Couple of new pieces on 8Asians. A review of the season two premiere of Dr. Ken. And a review of a new compilation album of indie/undie Asian American musicians encouraging Asian Americans to vote. EDIT: If you’re looking at this before 9:00 a.m. Monday (Hawaii time), that second link doesn’t go to anything. Ha. I forgot that I scheduled it to post after the weekend.
I haven’t written much here about Dr. Ken or its fellow ABC program Fresh Off the Boat, and I won’t do it now either, but it’s worth mentioning that Asians make up about 5% of the American population, yet we have nothing close to 5% representation in popular television.
When I was growing up, we had Mr. Sulu, an Asian of indeterminate ethnicity. His first name was Hikaru, a Japanese name, but Sulu isn’t a surname in any Asian country I know of. Then there was Pat Morita’s Arnold, for two season on Happy Days, Nurse Kellye (Kellye Nakamura) on MASH, and I think that’s about it.
Today, a good number of television programs have Asian characters, but it’s almost always just one or two. I know I live in a weird place, where Asians are everywhere, but come on. I’ve been to Seattle, where there are Asians everywhere you look, yet how often did you see Asians in the backgrounds of scenes in Frasier? I’ve been to other large cities, the sort TV shows are often set in, like San Francisco, San Diego, Nashville, and Richmond. There are Asians all over, yet it’s still unusual to see them in reasonable numbers on television shows set in cities like this.
Unlike other writers at 8A, I don’t think it’s the responsibility of networks or producers to cast Asians for accurate representation. I just don’t know why it doesn’t happen organically. And it isn’t meaningless to grow up American in America, and not see Americans who look like me or my friends or my family or my teachers or normal people on the street.
I actually have something to say about this, something reasonable and perhaps interesting, but today is not the day. I’ll just take a moment today to say that for all its flaws, I almost feel like I need Dr. Ken to succeed. It’s why I was so frustrated last season. I don’t want it to succeed because it’s one of two shows to feature an Asian American family. I want it to succeed on its merits, and it just didn’t try hard enough to be good last year.
I’m mildly encouraged by Friday’s premiere.