INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Lots of Asian American Regulars Among the New Fall Television Shows

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By GUY AOKI

This week, we got the annual “out with the old, in with the new” reports as the television networks announced their new 2012-2013 line-up.  Although a few shows featuring Asian American regulars got cancelled, a lot more seemed to be green-lighted to series for the fall or as mid-season replacements for the shows that fail.

Here’s the breakdown as far as I can tell (the full casts of every program have not yet been announced).  NBC, the best network for inclusion of Asian Americans, continues to lead the pack.

“Are You There, Chelsea” and “Awake” were cancelled. Although Ali Wong is out of a job on the former, I’m glad because it’s a slap in the face to the racist (and I use that word sparingly, so if I call you racist, you really are) creator of the show, comedian Chelsea Handler.

Because B.D. Wong was never written out of his previous NBC series, “Law and Order:  SVU,” he could simply return to that show now that “Awake” failed to keep viewers interested in it.

New series include three comedies: “Animal Practice” with “MAD TV’s” Bobby Lee, “Go On,” starring Matthew Perry and featuring Suzy Nakamura, and “Next Caller” with the hilarious Joy Osmanski (“The Loop,” “Wedding Palace”).

The under-performing “Whitney” (with Maulik Pancholy) and “Community” (Danny Pudi and Ken Jeong) move to Fridays (where shows go to die) beginning at 8 and running into “Grimm” (Reggie Lee), so it’ll be wall-to-wall Asian Americans between 8 and 10 p.m. on the Peacock Network.

Mindy Kaling will be leaving “The Office” and for a great reason:  A new show she created and will write, executive-produce… and STAR IN… has been picked up by Fox.

“The Mindy Project” or “It’s Messy” with Mindy Kaling (center).

It’s either called “It’s Messy” or “The Mindy Project,” and it’ll debut in the fall on Tuesday nights at 9:30 p.m. following “New Girl.”

Kaling is the first Asian American to star in a television series amongst the top four networks — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox — since Lucy Liu in ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia” in January 2008 and only the third since the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition began pushing for diversity with those companies in late 1999 (we also count 2008’s “Dance War:  Bruno Vs. Carrie Ann [Inaba]” also on ABC).

The Indian American has pulled off quite a feat not only because she’ll be calling the shots on the series, but because she’s not anyone’s idea of a leading lady. She’s definitely “ethnic” looking, which is great for television and this country in general.

Kaling’s comedy is described as “a young Bridget Jones-type doctor who’s trying to deal with her personal and professional life.” What’s weird is that Kaling had a development deal with NBC Studios, but the network passed on this project, so Fox picked it up.

Fox canceled “Alcatraz” along with “Terra Nova” (which was announced a couple of months ago). An Asian American woman plays the executor of an estate in “Goodwin Games,” where three children (and a stranger) have to compete to fulfill the will of their recently departed dad.  It’ll premiere as a mid-season replacement on Tuesdays.

The network only ordered three shows and one for mid-season, so to have at least two Asian Americans among them — including the star of one of them — is pretty good.

CBS, despite being the  No. 1 network, still put six new series and one mid-season reality show on the schedule. Cancelled are “Unforgettable” (with Dava Vaidya) and “Rob,” starring Rob Schneider.  In are “Friend Me,” a sitcom featuring Parvesh Cheena; “Elementary,” the modern-day Sherlock Holmes vehicle starring Jonny Lee Miller as the famous detective and Lucy Liu as Watson; and “The Job,” a reality show from “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett where “contestants compete for their dream job.” It’s hosted by Lisa Ling.

ABC, which used to be the best network at including Asian American regulars but fell to last in the 2011-2012 season, cancelled “Body of Proof” (Sonja Sohn) and “Missing” (Cliff Curtis) and ordered “Red Widow” with Mido Hamada (though he plays “Agent Ramos”) and Suleka Mathew (“Men in Trees”), “The Neighbors” (Tim Jo), and “Last Resort,” which possibly includes a regular Asian American submarine crew member. In the summer of 2013, “Lost’s” Yunjin Kim resurfaces on “Mistresses.” ABC passed on a pilot that would’ve starred Kal Penn of “Harold and Kumar” fame.

More Fodder for the Alex O’Loughlin Fan Club Department: Some of the actor’s fans gave me crap for celebrating his absence from “Hawaii Five-0” (I rejoiced because 1. He’s a wooden actor who starred in two previous flops and should never have been given the role of Steve McGarrett and 2. Without him in a few episodes, more Asian Americans — you know, the majority of the 50th state who “somehow” get overlooked even on this show — got more air time).

When the “Hawaii Five-0”/“NCIS-LA” crossover was announced a few months ago, only two of the former’s cast were going to fly to L.A.: O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. Because, after all, what screams “Hawaii” more than two haoles who never lived there before, right? (For those of you paying attention, yes, I’m being extremely sarcastic.) With O’Loughlin taking a leave of absence to deal with some murkily described prescription medication problem, Caan and Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho Kelly) made the trip. As a result, it looked and felt like a much more authentic crossover.

Unfortunately, O’Loughlin was back last week. We were “treated” to a lot of Asian characters in the form of arch nemesis Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) and the yakuza (yay?). At least the producers gave Kono (Grace Park) an Asian love interest in Adam Noshimuri (the fantastic Ian Anthony Dale). Still, that made no sense because she knows he’s the son of a yakuza member (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Adam had pulled a gun on McGarrett trying to seek revenge on a man he believed killed his father (he wasn’t dead, his death was faked, but now, it turns out, he really is dead; oh, never mind!).

Previews for this week’s season finale claimed that a member of the team was going to die. We saw Masi Oka get shot, but I figured if they showed that in the clip, it was probably a red herring. Sure enough, he survived. And although a bound Kono got thrown overboard into the ocean, I’m sure she’ll survive (we’ll have to wait until September to find out). Nah, the one who “bought it” wasn’t even a member of the team but a tough cop played by Tom Sizemore. Fine with me. Bye bye.

Summer (Samaire Armstrong) kisses Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) on “The Mentalist.”

Doomed From the Start? Department: With most of CBS’ crime procedurals, it gets pretty boring with yet another murder of the week. Interpersonal interactions — if done right — make the shows more interesting, so I’m always glad when Agent Cho (Tim Kang) of “The Mentalist” gets scenes with Summer, the former prostitute he’s fallen for. A few weeks ago, she showed up at his workplace, making him concerned his boss would find out. Two weeks ago, when co-worker Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) realized something was going on between them, she told Cho she didn’t think it was a good idea.

Matters got “resolved” after Cho learned Summer stole some cocaine from a dealer, who then beat her up. The detective, who went on a rampage the last time one of his girlfriends got hurt, did what you’d expect and beat him up in retaliation. In the end, Cho put Summer on a train to live away from him. Ever cheerful, Summer tried suggesting he visit her, but he didn’t commit to it. But he looked like he wanted to cry. It was a nice scene. Hope I see more of the two together as they make a cute pair.
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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12 Comments

  1. O’Loughlin’s mother is NOT Korean and neither is his father or step-father.

  2. We get it, u don’t like Alex O’Loughlin that’s fine. A lot if us do & we’re glad to have him back. He’s a big boy and can probably take your criticism. I’m more concerned with how offensive your remarks are to those of us who have lost loved ones to addiction. It’s sad and it sucks. U can celebrate actors u love without kicking others when they’re down.

  3. I don’t care enough to do any research, but I’d be willing to bet $ that mcgarrett is not half Korean. Great show though with lots of kick ass Asian actors representing. Don’t understand why you’re complaining

  4. Alex’s mother surname is Rau. According to his facebook page and other websites he “is of Korean and Scottish descent”.
    Just because someone looks a certain way does not mean they do not have a certain descent.

  5. I agree with you, Susan, that just because someone looks a certain way does not mean they do not have a certain descent. I myself am half Indonesian but get mistaken for Hawaiian all the time. However, Alex’s Facebook page mentions nothing about him being Korean. From everything I’ve read he is Irish and Scottish.

  6. Who cares if Alex is white Asian or from Uranus? He’s a good actor and seems like a nice guy. When you said “don’t hurry back o’loughlin” it seemed like “don’t get well soon o’loughlin”. Thats an ugly thing to say. Anyone who watches H50 knows Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park hold their own and don’t need misfortune to happen to Alex I’m order for them to shine. The entire cast is awesome!

  7. Alex managed to gather a very loyal fan base during those two so called “flops”. It takes the presence of the entire cast to make the show have the same feel but damn Alex sure adds a powerful punch. Two asians, three vietnamese, one korean, whatever… Alex is super talented and stupid hot and he needs to be on my TV.

  8. Wow how unpleasant and nasty can a person get? Alex O’Loughlin is not a wooden actor and I find him more compelling than anyone else on the show. He is an established actor with award nominations in his native Australia. He was also on The Shield, hardly a gig a crappy actor gets.

    So he had two series that didn’t work out? That would mean a whole ton of actors should never work again by your stupid logic.

    I’ve never read a more unpleasant column than yours, you have a real bug up your a** about this guy.

    And to talk about his time off as ‘murky’ is just disrepesctful in the extreme.

    I really think you ought to think a bit more about what you’re writing and putting out there because you make yourself look petty and miserable. I’m not some huge AOL fan and thought Moonlight sucked but he’s not a bad actor and he’s perfectly capable of holding the lead on five-0.

    If you wanna talk wooden lets discuss Jack Lord!!

  9. Is Alex O’Loughlin the best actor on TV? No. Does he claim to be? No. He is, however, one of the better ones in my opinion. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny he fills his niche.; hot action star who captivates the audience with his charm, wit, and amazing chemistry with Scott Caan. I hope he and the entire cast (Asian, white, black, purple, who gives a f***) grace my television screen for many years to come.

  10. Hey, Carson, are you deaf and blind? Yes, I’ll discuss Jack Lord, because I know about his acting and you don’t. It would help if you understood the meaning of the word “wooden.” In case you don’t own a dictionary, wooden means not making any facial expressions and speaking in an expressionless tone of voice. If you have functioning eyes and ears, have a basic understanding of how to read facial expressions and tones of voice, and bothered to pay attention to Jack when you watched him, if you did at all, then you would not make such ignorant comments. You don’t understand anything about the character he played or his environment.

    Jack was playing a chief of police on a crime drama. That would require being serious and suppressing emotions, or are you expecting him to laugh and smile all the time? Where would that make sense? Within the larger personality trait of McGarrett being serious and stern, he showed emotions – sadness, fear, kindness, gentility, and love. He showed these emotions when the storyline called for it. Where were you? Trashing Jack isn’t going to make Alex look better. It’s only going to make him look worse.

    It wouldn’t kill you to go to YouTube, type in Jack Lord, and see clips from Hawaii Five-O and other shows and films he did, and it wouldn’t hurt for you take some time to consider how to read personality and emotions.

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