You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Celebrates Chinese New Year for the First Time on Network TV

Pretty much every holiday on the calendar has had its own themed sitcom episode — from the classics like Thanksgiving and Christmas to the more inventive Festivus and Chrismukkah.

Except for Chinese New Year.

ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” aims to change all that — and clear up a few misconceptions about the holiday — with the episode titled “Year of the Rat,” airing February 2nd. Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu) and the kids are planning to fly to Washington, D.C. to spend the holiday with the rest of their family, but a ticket snafu leaves them stuck in Orlando. Their efforts to find other Asians — any other Asians — lead them to the Asian-American Association of Orlando, which is staging a less-than-authentic celebration. Cue frustration.

That “fish out of water” feeling is part of the DNA of the show, says showrunner Nahnatchka Khan. “They can’t go back home, so they have to be in this environment,” she says. “They’re not around people who understand, so they have to educate and bring it forward.”

Khan says she knew she wanted to do the episode when the show was renewed for a second season, since it had never been depicted on TV before: “It was really important to us.”

The only problem, says Sheng Wang, who wrote the episode, is that there are so many different traditions. “So we went with the ones that most people have in common: the dinner, the red envelopes, and a few of the superstitions,” he says.

Adds Khan, “In the writers’ room, people were saying, my family does this, and my family does that. But the one thing that was similar was that everyone gets together.”

At a recent screening of the episode for press, the cast related how they all celebrated the holiday. “I haven’t celebrated in California yet,” said Hudson Yang (Eddie). “But back in New York, I’d go over to my cousins or grandmother’s house and we’d have a big feast with fish.”

Park admitted it was all new to him, since he’s Korean. “But there are similarities,” he said. “We have this tradition where we bow to the elders and they give us envelopes with money and there’s all this food.”

Khan is hopeful that the episode will encourage viewers to learn more about the holiday — and ask questions about what they see depicted. “How cool would it be the day after this episode aired if kids on the playground were like, ‘do you really do that?'” says Khan. “That’s really exciting.”

And if she has her way, this won’t be the last time we see the Huangs celebrating — or trying to, that is. “Knock on wood, if we come back with season three, every year this will be in our canon. We’ll have Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Chinese New Year.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Anne Hathaway Modern Love

    Anne Hathaway Talks Mental Health Awareness, Playing a Bipolar Woman on Amazon's 'Modern Love'

    In Amazon Prime’s upcoming “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway sheds light on an important facet of living with mental health issues, playing a bipolar woman who struggles with dating. “We’re all becoming more sensitive, wiser and more cognizant of gentility, and especially emotional gentility. I think those conversations are starting to happen. And I think the desire [...]

  • Sarah Silverman I Love You America

    Sarah Silverman Sets New HBO Comedy Special, Late-Night Series Pilot

    Sarah Silverman is headed to HBO. The comedian has signed a deal for a new comedy special with the premium cabler, with HBO also giving Silverman a pilot order for a late-night series. The news comes less than a year after Hulu canceled Silverman’s Emmy-nominated talk show “I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman” after [...]

  • Succession

    'Succession': Is Kendall a Killer Yet? Brian Cox Thinks So

    The Roys set sail aboard a refitted yacht in the Mediterranean in the Season 2 finale of ‘Succession’ Sunday, but it is hardly a vacation. Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox) gathers his family (including Gerri, among others) to figure out whose head would be put on a stake as Waystar Royco’s sacrificial lamb offering [...]

  • Patrick Moran

    Former ABC Studios Head Patrick Moran Signs Amazon Overall Deal

    Patrick Moran has signed an overall deal with Amazon, Variety has learned. The news comes around three months after it was announced that Moran would be exiting his role as president of ABC Studios following restructuring in the wake of the Disney-21st Century Fox merger. Under his new deal, Moran will work with Amazon Studios to [...]

  • Atresmedia-Studios-and-ITV-Studios-logos

    ITV Studios, Atresmedia Studios Co-develop New Family Format

    ITV Studios and Atresmedia Studios are joining forces to co-develop new gameshow format “Trust Me I’m A Six-Year-old.” The format will see celebrities go head-to-head across four competitive rounds, where their only guidance comes from a group of rowdy kids with their inimitable style of instruction. From undercover pranks to hilarious physical challenges, the celebrity [...]

  • love-island

    Glance Analyzes Young Adult Audience Consumption

    CANNES — What excites young adult audiences? Three answers are authenticity,entertainment and the environment,  according to a Glance study presented Monday at Cannes Mipcom trade show. The presentation also underscored radical changes in TV consumption now sweeping not just the U..S and U.K. but now major territories in Western Europe. Five takeaways: 1.Authenticity This “relates [...]

  • 'Watchmen,' 'Arrow' and More What To Watch This

    What to Watch on TV This Week: 'Watchmen' Debuts, 'Arrow' Returns for Final Season

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the highly anticipated “Watchmen” premieres on HBO, and “Arrow” returns for its eighth [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content