Not even a guest appearance by Oprah Winfrey – playing no less than
herself – could save this sitcom from biting the dust. Nor an
appearance by Quentin Tarentino, at the peak of his white-hotness from
Pulp Fiction – could pump this turkey's chest back to life.
Even a pre-famous Jack
Black, as an alt-rocker who can't be happy unless he's bummed, could not
manage to rock the ratings.
In fact, not even the star of the show – the hilarious, clear-thinking
Margaret Cho – could make her own series her own, and give it the place in
history it deserves: the first network sitcom about an Asian-American
It shouldn't have been saved. It was not good. And even Cho herself, in a
frank and funny interpretation of the series, admits it.
"This is NOT based on my stand-up comedy," she clarifies firmly on the
hilarious commentary track, as the credits roll, claiming "Based on the
stand-up comedy of Margaret Cho."
What Cho does concede, after rightly claiming that the series was "bland,
middle of the road" was, "we tried.”
They sure did. All the actors were competent (including B.D.
Wong as her
who moved on to a long
career, including roles in
Father of the Bride and
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit). The setting (a San
Francisco brownstone) was pretty and upscale-comfy in a Huxtable kind of
way. Yet somehow, it didn't come out right. The twenty-plus episodes on this
DVD are barely tolerable, and a gold star to anyone who can sit still
through even one disk.
However, this collection comes highly recommended.
Her painfully honest commentary is worth the agony of enduring the
"The network thought I was too fat to play the role of myself," Cho explains
at one point, then discusses the inhumane diet she pursued in order to "look
the part." As well, she explains that the network hired a "Korean
consultant" to make the Korean-American family depicted here seem more
"real," as most of the actors spoke not a word of Korean and were actually
real people – as opposed to stock sitcom types.
In fact, the terrific Amy Hill, who plays the backwards grandma right off
the boat (and meant to be the breakout character), is actually younger,
native-born and half-Japanese.
little more reality would have helped. Instead, we get the gentle,
old-fashioned sitcom same-old, same-old. Each tiresome
situation is mired
in a morality play (old-fashioned values versus modern fun; culture clashes
can be wacky; embarrass your family, and/or your family embarrasses you,
mild disgrace, vanilla shame, and "God Bress America").
Although in real life, Cho claims to get along famously with her mother and
father, the call here is for big-time generational conflict.
"You want to be American?" her mother screeches at her. "Go listen to your
hippity hoppity music and go wear your backwards baseball cap."
Her TV mom accuses her daughter of having "the morals of an alley cat," and
Cho is meant to shake it up and keep us guessing as a rockin', rollin'
nineties babe, dating white guys, hanging out at a club called The Skank,
digging on grunge and sporting short skirts and leather ("I'm supposed to
be some wild child," Cho observes, "Yet I look so Blossom to
However, once Cho's
character feels humbled at the end of each story, her on-screen parents
are happy ("I draw the line at dating criminals," she confesses at the end
of one episode.).
She explains that, in general, Korean people are emotionally shut down, so
the sitcom-like bickering and bantering somehow doesn't ring true.
"There is no logic in this show," Cho claims at another point in the
commentary. "I wish it had worked."
It's just that the pressure was on, and Cho was merely a semi-innocent young
girl plucked from the brick walls of the comedy clubs. It was the last
triumph of network television, when every Tim, Roseanne and Jerry were
shoe-horned into contracts for sitcoms.
If not falling into the brilliance of a Seinfeld or the
middle-American acceptance of a Home Improvement, at least we have
the post-game color commentary from Cho, who chooses to make some outrageous
comments the way you would if she were sitting on the couch with you: "That
suit is so early nineties! It's so Heart! It's so Ann Wilson!" Or watching
herself and her TV mom have a heart-to-heart in the kitchen: "Our hair is so
big!" And the best line of all: "Oh, that skirt I stole."
There are also a few lines of funny: when Grandma gets a makeover, she is
called "Grandmalicious," and a concession at the food court is called
"Chicken, My Friend." And when mother and daughter are arguing unknowingly
in front of a video camera in the TV department of a store, the customers
think they are watching The Joy Luck Club.
"I don't think it was a bad show," Cho admits, "but it's not really what I
would have liked it to be."
However, there was a happy ending: a lot of the furniture from the set wound
up on The Drew Carey Show.
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Posted: July 23, 2007.