I was delighted to see that Margaret Cho is returning to television with a new show on VH1. It doesn’t take a deep knowledge of tv history to know about Cho’s first sitcom (and notably, the first Asian American sitcom), All-American Girl and the debacle it became (all of which she chronicles, with a characteristic synthesis of pathos and humor, in I’m the One that I Want).
The LA Times article above features this description of the new show:
“It’s kind of a cross between Madonna’s ‘Truth or Dare,’ ‘Joy Luck Club’ and ‘Little People, Big World,’” she said. In truth, the series follows Cho and her family as they improv their way through scripted situations. During the first episode, Cho tells her parents that a magazine has named her Korean of the Year, and the show follows the family’s trip to San Francisco, where she’ll accept it.
In some ways, the format sounds more like Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm to me.
Cho’s return makes me contemplate the significant changes that television has undergone since All American Girl aired in ’94-’95. In many ways, the sitcom seems like such a dead and deadening form, while the advent of reality television has pushed audiences and performers alike to explore new ways of including live footage into shows. Meanwhile, the scrum of channels fighting for niche markets has apparently turned VH1 into the home for nostalgia, forgotten celebrities (hello, two Coreys!), and subcultural icons. Having said that, I’m surprised that Cho isn’t airing on Bravo—can you imagine a Margaret Cho/Kathy Griffin lineup? Perhaps an end of the season smackdown? [Cho has already appeared on an episode of Life on the D List, where she joins Griffin and Cyndi Lauper for the Gay Pride Parade in Australia. If Cho rates a float there, doesn’t she seem to belong to the Bravo family?]
Regardless, I have high but cautious hopes for the success of Cho’s new show. In part, it’s personal: I have such a soft spot for her, and am so ready to see Asian Americans on television that aren’t pretending to be from another country (see Lost, Heroes, etc.). Better yet, I think Cho may have a better chance outside the confines of the sitcom structure (which, I speculate, may have been more of the problem of the show than America’s unwillingness to see Asian Americans on television. But perhaps I’m too optimistic).
So let’s hear it for the move beyond the sitcom, and look forward to the August 21st airing. Keep your fingers crossed…