**Some light spoilers ahead.
As a proud Vietnamese-American, I have been thrilled to see more casual Asian-American representation on the screen lately. I followed Wong Fu Productions closely as a teen (I have signed posters and went to the first ISA concert!) and always dreamed of their kind of content being something I could find while flipping through the TV channels.
And so, I am absolutely prepared to simp for anything that comes my way. Because even if it’s not “the best”, it’s something, right? I have some standards, yes, but that’s a tricky can of worms I’m not willing to delve into right now.
Recently, I bought myself a refurbished iPad Pro for drawing, and was happy to see that I had access to Apple TV. With my unused iTunes gift card in tow, I immediately went in on Awkwafina’s new show. I loved her in Hustlers, The Farewell, and of course Crazy Rich Asians, and her music boasts her personality just as much as.. Well, she does. Anything she was in was sure to get a good laugh at me.
Happy to report: it did! Awkwafina is Nora from Queens is a bit of a mouthful of a title, and her name being included raises a few questions, but the show is endearing. It’s a simple story about a loud girl living in a loud city as she tries to navigate through life with essentially no expectations. The title character Nora Lin is a half-Chinese half-Korean American young adult living with her single father Wally (BD Wong) and grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn) with no job, little experience and lots of problems. It’s based on Awkwafina’s own humble beginnings in New York City, and features all sorts of awkward situations like Nora’s bank account being closed due to inactivity, getting her car towed because she read a “No Parking” sign as “Parking”, and getting dragged along on various shenanigans with her Chinese grandma who’s got a sharp tongue and a thirst for anything out of the ordinary. (She keeps a pet pigeon, once.)
The show follows Nora on a series of different adventures which mostly revolve around her trying to get her life “together.” She’s tired of living at home with her dad and grandma, and she needs a job that can support her out in the big city alone. She meets friends (Jennifer Esposito), family members (Bowen Yang), and various family friends who try to help her out – which may or may not work out in the end. The situations are zany and nonsensical at times, but I think that’s the charm of it all.
(Also, Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) and Harry Shum Jr. (Glee, Shadowhunters) guest star in one episode, and it’s such a treat for the eyes.)
While the show itself felt to me like a YouTube series in the way it was written, it was nice background noise during a meal or while doing the laundry. Everyone on the show is funny, organic and knows how to deliver a punchline, but some of the running gags get a little worn-out over time. All in all I appreciate what Awkwafina represents in Nora from Queens: the Asian-American you don’t always hear about in the media. She’s not a super-genius, her parents don’t lecture her over every misdemeanor, she’s not super-edgy but she’s definitely not timid or afraid of like, anything. And she absolutely doesn’t have a random streak of bright-colored hair. (I’m looking at you, various cartoons and movies from the entirety of ever!!) It’s not blatantly thrown in your face all the time that she’s Asian – it’s just sprinkled throughout her life, just like it is in actuality.
She’s just.. Her. Nora Lin is not a stereotype – she is her own character, living her own life, and I love that about her. And so even if it’s not comedy gold or award-winning material, I think Awkwafina is Nora from Queens definitely deserves a shot.
In fact, Comedy Central has renewed the show for a second season, so I’m excited to see where Nora goes next. The 10-episode show is available on Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime and YouTube for purchase, so go on and figure out what the heck Nora is up to in Queens and beyond!