Asian Americans on TV: The Returning, The New, The Canceled

"Selfie." (ABC)

By Dino-Ray Ramos

This Fall’s TV season starts in September and there are plenty of TV shows coming back to the major networks. Some of the shows you might recognize, and others are new. Then there are those that we have to say goodbye to because of one of two reasons: 1) the show is bowing out gracefully after a long run on TV or 2) it’s getting the axe because it’s not performing well. Whatever the case is, there’s an impressive amount of Asian Americans gracing small screens on all across the country on the major networks. As of now, here’s a list of which shows with which Asian American actors will be returning, which ones will be canceled, and the new shows on the block.

Renewed shows

There aren’t many big surprises here. CBS leads the networks in the number of returning shows with Asian characters. Their cash cow, “Big Bang Theory” with Kunal Nayyar (who plays Raj) is coming back for its eighth season…and whether you like it or not, according to its IMDb page, it will live on for a 9th and 10th season. Matthew Moy comes back to “2 Broke Girls” in his role as Han Lee, a character who has been seen as a caricature…and almost racist portrayal of Asians. (See what he had to say about it here).

Emmy-award winning Archie Panjabi will be back to join in all the gripping drama in “The Good Wife” for a 6th Season. Lucy Liu comes back in the role of Dr. Joan Watson for a third season in the modern Sherlock remix, “Elementary.” And let’s not forget “Hawaii 5-0,” where we can catch Grace Park, Daniel Dae Kim, Masi Oka, and a bunch of Asian extras showing face on the beautiful island(s) of Hawaii.

Other returning shows include Mindy Kaling’sThe Mindy Project” (a.k.a. funnier than “New Girl”) on Fox, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with Ming Na-Wen, and Sendhil Ramamurthy in the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Two fan favorites that are reportedly seeing their last season this fall are “Parks and Recreation” with Aziz Ansari as well as the sliding-in-the-ratings musical extravaganza  “Glee” starring Harry Shum Jr., Jenna Ushkowitz, and Darren Criss (yup, he’s half-Filipino).

The New Shows on the Block

The biggest talk of the town is ABC’s new show, “Fresh Off The Boat,” based on Eddie Huang’s book of the same title. As we wrote before, the show is a big deal for so many reasons. In addition to a lead Asian cast (Hudson Yang, Constance Wu, Ian Chen, Forrest Wheeler, and Randall Park), the show has Nahnatchka Khan and Kourtney Kang in producing roles.

John Cho takes some time out of his “Star Trek” Sulu schedule to star in the ABC show “Selfie,” which has been dubbed as a modern day “Pygmalion” and “My Fair Lady.” It follows a fame-hungry social media obsessed girl who hires a marketing expert (that would be Cho) to revamp her image after an embarrassing viral video.

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Cho’s “Harold and Kumar” partner in crime Kal Penn will also be on TV in “Battle Creek” on CBS. Co-created by Vince Gilligan, the show stars Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters as two detectives who try to “clean up the streets of Battle Creek.” Penn stars as detective on the show.

Detectives seem to be a popular theme in Fall TV this season because in “Stalker” on CBS, Maggie Q stars as—you guessed it—one-half a detective team that investigates—you guessed it again—stalkers.

In terms of Asians behind the camera, big time Hollywood blockbuster director Justin Lin will switch gears to TV by directing CBS’s “Scorpion,” a show where a bunch of super-geniuses fight against “complicated threats of the modern world.”

The Last Hurrah for These Shows

It was only a matter of time before NBC cult favorite “Community” got the ax. The show starring Danny Pudi and Ken Jeong has always been on the bubble, but the rabid fan base has always saved it and the show’s popular mantra of “Six Seasons and a Movie” has been a beacon of hope. But alas, the show met it’s demise…unless Hulu decides to save it.

It’s sad to see “Nikita” get the boot off of the CW’s lineup. As the first actor of color to play the popular action heroine, Maggie Q broke some major ground. Even so, it’s nice to know that she has a starring role on “Stalker.” Same goes with Liza Lapira. The actress of Filipino/Spanish/Chinese heritage was on “Super Fun Night” which was canceled due to poor ratings. Luckily, Lapira snagged a role on “Battle Creek.”

Finally, there’s “Dads” on Fox, which starred Brenda Song. It will not see a second season. It looks like all the talk about how racist the show was didn’t help.

Whether it is canceled TV shows, promising new pilots or the return of old favorites, it’s impressive to see the progress for Asians and Asian Americans on TV. There’s a lot of them on the screen. At the same time, it’s interesting to see the various portrayals. For every groundbreaking role (Lucy Liu playing a character usually portrayed by an English white male), there is always a borderline racist caricature (see “2 Broke Girls” and “Dads”). We aren’t too far from colorblind casting, but we’re not exactly close to it either.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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