Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

Hyphen TV: Never Gonna Die

Jason, before his first sip of hedonism

Was the So You Think You Can Dance dream too good to last? It was the notoriously brutal Vegas Week on the show, and we watched several of our guys drop like flies. Toshihiko dropped out during the first round, a Tabitha and Napoleon hip hop routine. We only got to see him for a second, but this seemed like a classic case of a talented street dancer not being able to keep up with intense choreography. Meanwhile, bowl dancer Shanshan shocked everyone (including herself, as evidenced by her tears) when she made it through the round, prompting guest judge Jason Derulo to comment on her swag. Unfortunately, she was cut in round two -- a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine -- but she promised to return.

We got a quick glimpse of Megan Yamashita, a ballerina (I believe?) who made it through hip hop and then didn't seem to come up again for the rest of the episode. We also met Sydney Miller, who was much taller and much more skilled at jazz than her partner Jade, an animator who was heavily highlighted throughout the episode. Her frustration with Jade's size and confusion was palpable, but I was shocked when, in front of all the remaining dancers, she asked Sonya if she could switch partners. I'm guessing the producers coerced her into making the request the way she did because that was just plain rude. Sonya reacted angrily, calling the question insulting and adding, "He's not holding you back; you're holding yourself back." The pair managed to get it together for the performance, but not before Nigel chewed her out a bit too: "Never ever call anybody out in public like that," he told her before admitting that he didn't blame her for wanting to switch her weak partner and adding that her willingness to stop at nothing showed how much she wanted to win. Still, the guy is British, and impoliteness is impoliteness. Sydney toyed with the idea of leaving the competition after getting dressed down in front of everyone twice, but then it all became moot when she was cut on the third round, a Stacey Tookey ballroom number. Will anyone be left in the top twenty? It feels to me like this is the least APA representation we've seen in SYTYCD audition/Vegas rounds in a while, but I hope to be proven wrong when we finally meet our top twenty.

Sullivan and Son had its second season premiere this week, and if you liked it last year, you'll still like it this year. The episode had Susan ask her brother Steve to spend time with their brother Jason, who's been working too hard and needs to loosen up. Jason, played by the ever-omnipresent Ken Jeong, was indeed incredibly uptight when he later arrived at the bar, barely taking his eyes off his phone, assessing the poor health of those around him, and prompting Steve's mom Ok Cha to greet her -- as she calls him --  "favorite son" (right in front of Steve, of course).

After a few sips of beer and bites of pizza, Jason quickly unraveled, enjoying all the hedonism he'd suppressed for so long. He quit his job, and when his boss Calvin showed up, he, too, was sucked into the vortex that was epitomized by Jason forcing his boss to have an Irish car bomb while screaming, for some reason, "Sayonara, suckas!" (I guess Ken Jeong can't be around for too long before he does some kind of Asian stereotype performance). This led to a crowd of APA doctors filling the bar, chanting, "We're never gonna die" as Ok Cha looked on with despair. Finally, she couldn't take it any longer: "If you do not go back to work, American society will fall apart. Our people do all the important work. The rest just eat Double Stuff Oreos and watch Honey Booboo." She then rattled off a list of sacrifices that she and other Asian mothers like her have made, making reference to one mother in particular who stripped so that her son (played by Keong Sim, Mike's dad on Glee/Dr. Park on the now-cancelled Monday Mornings!) could go to school. "That was love. Maybe it wasn't perfect, maybe it wasn't American, but it was ours." A liiittle on the nose for me, but this show isn't exactly intended for those familiar with Asian American social issues.

See Mike's dad there, on the right?

The episode ended with a quick succession of Jason wanting to work at the bar, realizing it was more difficult than he expected, and deciding to find balance in his life. In the final scene, he and Susan arrived with their kids in tow, telling Steve about how they were going to Disneyland. But don't worry, everything isn't sunshine and roses -- Ok Cha got right on the couple's son, forcing him to play piano while answering multiplication questions. SO yeah, the show is as broad as ever, and its racial humor plucked from the lowest branches of the comedy fruit tree, but I'm still incredibly impressed that a primetime show with an Asian American, multiracial background lead is in its second season.

Meanwhile, Awkward. had its midseason finale, and in it we saw that Ming has a whole new life post-Becca bitch-out. Driving to school she found herself flagged to a prime parking spot by her fellow APA students, one of whom handed her a fancy specialty latte when she got out of her car. When she snapped her fingers, a crowd of Asian American teens appeared out of nowhere. And later, she told her friends about how she experienced a Transition: She was escorted to a car where she met "a person as elusive and mythical as a unicorn. The guy behind every answer to every test, the guy who runs the numbers and launders mafia funds. The Accountant." Cue little boy in the backseat of the car, wearing a suit and holding a briefcase (and played by Ethan Dizon). He handed Ming a key ("to everything") and a phone with only one number programmed into it. Later, Ming dialed for help with setting up supplies for Tamara's party in record time. Not necessarily the way I would use a free pass to get whatever I want, but I guess I haven't been a teen in a long time. I've liked the way the show plays with Ming's Asianness (though, again, it's often pretty broad and familiar), and I thought the casting of the Accountant as a kid took the stereotypes to a funny extreme. Looking forward to seeing how Ming loses her spot at the top of the hierarchy (she can't stay there forever, right?).

Ready to serve (more lattes?)

Mistresses is still very silly, but also, unfortunately, still not terribly interesting? If you'll remember, psychiatrist Karen had an affair with a married client (Thomas) who was terminally ill and eventually died. Now the client's son Sam is interested in Karen (despite his being about 19), and left her a voicemail. You'd think this wouldn't need to be said, but Karen's friend Savannah advised her not to call the kid, reminding her that she prescribed "lethal doses of morphine" (a phrase that actually came up several times) to his deceased father. Who, let's not forget, she was the mistress of. Karen called anyway, and decided to meet up with him after he mentioned that he'd be going back to school soon. They had what seemed to be a nice chat, he accidentally spilled some coffee on her lap; ha ha, oh well, see ya never.

In the meantime, an insurance investigator was looking into whether Thomas's death was really of natural causes, so he visited Karen's office to discuss her patient and ask whether she had notes from their sessions (she didn't -- those were shredded last episode). Nervous and forced to tell lies, Karen was already on edge after the investigator left when Sam showed up to pay her back for the skirt he ruined earlier. This time, she totally freaked out, screaming "I don't want to see you again!" until he left. Karen needs to check herself before she wrecks herself, for real. You know what keeps me admiring this crazy show, though? Absolutely nothing we've learned about Karen so far is specific to her Asianness. She could be played by literally any actress, and the character would be the same. Thanks for not totally sucking, show!

Lethal doses of morphine...lethal doses of morphine...

Unfortunately, I can't quite say the same for The Hero. While the opportunity to stab one's teammates in the back is interesting, I still find the structure needlessly complicated; though it was nice to see Charles breaking out his Spanish on the streets of Panama. We also learned that when he was 8, Charles's father left him in the middle of South Central LA and told him to find his own way back home. He did, obviously, but...dang. That's beyond even the Tigeriest Mother, am I right? Charles seems like a strong player, but he doesn't seem to be connecting with the other contestants. But maybe that doesn't matter, since the audience eventually votes for the winner? Or something? This show is just too much everything (though not enough shirt for The Rock -- jeez, tight enough for ya?).

"Dude, do you know what's going on?" "No way, man."

On Push Girls, we saw how arduous a simple trip to lunch can be for Angela and Auti, who have to navigate Angela's complicated van over the course of about 40 minutes to get on the road. This set us up for the blatant (but pretty fascinating, I'll admit) commercial for Toyota's line of cars for the disabled, for which Angela shot a print ad. Following last week's decision to let Aunt Judy end her caretaker work to get a paying job, Angela explained that her social security doesn't cover all the costs she has just to get around. Angela posed in her wheelchair on the ramp of a very fancy-looking van, and later we found out that there are vehicles that can be operated with one's elbows, and Angela just might qualify for such a vehicle (of course, how the cost of THAT would be covered isn't mentioned). She did some tests at a driver evaluation center, mentioning how she felt "like the monkey that's going to space," but still happy to recover some of the freedom she lost after her accident. It was pretty amazing (not to mention just plain fascinating) to see the way she was able to manipulate a vehicle on the test course, and I admit I may have gotten a little welled up when she did. For the first time in 11 years, Angela was able to control a vehicle on her own. Dang, science is pretty incredible.

I hope they're paying you with a new car, Ang!

About The Author

Dianne Choie

Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.

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