“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.