Friday, February 03, 2006
by Caballero Oscuro
Margaret Cho completists now have an opportunity to pick up her short-lived sitcom from the mid-90s, All-American Girl. The DVD set has a few notable extras including commentary for a handful of episodes by Cho and co-star Amy Hill, as well as a brief retrospective also featuring Cho and Hill where they discuss the impact of the show and their perspectives on its run.
All-American Girl was loosely based on Cho’s experiences growing American in a traditional Asian family. While certainly noteworthy as the first US network show to feature an Asian cast, the comedy itself was dreadfully shopworn and commonplace. Cho has since gone on to great acclaim as a sharp, insightful standup comedian, so it’s a bit of a letdown to find her talents so woefully hidden in this production. However, she and her supporting cast are game and pleasant enough, especially Amy Hill as her TV-addicted, comically accented grandma.
The series is a classic "fish out of water" story, with Cho’s American attitudes continually clashing with her family’s traditional views on topics such as dating, employment and education. Her mother is her primary antagonist, while her father is the calm mediator. A couple of brothers and Cho’s girl friends are also along for the ride, but rarely contribute much more than throwaway one-liners each episode. The grandma gets the best material, usually via her comments during her time channel surfing through every possible bad show on the air. In one of her funniest episodes, she becomes a Nielsen rating participant, ultimately allowing her to offer the observation that ratings shouldn’t be the only deciding factor to keeping shows on the air, quality should count for something as well. Unfortunately, the show was just starting to show hints of quality at that point, so there was no apparent redeeming value to keeping it on the air. The series was struggling for survival at the time and was cancelled around a month after this episode aired.
The show seems extremely dated now and actually seems like it must have been dated even then, with laughable fashion for Cho and her friends and a horrendous soundtrack that sounds like it was lifted from an 80’s comedy club backup band. ABC had many similar sitcoms airing at the time (I’m looking at you, entire “TGIF” lineup), but for whatever reason Urkel and the Olsen Twins were allowed to prosper while All-American Girl folded. By far the most surprising aspect of this show is that in spite of its many shortcomings, it’s still watchable. It’s certainly not essential viewing by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a bland yet enjoyable serving of comfort food for your TV.