INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Bobby Trang Gets Lucky


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Aug. 11, 2011.)


The previews for the upcoming episode of ABC’s “Combat Hospital” looked enticing:  Captain Bobby Trang (Terry Chen) and Major Suzy Chao (Ellen Wong) frantically taking off their clothes in the back of a jeep as they try to get it on even though they know it’s against regulations.

The actual episode, which ran on Aug. 2, was less … er… climactic.  For one, the scene took place within the first five minutes of the story. Of course, they were interrupted when their beepers went off, meaning they were needed to treat incoming patients immediately.  And they didn’t talk about the situation again until the last two-and-a-half minutes of the show.

Although Wong’s been listed in the credits as one of the regulars and has been seen in most episodes, she initially barely had any lines. And in an early episode, she looked like a 12-year-old (she’s 26 this year).  Apparently, someone decided they needed to up the sex quotient of this series or it was going to be all serious operations, losing patients, and flirtations that lead nowhere. So in the episode leading up to the one that aired on the 2nd, we saw Trang working on his research project with Chao while the latter seemed to be in dreamland, just smiling as if she was keeping a secret.

Turns out she was dreaming about making some hot, sweaty love with him. Asian-on-Asian sex. Wow.  When does that ever happen in TV or in the movies? Usually, it’s Asian women with anyone but Asian men, and when Asian men get to demonstrate their sexual needs, oddly enough, it’s with white women.  The theory amongst many media activists is that producers fear putting two Asians together — in a room, let alone pairing them romantically — because it makes it “too ethnic” or “too Asian.”

Terry Chen and Ellen Wong in the ABC drama “Combat Hospital.”

While the Asian female/anything-but-Asian male pairing has been harmful in sending the message that Asian women find every man attractive except their own kind, in those rarer instances of Asian men/white women pairings, it at least “skipped a step” in saying that not only were Asian men attractive, but to someone of the dominant social/racial class.

Story-wise, though, it seemed as if the producers of “Combat” skipped an episode: Where did it go from Bobby Trang being unaware of Suzy Chao’s interest in him to the two trying to sneak a quickie while others were having a kabob-eating contest outside?  In any case, in last week’s episode, the ever-conscientious Trang worried that, given the conditions working in Kandahar, Afghanistan, he didn’t think, there was a future with Chao or anyone else. When he told her so in those last two-and-a-half minutes, she smiled and asked: who said she wanted a permanent thing?

Hmm! Sex with no strings attached! Can the ever-so-serious Bobby Trang dig that?

In this week’s show, many of the doctors try to pressure Trang to give up on a female patient — at least 45% of her body is covered with burns. Even if she survives, she’d need ongoing care, which hospitals wouldn’t want to provide. Given their resources, it’s better to just let her die. Major Rebecca Gordon (the gorgeous Michelle Borth) tries to support Trang. Suzy sides with her nurses and argues with Bobby. Later on, while Trang and Gordon are talking, Suzy gives him a “psst!” Confused, he follows her into a bathroom, where she apologizes for being mean to him and suggests they screw in the shower. This time, their beepers don’t go off.

Upon his return, Bobby tells Rebecca that Suzy wanted to apologize to him. When she notes how long he was gone, he rationalizes, “Yeah!  She was really apologetic!”

Aziz Ansari with Jesse Eisenberg in a scene from “30 Minutes or Less.”

Near the end of the story, Trang’s patient dies. He admits to Rebecca what really happened between him and Suzy and that it meant nothing to him.  Rebecca wants to know why he’s telling her this now; it’s because he fears both of them are going to be sent home for supporting the continued care of the hopeless patient.

Actually, their commanding officer praises Bobby for his dedication and, alone, praises Rebecca for supporting Bobby against the others and pleasantly notes that they’ve bonded over time.

In the end, “Combat Hospital” continues to be a “feel-good” kinda series that deserves better ratings (it’s stuck in the 3 million range, probably not enough to get it renewed). The series airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Jason Mamoa, the new Conan the Barbarian.

Asian Pacific Islander Movie Stars Department: It’s been encouraging seeing both Aziz Ansari and Jason Momoa making the late-night talk show rounds to promote their upcoming respective films. Although his name comes third in the credits, if the previews are any indication, it appears as if Ansari is actually co-starring with Jesse Eisenberg in “30 Minutes or Less” playing an elementary school history teacher who has to help his estranged friend rob a bank or the bad guys will detonate a bomb Eisenberg’s wearing.

On the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the 28-year-old talked about winning spelling bees in his native South Carolina, saying he won because of his ethnicity because white people just don’t know how to spell. Referring to Steve Carrell, whom he met backstage, Ansari asserted the actor asked him how to spell his own name. Poor Jay didn’t seem to get the point Ansari had made earlier, that despite his dark face, he was as American as anyone else.

Asking about the comedian’s stand-up tour in Europe, Leno asked if Ansari did the jokes in English. What else would he be speaking? The “Parks and Recreation” regular was also a guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Jason Momoa, who’s half-Hawaiian, also appeared on Leno’s show alongside Roseanne Barr, who’s currently living in Hawaii and filming her own reality show, “Roseanne’s Nuts” (she’s raising macadamia nuts, see?). Momoa has the rare opportunity to star in his own film, the remake of “Conan the Barbarian,” which opens Aug. 19. But it’s kind of a hollow victory because the actor isn’t playing someone who’s Asian or Pacific Islander but some barbarian in some fictitious land in who knows what century from the past.

The actor remembered how he became part of “Baywatch:  Hawaii.”  He was 19 years old, working in a surf shop trying to get reacquainted with his father (his parents had split long ago and he grew up in Iowa). Momoa decided to go out for a casting call with 1,300 people, got a role, and stayed with the show for two years. Today, he’s married to rocker Lenny Kravitz’s ex, Lisa Bonet, and has two kids.

Oh No! Can We Take Any More Excitement?! Department: If all of this isn’t enough, in addition to “30 Minutes or Less,” “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” also opens this Friday and includes Jenna Ushkowitz and Harry Shum Jr. from the popular Fox TV series.

Till 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.



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