INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Week of Judgment for Television Shows Featuring Asian Americans



It’s that nervous time of the year when the television networks determine their new fall line-ups, revealing which of their pilots have been picked up to series and which existing shows are being cancelled to make room for them. Between Monday, May 11, and Thursday, May 14, the networks will announce their intentions in New York and try to excite advertisers to support their new slates.

So what’s at stake for current shows and pilots that feature significant Asian American regulars? At NBC, “Grimm” with Reggie Lee has already been renewed. “Night Shift” (Ken Leung) debuted in the summer of 2014, did surprisingly well (1.4 rating in the 18-49 age range), so was brought back in February in the middle of the “real” September-to-May season and has been a dependable performer (1.3). Though in my experience, shows that fall below a 1.5 are on shaky ground, NBC hasn’t done well this year, and I think they’d be nuts to can this.

“Allegiance,” the Russian spy drama, which featured Kenneth Choi, has already been pulled from the current schedule. The Peacock Network has already announced it’s bringing back “Heroes” in a limited fall series called “Heroes Reborn” (Masi Oka is one of only three original cast members who will return). Danny Pudi of “Community” is trying to break into leading-man status by starring in “Strange Calls.”

Fox continues to have a rotten year, so shows with basement ratings continue to get renewed (e.g., “New Girl” with Hannah Simone). “The Mindy Project” (down 17% from last year’s 1.3 to a lowly 1.05; hell, even ABC’s beloved “Selfie” did better than that, and it was pulled after just seven episodes!) will probably still return given that it’s a critics’ favorite and anything they replace it with in its time slot will probably do even worse and not be supported by critics. “Bones” (Michaela Conlin) is up in the air.

Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) and Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) in “The Good Wife.”

Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) and Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) in “The Good Wife.”

CBS has already renewed “2 Broke Girls,” meaning we can look forward to seeing poor Han (Matthew Moy) continue to be degraded by all around him while the cast says nothing negative at all towards the black character (Garrett Morris). Can you say “selective racists,” boys and girls? “Scorpion” (Jadyn Wong, who talks as if she has marbles in her mouth) will also get another season. Most pundits don’t seem to be worried about the fate of “Hawaii Five-O,” though with its ever-falling 1.25 rating, it could get pushed out if CBS is excited by a lot of new pilots and lacks space to put them somewhere.

“Battle Creek” (Kal Penn and Liza Lapira) follows two low-rated CBS shows, “Madam Secretary” and “The Good Wife” (both of which last week hit series lows) but the former has already been renewed and the latter, a critics’ favorite and the only current network show (vs. cable) to get nominated for an Emmy for best drama, is a prestige series it can’t afford to lose. Every pundit seems to believe the “Battle” is already lost.

The two series on the Eye Network that feature Asian Americans most prominently, “Elementary” (Lucy Liu) and “Stalker” (Maggie Q), have low 18-49 ratings — 1.3 and 1.52, respectively — yet everyone expects the former to return and the latter to not. Though competitive against other shows in its Wednesday night time slot, ratings experts agree “Stalker” has little chance of coming back. The fact that “CSI: Cyber,” which took its place, has done slightly better, hurts it, though when “Stalker” returned in a new Monday night spot, its ratings increased.

Sources say the TV version of “Rush Hour” may make CBS’ schedule.

The cast of "Stalker."

The cast of “Stalker.”

Many community activists are concerned over the status of “Fresh Off the Boat,” the first Asian American family sitcom since 1994. Its 1.73 rating is encouraging, and it’s the best 18-49-rated show for ABC on Tuesday night, as well as the top comedy for any network that night. Critics love it, and I’d be shocked if it doesn’t get a second season.

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has steadily fallen and must be an expensive program to produce, but the network’s planning a spin-off series around two of this year’s new regulars, so it’d be bizarre to cancel the “mother ship.”

ABC could build upon its Asian presence with “Dr. Ken,” which would star “The Hangover’s” Ken Jeong. [Update: The trade publications are reporting on leaked “unofficial” information that “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “FOTB,” and Jeong’s sitcom about his family life have all been given the nod for next season, meaning ABC will have not one but two Asian American family sitcoms! Fox has cancelled “The Mindy Project,” but may be picking it up for two seasons.]

Goodbye Department: Fans of “The Good Wife” have known for a few months that Archie Panjabi would be leaving the show after this season because 20th Century Fox TV is trying to develop a series where she could be the star. The studio is probably the best in the business as this season, it’s created shows where Asians, Latinos, and blacks are the stars, including “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Cristela,” and ”Empire.”

This past year, Kalinda Sharma (Panjabi) has been working with a former client of the title character (Julianna Margulies), noted drug lord Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter), who quickly has anyone who crosses him killed. Because the creators of the show already killed off Will Garner (Josh Charles) last year, we knew Kalinda wouldn’t be murdered too, but the question remained — why would she have to leave the law firm?

All season, prosecutors had harassed lawyer Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) with threats of jail unless he testified against former client Bishop. Kalinda told Cary (her sometime lover) she’d testify instead, but he was vehemently against it. In the end, she downloaded proof of Bishop’s crimes onto a flash drive, framed one of his henchmen for it, then left town after stopping by the apartment of Alicia Florrick (Margulies), who wasn’t in. So Kalinda left her a note, then turned to the camera — and the audience — and told Florrick’s daughter, “Goodbye.” She’s gone!

The cast of "Fresh Off the Boat."

The cast of “Fresh Off the Boat.”

Panjabi won an Emmy for best supporting actress for her role, but I was increasingly frustrated with her inability to stick to an American accent with her British one popping up randomly in the last couple of years. How the executive producers of the show let that go is beyond me.

Good People Do Bad Things, Bad People Do Good Things Department: Although it started out really slow in its first season, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” really found its pace in mid-season after the second “Captain America” film opened last year, to which it was tied. It’s been on a roll ever since, and I’ve looked forward to each week’s Season 2 episode. But more and more, it gets a bit ridiculous how many times the same members of the team turn against each other.

Last time out, I wrote fondly of the scene where Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), the leader of the super-powered Inhumans, revealed to Skye (Chloe Bennet) that she was her mother. This week, S.H.I.E.L.D. located Afterlife, the home of the race, and because they’re a government agency that likes to keep track of people with powers, they wanted to meet Jiaying. Instead of sending Coulson (star Clark Gregg), the more aggressive Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) volunteered for the summit meeting, and we were made to worry he’d unnecessarily push both groups into war.

So it was a surprise that Gonzales was peaceful in his discussion with her, even returning a Chinese trinket she’d lost years ago meant for Skye. In turn, Jiaying used a terrigen crystal to turn him to ash, killing him, then used his gun to shoot herself in the shoulder twice. Running out of the office, she claimed he tried to kill her.

Shucks. And she seemed like such a nice, peaceful person! So in the two-hour season finale next week, it’ll be an all-out battle with Skye believing her mother and fighting with her against her former friends.

In the past, Raina has been a little snake no one should ever trust. After being exposed to the crystals, she became a weird-looking porcupine who has dreams of the future. She warned that S.H.I.E.L.D. would come to Afterlife and there’d be a bloody battle because of Jiaying. She suggested (who else?) she meet with the agency instead. No one believed her and she was kept under house arrest. Turns out she was telling the truth after all.

Watch for the season finale 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

“Little Boy” That Couldn’t Department: Unfortunately, the movie, which prominently features a Japanese American internee (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), didn’t interest a lot of movie-goers. On opening weekend, it ranked No. 13 with $2.75 million, then fell 68% this weekend to $878,000 for a total gross of $4,248,000.

’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



1 Comment

  1. Love Jaydn Wong, have no problem understanding her at all. She is one of the best reasons to watch the show.
    Sorry for Maggie Q, her show did not make the cut. Hopefully she will get another chance on CBS. She is that good!!! Five 0 gets a 6 season I hope…it will mean season 7 as promised will be more likely, knowing the whole
    state of Hawaii will be supporting it any way it can.

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