Last week, TV networks announced sweeping cancellations, renewals and new shows for the fall season. As an unabashed television addict, my feelings about the new crop of announcements run the gamut from devastated (RIP Community) to elated (Brooklyn Nine-Nine! Yeah!). However, there are three shows in particular that have caught my attention: Fresh Off the Boat, Cristela, and Black-ish. All three shows, picked up by ABC, are family sitcoms focusing not on tokenized individuals of color, but on whole entire families of people of color!
Let’s take a closer look:
Cristela follows its titular character as she goes through her sixth year of law school and starts us out right as she lands her first big (albeit unpaid) internship. She navigates her new colleagues and life with her family with hilarity and features a fabulous ensemble cast. The show is loosely based on Cristela Alonzo’s life and Alonzo has been uncompromising in her dedication to positive representation of her vision.
What I love:
- Multiple female characters. This show looks like it’s set to pass the Bechdel test with flying colors.
- In the trailer, you see Cristela tackling racism in a way you don’t always see on network television — she deftly makes the point that even when casual stereotyping gets wrapped in a well-meaning package (“Can you validate this?” “I think you’ve been validated enough.”) you still need to call it out.
Black-ish centers on an upper-middle class black family living in a predominantly white suburb. Their patriarch, Andre Jonhson, struggles with the idea that his children are growing up without a sense of identity or culture. Throughout the show, he undertakes a variety of well-intentioned — though often backfiring — efforts to further connect them with his idea of their black identity. Dre’s father (played by Lawrence Fishburne) and wife (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) provide amazing deadpan comedy to balance out his antics.
What I love:
- Anthony Anderson, Lawrence Fishburne, Tracee Ellis Ross, oh my! The cast is amazing, the trailer is hilarious, and the jokes are mainly devoid of the cheap, stereotypical one-liners script writers tend to give to actors of color. I’m a little meh on the whole Bro-Mitzvah plot line, but I can understand where it comes from. We’ll see how it progresses as the show moves forward.
- The show provides an interesting commentary on how race, class, and socioeconomic mobility intersect.
- From what we can see in the trailer, there are some awesome, healthy relationships and I’m always happy to see more of those on TV.
Fresh Off The Boat
Based on the memoirs of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, following his family’s adventures as they experience massive culture shock after moving from Washington, DC to Orlando, FL, so his father can run a restaurant called the Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse. The show caught a bit of criticism for its use of the title “Fresh off the Boat,” which has a varied and complex meaning among Asian-Americans. However, the title was chosen by Huang himself, and is certainly an improvement of the network-proposed title of “Far East Orlando.”
What I love:
- Holy representation, Batman! Asian-Americans are egregiously underrepresented in the media, despite the fact that there are approximately 18.9 million Asian-Americans in the U.S. As PolicyMic points out, Fresh Off The Boat is a breath of fresh air in a TV landscape where quality Asian characters are few and far between. The characters are multidimensional, interesting people — not half-assed, stereotypical caricatures — and they’re hysterical.
- As the daughter of an immigrant, the exploration of pressure to assimilate resonates really strongly with me. The “Eddie’s eating worms” bit reminds me of a similar story my mother tells about her childhood, in which she was accused of eating ants because she had olives in her lunch.
In all, these shows appear to be a welcome departure from network TV’s usual “fifty shades of beige with a side of tokenism” style of doing things. That being said, it remains to be seen whether these shows will bring forth meaningful portrayals of diversity in America or just rehash tired and offensive stereotypes we see over and over again in shows like 2 Broke Girls, Modern Family, and more. I can’t wait to tune in, and I hope you do too!
 See: Keeping Up with the Steins, also every single episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen.