No go for Asian Americans on primetime

I almost forgot with the war going on that “Black Sash” was premiering on the WB. Of course, my trusty TiVo was programmed to pick up stuff with Russell Wong, so I was happily reminded as it started recording the new show.

Unfortunately, I was not so happily impressed by the show itself. Yes, as I’m writing this, there’s still 20 minutes to go in the pilot, but so far, the show has been some updated version of “The Karate Kid”, except not as good as that might sound. Wong is an ex-cop who was set up by his former partner, getting caught with tons o’heroine and being sent to a Hong Kong prison for 5 years. He’s back in the Yay Area now and he’s teaching martial arts to a group of teenagers (none who are Asian it seems) and being the Mr. Miyagi of today’s angsty teens– there’s the the angry girl who wants to avenge her father’s murder, the abused teen trying to get out of a battered home, the nerdy girl who’s actually ridiculously hot and is pining away for a boy, and the black kid who, outside of a gadget habit and being the object of nerdy girl’s affection, seems pretty much to be included because he’s the black kid. And hey, after Jim Kelly’s crucial part in “Enter the Dragon”, you’ve always got to have the black dude who is into martial arts. I’m all for promoting Black-Asian relations.

I’m all for sentimental angsty crap– I watch “Everwood” after all– but this is just ridiculous. Wong needs to earn money to pay for a lawyer so he can get visitation rights with his daughter (who is apparently supposed to be mixed, but doesn’t look it at all), so he does some bounty hunter work for a bail bondsman (who, incidentally, is played by Simon from the movie “Go”). Most of the bad guys are Asian, so Wong gets to have fancy kung-fu style fight scenes interlaced with bits of Asian/martial arts discipline bits of wisdom for his trouble students. There’s even an old Chinese man– “Master Lee”– to be the elderly sage that Wong turns to when he needs help.

So, in the end, about 20 minutes of the 40 to 45 minute episode are just mediocre fight scenes that don’t even measure up to the ones in “Vanishing Son” and the rest is poorly acted, simplistic, formulaic drama. When I first heard that Russell Wong (who incidentally is looking more and more Caucasian as he gets older) was getting his own TV show again, I was excited– even if it required him to use the martial arts expert Asian stereotype. Unfortunately, I can’t even watch the show out of Asian solidarity. Why can’t they just make a show about a family or some dude that happens to also be Asian? Why they got to make it all about kung fu and shit? *sigh*