Sunday was, by most accounts, a good night for diversity in the television industry. Among a series of well-deserved Emmy wins (Transparent, Uzo Aduba, Regina King, Jill Soloway) came Viola Davis’s victory as the first black woman named best lead actress in a drama. Her speech offered some much-needed candor: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that simply are not there.” After some tears, the ceremony ended, and the bubble of optimism was punctured somewhat by the show that followed: 2 Broke Girls, a sitcom known for its bungling use of racial humor, often involving a Korean American restaurant owner. It served as an uncomfortable reminder of how much farther Asian Americans have yet to go on the small screen, even as more lead roles open up to them.
ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, which returns for its second season Tuesday, didn’t get any Emmy love after its debut run (the snubbing of worthy comedies like Parks and Recreation prove the awards’ fallibility), but it’s also the kind of show that could conceivably push Asian Americans closer to a statuette. Its lead actress, Constance Wu, was praised for her breakout role as Jessica, the sharp-tongued but loving matriarch of the Huang family. And the show’s first season displayed some of the heart and charm that made Modern Family a long-running comedy favorite until Veep unseated it this year. If Fresh Off the Boat’s second season premiere is any indication, the show hasn’t made any drastic leaps in humor, quality, or ambition. But it looks like the series will continue to deliver consistent chuckles and cleverly subvert stereotypes of Asian American experience—even if they come wrapped in a fairly standard family-sitcom package.