INTO THE NEXT STAGE: An Embarrassment of Riches



Before I write each column, I try to think like an editor at a newspaper: Of all the happenings of the past two weeks, what’s the main headline? What was the movie or television show or issue that stood out the most that I should lead off with?

After Thursday night, I thought it was going to be “Masi Oka Finally Returns to ‘Heroes.’” Then Monday night, there was another great episode of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (but I already focused on the show last time). Then Tuesday, there was probably the best episode of this season’s “Fresh Off the Boat” at 8:30 followed by Ming-Na kicking ass on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” And if that’s not enough, let’s not forget “Dr. Ken’s” Ken Jeong displaying his best acting two weeks ago then unexpectedly crying last week.

And I haven’t even mentioned that tomorrow marks the debut of Aziz Ansari starring in his own Netflix series, “Master of None,” and on Sunday, Nov. 15, Daniel Wu will headline the first martial arts television show in 15 years, “Into the Badlands” (AMC). It’s a nice problem to have, I suppose. It’s really an embarrassment of riches.

It’s kind of how I envisioned things would be five years after the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition began pushing for more diversity in their meetings with the networks in 1999/2000. I thought every network would have at least one show where Asian Americans were the stars and in ten years, there’d be at least two AA shows on each channel. It hasn’t quite happened that quickly, but at least now, we’re building towards it.

OK, so let’s rip through what I can fit in.

Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) reunites with Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) on “Heroes Reborn.”

Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) reunites with Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) on “Heroes Reborn.”

Worth the Wait? Department: NBC teased Masi Oka returning to “Heroes Reborn” for all but one episode leading up to Oct. 22’s installment when he finally showed up. Since this 13-episode limited series has focused on mostly new characters with only Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) returning as a regular and only “The Haitian” making a cameo appearance, it was great to see Hiro Nakamura’s friendly, though much fuller face. Turns out he’d been held captured in a video game while the baddies used his time-warping powers to go back in time to really screw things up.

Noah convinces him to go back with him to June 13 when Evos (humans with super powers) and regular humans were killed at a summit meeting, which led to Evos being arrested on sight and the death of his daughter Claire (Hayden Penattierre, who couldn’t appear because she’s the star of ABC’s “Nashville”). It was all blamed on Dr. Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), an annoyingly naïve character who always did stupid things to further ridiculous plots and constantly trusted the wrong side. He was written so badly in the ’06-’10 series that Entertainment Weekly included him on a list of characters they wanted to see die (if there’d been a petition, I would’ve signed it; I loathed him and his insipid voice-over philosophical ramblings, which returned for at least one episode this season).

Though he tries, Hiro sadly concludes that they can’t change what happened, and to try would make things even worse. Creator Tim Kring ruined the original series, which drew critical raves and ratings success in its first season but got worse and worse and worse with each succeeding year. What was even more annoying were the stupid excuses he made each time he asked viewers to give him a second chance.

Though in “Reborn” he’s introduced a whole bunch of new characters that’re difficult to keep track off, their significance began to come together in last week’s episode, so he may pull this one off yet, though I’m still skeptical if there really was a good reason Noah had the Haitian remove his memories of what happened on June 13 and for another character’s suicide. We’ll see.

There are two Japanese characters: Miko (Kiki Sukezane), a doll-like though charismatic sword-wielding girl dedicated to rescuing her father, who’s also captured in a video game, and Ren (Toro Uchikado), a Japanese boy who helps her and loves her (hey, it could’ve been a white guy, right?). The upbeat “can do” Japanese spirit is at times endearing. “Heroes Reborn” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Will Yun Lee, and Ken Jeong in a scene from the "Dr. Ken" episode "Kevin O'Connell."

Will Yun Lee, Tisha Campbell-Martin and Ken Jeong in a scene from the “Dr. Ken” episode “Kevin O’Connell.”

Surprising Range Department: The fourth episode of “Dr. Ken” featured Will Yun Lee playing Allison Park’s college boyfriend Kevin O’Connell. Ken Park (Jeong) always assumed he was a pale Irish guy and wasn’t threatened by him until the Korean adoptee showed up at his practice and his staff (white, black, gay) stopped in their tracks and exclaimed, “Oh my God!”

When Dr. Park realizes who his competition really is (he later tells his wife, “Korean Channing Tatum!”), he wears a hilarious look of shock, horror, and helplessness on his face that demonstrates what a nuanced actor Jeong’s become. It was also great to see an Asian American man set up as a stud for audiences (and society) to consider.

Last week’s episode focused on the botched marriage proposal Park tried 20 years ago, which was ruined because he and his wife-to-be wound up fighting. Trying to get it right again at the same location in 2015, Park and his wife once again argue, and he wonders why he even bothered to try. Until a worker recognizes the couple and makes them realize that since he last saw them, they got married and now have two kids. Getting down on his knee, Dr. Park tells Allison that he loves her more now than he’s ever loved her before and asks her to marry him.

The surprising thing is that Park bursts into tears. It was a shocking turn for a sitcom, but incredibly moving. I was in tears too. I can only assume that while saying those lines, Jeong thought of his real life wife Tran and all that they’ve endured, including her cancer scare.

“I Won’t Be Ignored!” Department: When we first met Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) in the pilot of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” he was already breaking up with Jessica Bunch (Rachel Bloom), so ten years later when she left New York to stalk him in West Covina, California, we still weren’t given enough information about why he was so great. In the third episode, thankfully, we got some reasons. She throws a party hoping Josh will show up, but when only a handful of co-workers show up, she ends up wanting to call it off because she doesn’t want him to think she’s a loser.

Josh comforts her, pointing out that she can’t expect to have that many friends when she’s new in town and that it would’ve been worse if she just got anyone off the street to create a positive impression (something her friend Paula was literally doing right then!). He even helps energize the party by getting the crowd to gather around for a selfie, which he tweets.

And they find strength in each other. Just as Paula pushed Rebecca to overcome her fears by having the party (at her last one, her parents had a fight and her dad walked out on them), Josh overcomes his by not allowing his girlfriend Valencia to dictate how long he stays at Rebecca’s party and further asserts that the two ex’s can hang out whether or not Valencia approves.

In this week’s episode, Rebecca helps Josh fill out his job application for Aloha Tech Center, but in the personal essay, she gets so carried away with literary references to “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Top Gun” that the store manager doesn’t think Josh is right for the job. Upset that he found her essay “pretentious,” Rachel marches into the store and explains tearfully why he should hire Josh: “Josh Chan loves you! And God, that makes you the luckiest person/store in the world! And hiring him would be the best decision you‘ve ever made!”

In the end, Josh gets the job, and he’s so overjoyed, he tells an appreciative Rebecca, “I’m so glad you moved here, Bix!”

Yet earlier, he encouraged her to date his friend Greg (who sings to her the hilarious “Settle for Me”). When she ends up having a one-night stand with someone she met while on a date with him at a taco festival, she apologizes to Greg, “I make no sense! I take advice from butter commercials!”

Again, if you’re not watching this hugely entertaining show on the CW on Mondays at 8 p.m., you’re nuts.

Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang) and his friends go on their “group date” up the escalator.

Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang) and his friends go on their “group date” up the escalator.

Ahh, to Be Young Again Department: This week’s episode of “Fresh off the Boat” dealt with Eddie Huang and his 7th-grade friends trying to figure out the rituals of dating. While at lunch, Allison, the new apple of his eye, sends over a note saying “Hi!” Later, her bunch of friends send letters to his other friends, so they realize they’re “dating” the girls, though no one’s even talked to each other!

The girls’ intermediary (how did this guy get this sorry gig, anyway?!) tells the guys the girls want a “group date” at the mall at 3 p.m. So they show up, ride the escalators up as the girls ride down and say “Hi!” That’s the whole date!

Hilariously, when the intermediary later tells one of them that one of the girls just broke up with him, he’s confused because he thought he was going with another girl. But another friend argues that can’t be, because he was dating her. Eddie exclaims, “This is messed up! You guys don’t even know who you’re dating?!”

Allison later explains to Eddie that her friends said once you date someone you’re not supposed to talk to them (wait, what?!), but they work things out and are “back to normal.”

When father Louis (Randall Park) appears on the “Good Morning Orlando” television show doing Donald Duck and Rocky Balboa impressions, wife Jessica gets upset, saying because there are no Chinese people on television, he should’ve been more responsible in putting forth a more respectable image. She accuses him of being Long Duk Dong from “16 Candles,” who gave people the impression of how all Chinese people are.

So the next time Louis goes on, he’s dead serious and comes off as temperamental. In the end, he makes up for it by doing some Michael Jackson dance moves. Impressive.

At the end of another episode, Louis did some break dancing. For an immigrant of his age? Not realistic. But great for the show and for the image of Asian Americans. Jessica Huang would be proud too.

’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.






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