INTO THE NEXT STAGE: The New Fall Season Kicks Off

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By GUY AOKI
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Aug. 22, 2011.)

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This week marked the official start of the new 2011-2012 television season with the return of shows like “Hawaii Five-0” and “Glee” and the debut of the controversial “2 Broke Girls.”

In last season’s finale of “Five-0,” arch nemesis Wo Fat (Mark Dascascos) framed Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) for the murder of the governor (Jean Smart) and was arrested by Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), who’d accepted an offer to return to the police department. Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) was accused of stealing money from the police locker room, and Five-0 was shut down.

This week’s premiere opened one week later at the governor’s funeral. In the crowd, Chin Ho spots Wo Fat and follows him and two of his henchmen to their car, where he disarms the assistants to tell Wo Fat he knows he set up McGarrett. It was good to see Kim get some scenes to himself and later with Scott Caan, who plays Danno Williams.

In prison, Irish terrorist Victor Hesse (James Marsters), who killed McGarrett’s father, attacks him and knifes him in the stomach, then whispers something to him as guards grab him. Turns out Hesse was asked to kill McGarrett, but he knew once he did that, Wo Fat would kill him to cover his tracks, so the terrorist only slightly injures his adversary so McGarrett could escape from the ambulance and track down Wo Fat before he got to Hesse.

The surprise came at the end of the familiar theme song: In addition to the four regulars, we got a fifth: Masi Oka, playing the weird coroner Max Bergman (dig the last name). Wow. I’d heard he was going to be added as a “regular,” but that designation has often been exaggerated over the years. Guess the producers meant business. At least it gives us one more regular Asian good guy vs. the usual suspicious-looking local people the show is infamous for using.

I hate recounting the plots of shows, so let me just hit the highlights: McGarrett escapes to Bergman’s apartment, the old Five-0 team reunites and uses footage from a hidden camera in the governor’s office — set up years before by McGarrett’s father to catch the crooked official in the act. While the footage doesn’t show Wo Fat’s face, it clears McGarrett of the crime.

The thing that bothers me is that the lieutenant governor (now the governor) is black. Black. Yeah. One of the three percent living in the islands versus the oh, I don’t know, maybe 68 percent that are Asian/Pacific Islander?

As I’ve written in the past, the producers of this series approach it as they do any other mainland show by using as many white and black good guys as possible and, besides the two Asian regulars (c’mon, they were established way back in 1968 in the original run of the show!), there just hasn’t been enough good Asian guys to counterbalance the bad ones. I was even more annoyed late last season when they brought in Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik), a former CIA agent who just kinda hung around the unit and became an unofficial fifth member.

If I’d had a meeting with CBS a few months ago, I’d have complained about this casting. But here’s the funny thing: Although I initially wanted an Asian/Pacific governor, she turned out to be crooked, so I’m glad she was white. And at the end of this week’s episode, we learned that the CIA agent is in cahoots with Wo Fat. So again, I’m glad she’s white. But unless the new governor turns out to also be corrupt, I think he should’ve been Asian/Pacific.

One nice touch was McGarrett learning of an old Japanese pilot who bombed Pearl Harbor. Feeling terrible for what he did, he tried to make up for it by living in Hawaii and cleaning up corruption. He worked with McGarrett’s father to prove the old governor and Wo Fat were in bed together before Daddio was murdered.

It was nice seeing guest star Terry O’Quinn (John Locke from “Lost”) reunited with fellow “Lost” alum Daniel Dae Kim. In fact, last season, when Chin Ho was running around the jungles on Oahu, it looked an awful lot like those found on “Lost” (it was the same location) and also brought a smile to my face.

From left, Matthew Moy, Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in the new CBS comedy “2 Broke Girls.”

Self-Censorship Department: A few months ago, a script circulated for the pilot of “2 Broke Girls,” which CBS ended up picking up as a series. It’s about a brunette waitress who befriends a former socialite blonde whose father lost all of his money in a Ponzi scheme and has to work with her in a restaurant owned by a Korean immigrant (Matthew Moy, who was seen in the last season of “Scrubs”).

Many were upset that the brunette, Max Black (Kat Dennings, who appeared as Natalie Portman’s assistant in “Thor”), made fun of his accent and called him Rice Lee. The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition notified CBS of the issue, and they assured us that the character would be modified.

A couple weeks ago, MANAA board member Miriam Nakamura-Quan and I went to CBS to screen the pilot just to see how it turned out. The owner, Han Lee, studying to become a citizen, changed his name to Bryce Lee.  But for some reason, he mispronounced it as “Rice Lee.” Right. Because, as we all know, Koreans can’t pronounce the letter B …

The scene was shorter than originally written, and Black displayed less animosity toward him. I still wondered why it was necessary to let Han call himself Rice, and apparently, so did others at the network. When I watched what aired Monday night, I was surprised that they cut out Han mispronouncing his own name. So as far as anyone knows, he’s just Bryce Lee.

A source at the network told me the sitcom focuses mainly on the two women and Lee’s barely seen, though in the future, he’ll prove to be smarter than we think. Check it out for yourself in its regular time slot at 8:30 on Monday nights. Because it followed the debut of the Charlie Sheen-less “Two and a Half Men” (which was watched by an amazing 27.7 million people, almost twice the show’s usual audience), “2 Broke Girls” hung on to 19.2 million, which is quite astounding. I’m predicting that in the weeks ahead, it’ll probably settle down to about 12 million viewers.

Back to School Department: “Glee” returned on Tuesday night, and we felt the presence of Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) more. In the opening, a student reporter went around interviewing some of the cast, and we learned who was going to graduate this year. Chang is; his girlfriend Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is a junior, so she’s got another year on the show. In one scene, Tina plays “Chopsticks” on a piano in the hallway, leading the hateful Sue Sylvester (Emmy-winner Jane Lynch) to wreck the piano and take scissors to its strings. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she yells, “I just realized that song might be the national anthem from whatever country you’re from!”

The students look at her with a hurt look with Chang saying, “That’s really offensive!” At least someone said it. That’s all I ever ask: You can’t show racist characters without allowing them to say something racist; just don’t have us take it lying down.

Channel Surfing Department: Only caught a few minutes of Fox’s “New Girl” starring Zooey Deschanel, but I laughed out loud in a few spots. My main interest was seeing her “hook up” with Jack Yang (Lucy Liu’s boyfriend in “Cashmere Mafia”). The title character, Jess, recently caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman and she’s trying to find new love with the help of three male roommates. She meets Yang in a bar, and they decide to get together for meaningless sex, but her nerdish character comes to the fore when she texts him seven times. This turns him off, so he decides to flake on Jess; she waits in the restaurant for nothing but her three roommates give up their party to cheer her up. Awwww. Critics have called her goofy character adorable. From the few glimpses I caught, I had to agree.

Ooh, Wait, There’s More! Department: There’s another Asian American regular that I was just told about in time to watch for it. CBS’s new “Unforgettable” starring Poppy Montgomery (with an annoying Australian accent that keeps coming out of her fake American accent) features Daya Vidya as one of the police detectives. It airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

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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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