It’s no secret that Fresh off the Boat wears it’s 90’s setting on its sleeve, trading equally on sharply written jokes and nostalgia; such as trips to the local Blockbuster, Eddie’s love for the Notorious BIG, and at the end of last week’s episode, one of his friends even arrives at school dressed as The Mask. In this week’s episode, “Boy II Man,” 90’s pop culture is taken even further when the music of quintessential R&B group Boyz II Men take center stage… sort of.
In attempt to get out of piccolo class his mom Jessica is forcing him to take at school, Eddie decides to serve as a tutor for his crush Nicole (when in reality, they just spend the class period, listening to Boyz II Men). Unsurprisingly, Jessica doesn’t approve of this arrangement. Unfortunately, her attempts to get Eddie to go back to band practice fails due to him manifesting the early signs of teenage rebellion, resulting her first encounter with a flat out “no!” However, by getting inside the head of his faculty adviser, who has an Asian fetish without shame, with a made up story about a Chinese philosopher, Jessica arranges a perfect counter to Eddie’s scheme. Although as a result, any hope of him winning Nicole’s affection is dashed when an older boy, who shows up for his tutoring, wins her over with Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes and Butthead imitations.
Meanwhile, Eddie’s dad Louis is in a funk of his own when he pleads to Jessica that they try having a daughter, only for Jessica to tell him twice, “This shop is closed.” His desire for a daughter scares brothers Emery and Evan, out of fear of what that could mean for them in the long run.
Despite my memory being fuzzy on what pop culture was like in the 90’s (likely due to the fact that I was born in the 90’s), I am very aware of who Boyz II Men are and how popular they were then and now. From my impression of the title for the episode, I thought we’d be treated to a sampling of some of their hits, which is why it surprised me that the only song heard by them was their heartstrings-tugging “End of the Road.” While Eddie’s introduction to the group appropriately came right when he was about to go down in the dumps, how come their songs weren’t utilized at other parts of the episode, like when Nicole was watching them on MTV (good opportunity for the “Motownphilly” music video) or when she and Eddie hung out in tutoring (appropriate timing for their cover of “In the Still of the Night”)? Boyz II Men has a plethora of hit songs under their name, and if “End of the Road” was the only song by them that we were going to hear, then the episode may as well been named “Fresh off the Love Boat.”
On the other hand, I do like how Eddie’s storyline wound up in the episode. I feel that we are beginning to see him make the transition from childhood to adolescence, and that really showed through when he goes through his first heartbreak. Having feelings for someone can be hard, especially if it’s one-sided, and it’s even harder when one is experiencing it for the first time. I was glad to see how, despite being difficult with him all episode, Jessica- with assistance from her friend Honey- was able to become more of a confidant rather than a parent when comforting Eddie by recounting her experience of getting dumped in college and how there are other girls out there who he has yet to meet (cue the girl in the band room, playing Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” on her flute).
Finally, I’m curious as to where the show is going to go with the faculty adviser with the Asian fetish. That scene where he and Jessica interact was funny yet pivotal, just to show how yes, Asian fetish is a thing; a creepy, degrading, racist thing might I add. I wonder if that character will be an one-off “creepy, Asian-obsessed white guy” joke, or if there will a story built around him in the coming episodes?