Friday, November 25, 2016

Fresh Off The Boat: "Huangsgiving"

Premiered November 17, 2015

Louis: We're gonna throw the best Huangsgiving your mother's ever seen!
Jessica: You're really committed to that name, huh?  
Louis: That's the shortened version.  The full name is Louis Huang's Huangsgiving, featuring Louis and the Huangs.

It's almost Thanksgiving.  Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) and her sister Connie (Susan Park) are competitive when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  This year, their mother (Shu Lan Tuan) selects Jessica to host, much to Connie's dismay.

The Huang family gathers for a planning meeting.  Clipboard in hand, Louis (Randall Park) decides their feast will be called "Huangsgiving" and the the family will serve up some new spins on tradition.  Instead of the usual roast duck, they will serve individual cornish hens.

Individual cornish hens are the personal pizzas of the bird world, according to Louis.
Jessica intends to  make her own cranberry sauce instead of the usual canned variety.  She also invites Oscar Chow (Rex Lee), her mother's favorite person.  (Oscar and Jessica's mom like to re-enact scenes from Dynasty.)

Younger sons, Evan (Ian Chen) and Emery (Forrest Wheeler) will play to their strengths and create table decorations.

Oldest son Eddie (Hudson Yang) ... promises not to bump into stuff and is looking forward to impressing his cousin Justin (Lance Lim) with his new Pearl Jam CD.

The Huang family awaiting their guests' arrival
Connie and her mother arrive, but Connie's husband Steve (C.S. Lee) pulls up in a separate car.  Connie announces that their marriage is over, which changes dinner seating plans, and upstages Jessica's feast.

Louis had planned to stay up late to work on dinner preparations, but that changes when a lonely Steve asks Louis to have a drink with him.

One drink turns into way more than that and Louis awakens on Thanksgiving morning in quite a sorry state.

This means that NO prep work got done the night before and that they're already behind schedule, which angers Jessica.

Things get worse when the cornish hens arrive...and Louis did not realize he'd ordered live hens!

Luckily, Louis has a turkey at his restaurant, but it's frozen solid.

The turkey is missing a drumstick as a result of being chipped out of the restaurant freezer!!
Neighbors Honey (Chelsey Crisp) and Marvin (Ray Wise) show up and add to the mayhem.   All Jessica and Louis can think of to do is stall by playing football or by any other means until they can get Huangsgiving on the table.

Meanwhile Eddie and his cousin Justin discover the wonders of the mid-1990s internet.

Waiting for a "sexy" picture to load ...
Will Huangsgiving turn out to be an utter disaster?

RigbyMel says:

This is a very funny Turkey day episode with an Asian-American twist.

Jessica and Connie's sibling rivalry is both amusing and believable.  And Jessica's tribulations in the kitchen ("The cranberry is a very stingy berry!") are hilarious.

Grandma Huang's (Lucille Soong) commentary on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and obsession with Garfield are awesome.  Her willingness to dispatch the poor cornish hens is a bit disturbing, but funny.

Having the series set in the 1990s adds a dash of nostalgia to the Thanksgiving fun.  (I well remember how long it took things to load from the Internet back then!)   However, it does lead to a bit of anachronistic dialogue -- I do not believe anyone was saying "It's on like Donkey Kong!" in the mid to late '90s.

Jessica and hair dryer vs. frozen turkey
Holidays are times of heightened emotion -- often spurred by inter-familial drama -- and lend themselves well to comedy.  As things spin out of control for the Huangs in this episode, we can laugh at their escapades and be glad that (maybe) our own Thanksgiving experiences won't wind up being quite so wacky as all this!

RigbyMel's rating: 

3 and a half pumpkin pies.

The family gathers for the Huangsgiving feast
J.A. Morris says: 
"Huangsgiving" is a very entertaining holiday episode.  It features lots of the tropes found in other Thanksgiving programming (cooking disasters, family quarrels, old rivalries rearing their heads), but still manages to be original.  Fresh Off The Boat is one of my favorite current series, so it makes sense that I'd enjoy this episode.

I thought Randall Park was particularly funny in "Huangsgiving."  He is determined to sell his family on the name Huangsgiving and says it as often as he can.  Louis is also optimistic throughout "Huangsgiving," never freaking out despite the odds mounting further and further against the family.

Constance Wu is equally good as Jessica.  Her best moment comes when she tells Louis that she seems calm, "but it's a calm anger, which is a much scarier type of anger."

C.S. Lee also delivers some memorable lines as Steve.

Since my family has hosted Thanksgiving before, I can say that visiting relatives often serve to unify one's immediate family.  "Huangsgiving" nails this aspect of the holidays, since Jessica, Louis and their kids always keep up a united front (despite Jessica's frustration with Louis).

The only problem I have with "Huangsgiving" is Oscar's boyfriend Michael (David Smityman). Michael feels like an outdated stereotype and adds nothing to the episode.

Oscar arrives with his new boyfriend, Michael.
"Huangsgiving" has not been released on DVD, but it's available for streaming on Amazon and iTunes.

This episode is recommended, but Michael's characterization keeps me from giving it a higher rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 pumpkin pies.

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