vulture tv awards 2015

The Best Couple of the Year Is Fresh Off the Boat’s Louis and Jessica

Announcing...The Best Couple
Photo-illustrations by Maya Robinson

All this week, we’re presenting the Vulture TV Awards, honoring the best in television from the past year.

The nominees are:

Louis and Jessica, Fresh Off the Boat
Jane and Rafael, Jane the Virgin
Danny and Mindy, The Mindy Project
Bob and Linda, Bob’s Burgers
Stef and Lena, The Fosters

And the Best Couple is …

Louis and Jessica, Fresh Off the Boat

Every TV couple, like every couple in real life, has problems, and the strength of their relationship is determined by how well they handle them. The Mindy Project’s Mindy and Danny approach life differently, which leads to silly misunderstandings and, occasionally, heartache. Rafael struggles to meet Jane’s expectations on Jane the Virgin. These couples are flawed and realistic, their issues familiar. Fresh Off the Boat’s Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu) Huang have problems, too, but unlike most couples we see on TV, their biggest problems are specific to being immigrants in America. The Taiwanese husband and wife deal with the alienation of moving to a predominantly white city, building a business from the ground up, and raising children in an unfamiliar culture, all in a foreign language. For handling everything with such tenacity and humor, Louis and Jessica are the best TV couple of the year.

A sitcom based loosely on the childhood of restaurateur Eddie Huang, Fresh Off the Boat tends to make light of their issues — a fledgling restaurant, judgmental family, and losing their identities all become fodder for amusement. When Jessica and Louis discuss their problems, it’s to Constance Wu and Randall Park’s credit that they can convey the worry behind their words without making it heavy for the audience. Because, hell, it takes a fierce work ethic to leave your home country and start from scratch. Louis and Jessica made that decision together, and they’ve acted as a team ever since. More than any other couple on this list, they want the same things out of life, and every choice they make is to stay the course.

That course is what motivates so many immigrant couples in America: “I want more than okay for us,” Louis says in the pilot. “I’m with you,” Jessica responds. This theme echoes throughout the show’s first season, and time and again, Louis and Jessica work together, as friends and partners, to realize the life they envisioned. Immigrants necessarily have a practical view of the world, and Louis and Jessica present a healthy image of how two people can struggle together and still maintain a sense of personhood. They support each other’s dreams, but also understand their insecurities. In “Success Perm,” they try to create the illusion that they’re the more successful couple when their wealth-obsessed family comes for a visit. “They’ll be in for a surprise when they see how well we’re doing,” Jessica says. “But we’re not,” Louis points out. “Yes, but they don’t know that,” Jessica responds slyly. “I’ve never loved you more,” Louis grins.

All this may sound unsentimental, but it’s not. For Louis and Jessica, America is a place where nothing is familiar — nothing, except the person next to them. “We are always honest with each other. We are the most successful couple,” Jessica smiles as they say good-bye to their visiting family, whom they discover are worse off than they are. “You realize we’re swimming in debt, too?” Louis asks. “Yes,” Jessica says, “but we’re swimming together.”

What could be more sentimental than that?

Vulture TV Awards: Best Couple