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All American Girl
1994 - PG - 570 Mins.
Director: Terry Hughes
Producer: Gail Berman
Written By: everyone but Margaret Cho
Starring: Margaret Cho, Jodi Long, Clyde Kusatsu, Amy Hill, B.D. Wong, J.B. Quon
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:
Based on the stand-up comedy of Korean-American comedienne, Margaret Cho, ‘All American Girl’ is now available on DVD. The 1994-1995 series starred Cho as Margaret Kim, the rebellious middle-child and only daughter of conservative Korean parents who run a San Francisco bookstore. Her eldest brother, Stewart (B.D. Wong), is a doctor. Her kid brother, Eric (J.B. Quon) is in high school. Grandma (Amy Hill), is the wise-cracking TV addict.

For one season and 19 episodes, the very first Asian-American television show delivered bland family style sitcom humor with mixed results. In Cho’s autobiography, she wrote at length about the difficulties of launching and producing the show, with numerous studio-ordered changes and meddling. Even her weight came under studio scrutiny. The result is that the show wavers from episode to episode. The writers – none of whom are Asian – alternated between writing Korean-American ethnic humor or writing a straightforward family comedy. Oddly, Cho herself did not contribute to the writing. Like many TV shows that have died in their freshman year, the show failed to find an audience and its own voice.

However, fans of the show should be pleased that the entire series is in a boxed set with commentaries from Cho and Amy Hill on numerous episodes. It’s almost worth the price alone just to watch the Cho/Hill interview as they pleasantly try to describe the series experience in as nice a way as possible. Cho herself describes the show as "Saved by the Gong." Given Cho’s onstage bitterness over the show – the ‘All American Girl’ experience is central to her stand-up routine today (see her concert show, 'I'm the One That I Want' ); it’s fascinating to watch her talk about that year with such restraint. It’s like asking Kim Basinger to do a DVD commentary for ‘Boxing Helena.’

Shot in 1994-1995, the show is a contemporary of other family fare like ‘Full House.’ It's entertaining without being memorable. Cho’s character does this strange episode-to-episode change, from valley girl to punker to clubber. You can practically read the studio notes – “make her girlier, make her wilder, make her sweeter, make her the Asian Roseanne!” The sets also change almost episode to episode, as they try to accommodate different story lines, like Margaret getting her own apartment, sharing an apartment with friends, and, inexplicably, in its final episode, ended up rooming with 3 college guys – one played by Diedrich Bader, who landed on his feet with 'All American Girl's time slot successor, 'The Drew Carrey Show.' (DVD box notes explain that the final episode was actually a pilot for a new series that never materialized.)

Numerous guest stars, including Oprah and Quentin Tarantino, make appearances in various attempts to prop up the show’s ratings. It’s also fun to see a couple faces before they were famous – like Jack Black and Ming-Na.

Amy Hill steals most episodes as the wisecracking grandmother. Unfortunately, other characters don’t do so well, particularly Jodi Long, who, as Margaret’s mother, plods through the show with a bad Asian accent and fortune cookisms. Given the success of other shows which were based on stand-up routines – think ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Home Improvement’ – it’s a shame that ‘All American Girl’ didn’t last beyond one season. One look at the writing credits might offer a clue – although Tim Allen and Jerry Seinfeld wrote for their own shows, Cho depended on other writers to interpret her work, and sanitize it for sitcom TV. Whatever the experience, this show will at least have a footnote in history as the first Asian-American sitcom.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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