Hyphen TV: Speaking Slower Doesn't Help Anything

February 8, 2011

Dwight embarrasses himself talking to a Chinese restaurant employee on The Office


We got a rare glimpse of some of the Asians in Scranton on this week's episode of The Office. Of course they were employees of a local Chinese restaurant, but that's more or less par for the course in plenty of American suburbs, so I'm not hatin'. Dwight initiated an exchange that I know far too many of us are familiar with: dopey guy who assumes an Asian face = no English. "HAVE YOU SEEN MICHAEL," he enunciated in slow, loud tones. The punchline was no surprise for anyone reading this blog; the restaurant waiter responded with accented but clear sentences, explaining that the paper boss had indeed been inside earlier. Cue Dwight persisting with his dumbed-down talk. File this one under "funny because it's true." Sigh. At least Dwight got his comeuppance when the very large Chinese restaurant showed up for intimidation.

In another scene where we laugh to keep from crying a little, new show Portlandia showcased leads Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein as punked-out, high-voiced Japanese girls who arrive in the States, obsessed with visiting the famed "Coffee Land" of Portland. I admit that I giggled a bit at the details that felt right: the glittery neon hair, the colorful furry boots, the camera encased in a striped Ugly Dolls-like stuffed animal. The girly-girl voices grated a little, though I admit that they're not terribly far off from reality, and I did like the conceit of drinking coffee as a sort of video game -- "Ride complete!" flashed across the screen in English and Japanese after each cup was consumed, every subsequent one smaller than the last until they reached two tiny, doll-sized mugs. At that point the skit turned surreal, as the two "girls" shrank down to the size of their mugs, bringing the (white) guy they were talking to miniature size with them. Not an overtly "offensive" portrayal, and fairly entertaining to boot, but... can an Asian girl not be an exotic, magical Other (oh yes, I am going there, you guys) for once?? I guess there was a bit of a saving grace when Fred's character did her "American impression" and Armisen just spoke in his regular voice, but I hope there are some hip Asian American Portandians in the upcoming episodes. We can be "normal" too, Fred and Carrie!

From sorta-bad news to all-out terrible: Dale totally sucked it up on Top Chef this week. His graffiti-inspired Quickfire dish fell flat for guest judge Isaac Mizrahi, and the pasta he made based on one he makes for his girlfriend got some pretty harsh criticism from the judges. Anthony Bourdain said that “Some bastard in the Witness Protection Program is eating this right now,” and guest judge Lorraine Bracco, when asked whether she'd be happy with getting Dale's dish from a boyfriend, responded, “He’s not getting laid tonight.” Ouch. Okay, so this wasn't your week, Dale. But hey, nowhere to go from here but up, man. Rally! Consider this part of your story arc!

Dale, I promise I won't tell your girlfriend how bad your pasta was.

More rallying needed: Austin and LA! What's with the weaksauce (read: zero) Asian presence in the Idol auditions? Hope you guys just didn't make it on camera/you step it up in San Francisco...

Even my ladies on RuPaul's Drag Race are letting me down! Though I don't blame Raja or Manilla; they clearly had the far weaker team leader for the "Drag Queens in Outer Space" challenge. Manilla in particular stood out in her role as gibberish-spewing space monkey Tweaker (seriously, if you're not watching this show, you're really missing out), and Raja was automatically safe after her win last week won her immunity. I need more from you ladies than that, though! No more of this losing team business!

Wish I had a better shot of Raja (third from right) and Manilla (far right). And why isn't Manilla wearing her monkey ears?

Okay so it was a disappointing week for Hyphen TV. But I have high hopes for next week: the return of Glee, the premiere of Top Shot (oh I am not kidding), Idol's Hollywood week... Stay tuned!


Dianne Choie


Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.