.
  • This week in ’90s hip-hop: Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours.” Fun fact: Black Sheep was a rap group affiliated with the Native Tongues, an early ’90s hip-hop collective that included A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. A couple other names came out of that movement, most notably Busta Rhymes, who debuted with the Leaders of the New School (another NT-affiliated group) in 1989.
  • Brian’s line readings are the best: “I have weak ankles!

[Photo credit: Vivian Zink/ABC]

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