It’s hardly rare for writers to be unhappy with how Hollywood interprets their books, but they typically cash the checks and keep their gripes to themselves.
Then there’s Eddie Huang.
Huang, the celebrity chef whose memoir forms the basis for ABC’s comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,” went off on a Twitter rant this week about the show, which mines laughs from a Taiwanese American family struggling to adapt to U.S. suburbia in the mid-1990s.
Huang tweeted that he “stood by” the show initially but that “it got so far from the truth that I don’t recognize my own life.” He slammed the show as “artificial.”
“I’m happy people of color are able to see a reflection of themselves” on the series. “But I don’t recognize it,” he wrote.
It’s unclear exactly what set off Huang’s tirade, but his remarks came on the heels of this week’s episode, in which mom Jessica (Constance Wu) tries to overcome her superstition over the number 4, which in Chinese culture is considered unlucky. The episode was written by Ali Wong, a Vietnamese Chinese American stand-up comic.
Huang was unavailable for comment, his publicist said, and ABC declined comment. An email to Wong’s representative was not returned.
The producers have finished making the 13 episodes ordered for the first season, and the show is not currently in production. “Fresh Off the Boat” started strong, with nearly 8 million viewers for the February premiere, according to Nielsen. But ratings have since tumbled, and it’s unclear whether ABC will renew it. The network will announce its fall lineup next month in New York.
Books are a frequent source of inspiration for TV series and movies, and network executives usually try to maintain cordial relations with the authors, at least for marketing and publicity purposes. For example, George R.R. Martin, who wrote the books on which HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” is based, has frequently appeared to promote the show.
But sometimes the relationship sours, leaving bitterness. Stephen King was so unhappy with Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of his thriller “The Shining,” for instance, that he set out to remake his own version, which he did as a three-part TV miniseries in 1997.
For ABC, Huang has become like an outspoken and sometimes discomfiting family member.
In a magazine article earlier this year, Huang called the sitcom a “cornstarch story ... resembling moo goo gai pan.”
He is billed as a “non-writing producer” on the series but apparently has little to do with its day-to-day production.
The credits say the series is “inspired by” his book rather than “based on” it, a change Huang claimed was done to give the writers more liberty to change the story.
“I was a real pain … and after awhile I was like, ‘You know what? You guys don’t even deserve my time,’ ” Huang said during an interview in January. “They don’t want to … hear what I have to say.”
The feeling appears to be mutual, according to his Twitter feed.
“For the record I don’t watch” the show, Huang tweeted Tuesday.