All-American Girl (1994 TV series)

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All-American Girl
Created by Margaret Cho
Gary Jacobs
Starring Margaret Cho
Amy Hill
Jodi Long
Clyde Kusatsu
Maddie Corman
Ashley Johnson
Judy Gold
J.B. Quon
Andrew Lowery
Diedrich Bader
with Sam Seder
and B.D. Wong
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 19
Production
Running time 22–24 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run September 14, 1994 (1994-09-14) – March 15, 1995 (1995-03-15)

All-American Girl is a 1994 ABC situation comedy starring Margaret Cho and featuring Jodi Long, Clyde Kusatsu, Amy Hill, B.D. Wong, and J.B. Quon as her Korean-American family.[1]

It is the second American sitcom centered on a person of Asian descent (Korean), namely Cho. (Pat Morita's short-lived 1976 sitcom Mr. T and Tina was the first.)[2]

Notable guest stars during the run of the show include Oprah Winfrey, Jack Black, David Cross, Ming-Na, Vicki Lawrence, Quentin Tarantino, Tsai Chin, Mariska Hargitay, Billy Burke, Robert Clohessy and Garrett Wang.

Diedrich Bader was a one time regular in the last episode of All American Girl, which was a pseudo pilot for a proposed but unrealized version of All American Girl, before achieving fame on The Drew Carey Show. On the DVD commentary for the series, Margaret Cho revealed that most of All American Girl's set furniture was reused by The Drew Carey Show.

Premise and production notes[edit]

At the time the show was launched, the premise centered around Cho, as Margaret Kim. The onscreen Margaret was a twenty-three-year-old, modern American young woman who lived with her more traditional Korean family. She had a contentious relationship with her mother (Long).[3]

Themes often revolved around Margaret's desire to live a wild lifestyle and her parents' disapproval. Also in the family was a zany (but wise) grandmother (Hill) and Margaret's over-achieving medical student brother Stuart (Wong).[4]

Margaret worked as the clerk at the beauty counter of a department store, and her friends Gloria (Judy Gold) and Ruthie (Maddie Corman) were often seen interacting with her. Various episodes found Margaret trying to reconcile her own desires - dating whomever she wanted, finding a career in music or stand-up comedy, and living on her own - with her parents' more traditional expectations of her.

Midway through the season, the premise changed and Margaret moved into the basement of her parents' house. In an effort to boost the ratings, producers and writers kept tweaking the premise.[5]

By the final episode, the entire cast, except for Cho and Hill, was fired. With very little explanation, Margaret suddenly was living with three men (Phil, Jimmy, and Spencer). One of the roommates was played by Diedrich Bader, who went on to success in The Drew Carey Show; also, actress Mariska Hargitay appeared as a sassy bartender. Hill made a guest appearance, briefly mentioning the support of Margaret's parents for her decision to move out on her own. In this new scenario, Margaret worked for a music magazine but struggled with typical issues for a young adult, such as paying the phone bill. This episode was shot on film rather than tape and was a pilot for a proposed but unrealized follow-up series, The Young Americans.

During the run of the show Amy Hill's character Grandma became the most popular character on the show and was arguably considered the breakout character of the show. This was even noted in the interview by Margaret Cho and Amy Hill that they gave in the show's 2006 DVD release.

Behind the scenes[edit]

Producers initially described the show as being semi-autobiographical and based loosely on Cho's stand-up comedy; however, in the commentary track of the DVD set release, Cho pointedly states, "This is not based on my stand-up" every time the tag "Based on the stand-up of Margaret Cho" appears at the end of an episode. The show's format was continually being changed by producers and the network in an attempt to boost poor ratings, and the result was criticized as a poorly written show. It was canceled in 1995, after one season (19 episodes).[6]

Cho has gone on to comment on the challenges of making the show. The details of these challenges have been outlined in her one-woman show and book, I'm The One That I Want.

  • Cho states she was asked to lose a large amount of weight in order to play a character based on herself. Producers and network officials were concerned about the roundness of her face.
  • She was advised that she was not acting Asian enough; an Asian Consultant was hired to teach her to be more Asian.[7] When this angle was not successful, the Asian members of the cast (except Cho herself and Amy Hill) were dropped and replaced with a group of white friends for the main character to interact with. Cho claims she was then told she was too Asian for this new format.
  • Cho's desperation to make the show a success led to decisions that affected her health negatively. Her rapid weight loss (30 pounds in 2 weeks) in order to complete the pilot episode caused serious kidney failure.[8]

When the show was canceled, she spiraled into drug and alcohol addiction, on which she has since based much material in her live stage shows.[9][10]

Reception[edit]

The show gained a mixed reception from critics and a mostly negative reception from the Asian American community.[11]

Ratings[edit]

  • 1994-1995: #51 10.6

DVD release[edit]

The complete series was released on DVD in a four disc set from Shout! Factory/Sony BMG Music Entertainment on January 31, 2006, featuring commentary by Cho, joined twice by Hill, on one episode per disc and a new retrospective featurette featuring new interviews with Cho and Hill.[12]

Episode list[edit]

  1. “Mom, Dad, This is Kyle” (originally aired on September 14, 1994) (Commentary by Cho included on DVD)
  2. “Submission: Impossible” (originally aired on September 21, 1994)
  3. “Who's the Boss?” (originally aired on September 28, 1994)
  4. “Yung At Heart” (originally aired on October 5, 1994)
  5. “Redesigning Women” (originally aired on October 12, 1994)
  6. “Booktopus” (originally aired on October 19, 1994)
  7. “Mommie Nearest” (originally aired on October 26, 1994)
  8. “Take My Family, Please” (originally aired on November 2, 1994) (Commentary by Cho and Hill included on DVD)
  9. “Exile On Market Street” (originally aired on November 16, 1994)
  10. “Ratting On Ruthie” (originally aired on November 23, 1994)
  11. “Educating Margaret” (originally aired on November 30, 1994)
  12. “Loveless in San Francisco” (originally aired on December 7, 1994)
  13. “Malpractice Makes Perfect” (originally aired on December 14, 1994)
  14. “The Apartment” (originally aired on January 11, 1995) (Commentary by Cho and Hill included on DVD)
  15. “Notes from the Underground” (originally aired on January 18, 1995)
  16. “Venus de Margaret” (originally aired on January 25, 1995)
  17. “A Night at the Oprah” (originally aired on February 14, 1995)
  18. “Pulp Sitcom” (originally aired on February 22, 1995) (Commentary by Cho included on DVD)
  19. “Young Americans” (originally aired on March 15, 1995)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Du Brow, Rick (September 4, 1994). "COVER STORY : True Tales of TV Trauma: 3 Comics Chase Roseanne-dom : Margaret Cho : She's the freshman. But the 25-year-old Korean American has another role to play besides the 'All-American Girl.' Cho is hoping to be a groundbreaker.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  2. ^ Southgate, Martha (October 30, 1994). "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Prime Time". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  3. ^ Braxton, Greg (September 14, 1994). "It's All in the (Ground-Breaking) Family : Television: As a sitcom centered on Asian Americans, 'All-American Girl' is being monitored by advocacy groups concerned about racial stereotypes. Welcome to the pressure cooker.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  4. ^ Emily Wo. "Beyond the Color Line : Asian American Representations in the Media". Scholarship.claremont.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  5. ^ Kang, K. Connie (March 11, 1995). "'Girl' Undergoes Major Changes Amid Criticism". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  6. ^ "Saved by the Gong". Slate. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  7. ^ "No Laughing Matter - Margaret Cho sounds off on political correctness, Asians in the media, and defying her parents". Jade Magazine. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  8. ^ "Margaret Cho: She's the One that She Wants". Asia Society. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  9. ^ Matsumoto, Jon (October 22, 1996). "She Takes Failure Standing Up". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  10. ^ Matsumoto, Jon (October 25, 1996). "Skewer Days : In the Study of Stereotypes, Margaret Cho Is a Sharp Student". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  11. ^ Chung, Philip W. (December 5, 1994). "All-American Girl': Is It Good or Bad Television? A Positive Look at the Sitcom". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  12. ^ "All American Girl". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 

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