Fresh Off The Boat: By The Numbers

On this valiant day, February 21, 2020, ABC sitcom Fresh Off The Boat leaves the air when primetime programming begins tonight.  Rather than pulling phony social graces like a Scottsdale Housewife, TVRG will rather ask readers to examine the data, play by play.  Based on a 90's gram through the life of adolescent Eddie Huang (Forrest Wheeler), the series intended to piggyback on The Goldbergs's success of the same vision in the 80's.  Though intended as the central focus, Constance Wu overtook the spotlight as his ambitious and centered mother, Jessica.

FOTB came into ABC's airwaves as not its first, but most successful sitcom showcasing an Asian American family.  And after entering it's second season, FOTB continued trendsetting records as it was not the first, but second sitcom on ABC's airwaves featuring an Asian dominant family as Ken Jeong vehicle Dr. Ken joined the Friday lineup).  Neither like nor associated, both earned renewals and showcased ordinarly familial problems in said demographic (and each differing, as FOTB managed to annoy the canned laughter method).  FOTB only lived that glimpse for two years as Dr. Ken waded out in 2017, and continued to sail through the schedule where needed.  Being a (then outsourced show from FOX), Fresh Off The Boat rotated across ABC's schedule as an afterthought.  Initially enjoying two helpings in the plum timeslot leading into Modern Family, FOTB was forced to colonize some of ABC's toughest timeslots.  As seen from every rating listed below, pick out where its timeslot moved and play along for its 6 seasons:


Behold all episodes and seasons listed.  Debuting to a healthy 2.51 rating mid-season in 2015, FOTB enjoyed a cozy nook juxtaposed to Modern Family.  For two rude episodes.   Beyond that, they were forced to lead a struggling Tuesday night with struggling reality variety show Repeat After Me leading into a declining Marvel: Agents of Shield.  Sound insulting?  An underappreciated propped further into the schedule the following season behind a Muppets revival.  While most tuned in initially for an Office/Muppets mashup, the novelty wore off, and Muppets faded fast.  After determining its "lead in" dragged down its success, ABC yanked muppets, swishing FOTB back to 8:00 (in its 4th timeslot) move to support newbie The Real O'Neal's.

Being moved around like an undesirable wedding guest and forced to support duds led to deterioration.  The first time FOTB dipped below the 1.0 demo line this season was as shocking as Christmas Story's Ralphie yelping "Oh Fudge!"   Shocking then, but this series had many F-bombs in wait.  Given ABC desired to recolonize comedies on Tuesdays the following year, Fresh Off The Boat moved again to 9:00.  Now powered behind powerhouse American Housewife (and drained again with The Real O'Neal's), FOTB performed moderately its 3rd season.  ABC expressed interest, granting a special evening on Wednesday in January 2017 to its debut timeslot. While strong, it performed at 80% of where the usual competition performed. Impressively, FOTB retained 89.8% of the prior seasons' ratings set against continual Nielsen declines.

Season 4 arrived with the series' 6th move, sliding forward 30 minutes to 8:30.  Juxtaposed to veterans The Middle and Black-ish, what could go wrong?  Peer pack to the last paragraph at the first time the series dipped below the 1.0 demo.  Five episodes in, this became the norm.  Instead of "Oh Fudge!" the expression became "Oh, shit" in episode 69.  Followed by "Ahh shit!" in episode 72.  And taking an ode to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, episodes 74-79 resembled Napoleon in the bowling alley foully expelling "Shit, shit, shit shit shit shit!!!!!!"  ABC truncated FOTB at 19 episodes, leaving it s future questionable.

The network renewed the series, although it would mov a 7th time to 8:00 on Fridays.  Attempting to re-establish comedies this evening, ABC chose to selected an aging franchise (FOTB) and a weakling (Speechless) to populate a graveyard of an evening destroyed by Once Upon a Time.  FOTB suffered losing almost half of its audience, yet pushed on.  After companion Speechless passed on at the close of the season, FOTB moved an 8th time back a half hour, leaving 15 episodes of finality, represented in the table.  Burning bright at a 2.51 rating in February 2015, the series bows out 5 years and 6 seasons later a full 2 points below at 0.43 for its seasonal average.  And yet the quality burned strong throughout!


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