Comedy Central Tries, Again
Awkwafina is already a well established actress and rapper. With film’s like The Farewell, Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians on her resume, it makes sense that she would eventually be given her own television show. Oddly enough, that chance came in the form of Comedy Central’s latest late night, half hour show, Nora From Queens.
I’m sorry, I meant to say: Comedy Central’s Awkwafina is Nora From Queens… just saying it like that makes me wince harder than having to say “Tyler Perry presents” before the title of anything.
After two episodes, a few things are very clear about what we are in store for: stoner comedy with absurd premises and just a little bit of family bounding that all smacks of predictability.
Old Tropes and Family Moments
In the pilot episode, Nora laments over still living at home and briefly moves out with a friend who is a well to do lawyer. While the moving-out-right-of-passage theme isn’t new, it’s used here merely as a launch pad for the rest of the episode. The trope plays out in about three or four minutes of the opening scenes and then it’s off to the races.
Before she even sets foot in the apartment, Nora is told to stay out of a certain room of said apartment and to never answer the lan line. While the lan line bit is just the ignition point for Nora to barge into the aforementioned room, before we even get to this point, you know the lawyer friend is using the room to finance whatever it is she does outside of lawyering. Or the room harbors something so weird that it would send Nora running for the hills. Turns out, it’s the former.
Nora’s friend failed the bar and she’s been a cam girl ever since. She brings Nora into the fold which results in Nora burning down the entire apartment. This joke is hard to swallow because the fire begins and in the very next scene, Nora is living in her car because, according to her, she burned down the apartment. I honestly felt like this was a joke that reached too far.
I can’t stand when people try to find plausibility in fiction, but this example made me think “Nora started the fire with her costume on and then the whole apartment is burnt down? And we’re suppose to accept the joke as is with zero consequences for Nora outside of living in her car?” If that last bit made you grit your teeth, well, now you know how I feel when people say the same sort of stuff about The Walking Dead.
The best part about this episode is the monologue by BD Wong, who plays Awkwafina’s father, Wally. It’s awkward and heart felt and gives you the sense that Nora is a weird-o because that’s the family she comes from. It makes you wish you were a part of that bond. Nora’s dad and grandmother, played by Lori Tan Chinn, are the glue that hold the family theme together between the two episodes that have aired so far.
More Predictability and Millennial Jokes
In the second episode, Nora ends up getting kicked in the crotch and begins queefing uncontrollably before getting invited to her friend’s boyfriend’s recording session. Before we even get to the studio, we know that the absurd Sound Cloud “producer” will beg to record her queefs, which happens, leaving zero shock and surprise. While this episode does a decent job of lampooning the status of young millennials and their pursuit of whatever, it still wears on, predictable as ever.
Once again the family is what brings it home for Nora, this time in the form of her hippy commune living aunt who gives her life advice while bogarting Nora’s weed. Funny, heartfelt and one the best moments of the episode (the other best moment includes Wally going on a horrible Tinder date).
After the Credits Roll
After watching both episodes, I felt a bit conflicted. There are quick jokes on Awkwafina’s part that are hilarious if you manage to catch them with Nora’s under-the-breath confused tone. My personal favorite joke is the way people sporadically say the word “No!”. It’s funny and unexpected no matter what the question is beforehand. The story set ups, however, are completely predictable. Hopefully that will change moving forward in the series, after all, you’ve got to start somewhere.
After reading a review from the Washington Post, I learned that the show is suppose to be auto-biographical if Awkwafina never got famous in the first place. True life but not really, don’t those two things cancel each other out? I was hoping this show would be a mix of ridiculous fiction and true story’s from Nora’s adolescence, but it sounds like a company trying to out do a previous out there success, Broad City.
There are moments you can truly enjoy, but ultimately, it feels like Comedy Central is trying to fill the massive void left by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Hopefully the rest of the season will grow into something special, especially if dad and grandma continue to have their own sub-stories. We shall see in the weeks to come. For now, it’s nice knowing that the stoners of the world still have a comedic outlet to exploit.