Fresh Off the Boat‘s latest episode, “Shaquille O’Neal Motors,” feels like the show’s first real stab at story continuity, and it’s a welcome addition. It was fun hearing the funny moments from the first season come back around in this episode. More like this, please.
I had ridden Minority Report hard about its world-building and how it might not be fast enough for the viewers or FOX’s patience. That’s not something I had to ride Fresh Off the Boat about, since the world is something we already know; it’s the ’90s. Not all of us might be familiar with the finer workings of your average Chinese-American household, but we over the age of 22 all know what the ’90s in America felt like.
But one thing the show hadn’t done was callback earlier jokes. Sure, calling back jokes within the first season of the show might have been overkill or improbable, so why worry about that? But now that we’re in the second season, it only dawned on me that the show had yet to go back to funnier moments to create a more well-rounded continuity instead of the straight shot of linear time we were getting. “Shaquille O’Neal Motors” is now the new precedent for Fresh Off the Boat‘s world-building, and I can’t wait to see what other jokes they’ll pull from now that there’s a small storage.
Perhaps it was because Shaq was there that we got to see a lot of callbacks, since the biggest callback involved him and his failed Shaq-Fu. But the other fun callback of the night includes the running joke of Season 1, someone exclaiming in anger-fueled surprise and confusion, “The hell?!” This time, that honor falls to the littlest Huang, Evan, who was shocked when Eddie sold his precious Beanie Babies (called in the show something like Beanie Buddies or somesuch) to get the latest craze in home water activities, The HotDogger. (First of all, that’s not something I’d buy my kids, simply because of the name. I don’t want my kids swimming in a hot dog-shaped piece of plastic. Secondly, was the ’90s really this full of useless water slides? They got the commercial right, since I remember seeing commercials with these types of products all over my TV as a kid.)
Aside from Shaq-Fu, my other favorite callback was Jessica retreating to her favorite bar (which is, unbeknownst to her, a lesbian bar) to lick her wounds over missing a deal on their car on her and Louis’ wedding day. I thought we’d never see that bar again. Good to see it’s still the hole-in-the-wall it was before. (There’s a dirty, punny joke in that sentence, but I’m not going to make it.) The lesbian bar brings up another joke from last season; Jessica’s lack of gaydar.
Also: PERT PLUS IS BACK. WHOO!
One thing I did find charming in this episode is how Louis and Jessica find romance in the most non-romantic things. I like how they aren’t necessarily romantic people (because only non-romantics go to a car dealership on their wedding day), but you can still tell that they love each other. Again, since I have to involve my family in these Fresh Off the Boat recaps in some form or another, this aspect reminds me of my parents. They aren’t the most romantic folks—heck, they even forget their anniversary every year and it’s up to us kids to remind them—but you can tell they love each other.
Last note: Shaq. I thought he did really good; I even laughed out loud at his “raise this damn door!” sight gag. Out of all of the basketball players who have acted, Shaq’s career could be categorized as having elements of Michael Jordan’s star power (Space Jam), Grant Hill’s reasonable acting talent (Living Single) and LeBron James’ on-screen likable hamminess (Trainwreck). However, while we ride Shaq on his laughable performance as the title genie character in Kazaam, most people forget that it wasn’t even Michael Jordan who started the trend of ’90s basketball stars having movie careers; it was Shaq, who starred 1994’s Blue Chips, 1996’s Kazaam (a film that came out in the same year as Space Jam), and then in 1997’s Steel as the Marvel superhero of the same name (a film that was also laughable). Out of everyone, Shaq’s been the main basketball actor that’s kept putting his toes in the movie business. Let’s not even get started on his groundbreaking (YES, GROUNDBREAKING) rap career. He wanted to be a triple threat, and I think, in his own way, he was.
This is a long way of saying that Shaq, thanks to your tongue-in-cheekness in this Fresh Off the Boat episode, poking fun at yourself and for throwing jabs at Charles Barkley, you are forgiven for Kazaam and Steel. But if I had to say which basketball player seemed like a natural actor, that honor would go to Dwight Howard (he was best thing in Just Wright).
What did you think of the episode? What’d you think of Shaq’s cameo?