Asians on TV: The Returning, The New, The Canceled

Check out the Asian faces in the Fall TV lineup, including John Cho, Mindy Kaling and more.

This Fall’s TV season starts in September and there are plenty of TV shows coming back to the major networks. Some of the shows you might recognize, and others are new. Then there are those that we have to say goodbye to because of one of two reasons: 1.) the show is bowing out gracefully after a long run on TV or 2.) it’s getting the ax because it’s not performing well. Whatever the case is, there’s an impressive amount of Asian Americans gracing small screens on all across the country on the major networks. As of now, here’s a list of which shows with which Asians will be returning, which ones will be canceled, and the new shows on the block.

Renewed shows

The cast of Hawaii 5-0 includes Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim.
The cast of Hawaii 5-0 includes Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim.

There aren’t many big surprises here. CBS leads the networks in the number of returning shows with Asian characters. Their cash cow, Big Bang Theory with Kunal Nayyar (who plays Raj) is coming back for its eighth season…and whether you like it or not, according to its IMDb page, it will live on for a 9th and 10th season. Matthew Moy comes back to 2 Broke Girls in his role as Han Lee, a character who has been seen as a caricature…and almost racist portrayal of Asians. (See what he had to say about it here).

Emmy-award winning Archie Panjabi will be back to join in all the gripping drama in The Good Wife for a 6th Season. Lucy Liu comes back in the role of Dr. Joan Watson for a third season in the modern Sherlock remix, Elementary. And let’s not forget Hawaii 5-0, where we can catch Grace Park, Daniel Dae Kim, Masi Oka, and a bunch of Asian extras showing face on the beautiful island(s) of Hawaii.

Other returning shows include Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project (a.k.a. funnier than The New Girl) on Fox, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Ming Na-Wen, and Sendhil Ramamurthy in the CW’s Beauty and the Beast. Two fan favorites that are reportedly seeing their last season this fall are Parks and Recreation with Aziz Ansari as well as the sliding-in-the-ratings musical extravaganza Glee starring Harry Shum Jr., Jenna Ushkowitz, and Darren Criss (yup, he’s half-Filipino).

The New Shows on the Block

The biggest talk of the town is ABC’s new show, Fresh Off The Boat, based on Eddie Huang’s book of the same title. As we wrote before, the show is a big deal for so many reasons. In addition to a lead Asian cast (Hudson Yang, Constance Wu, Ian Chen, Forrest Wheeler, and Randall Park), the show has Nahnatchka Khan and Kourtney Kang in producing roles.

Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q in Stalker.
Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q in CBS’ Stalker.

John Cho takes some time out of his Star Trek Sulu schedule to star in the ABC show Selfie, which has been dubbed as a modern day Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. It follows a fame-hungry social media obsessed girl who hires a marketing expert (that would be Cho) to revamp her image after an embarrassing viral video.

Cho’s Harold and Kumar partner in crime Kal Penn will also be on TV in Battle Creek on CBS. Co-created by Vince Gilligan, the show stars Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters as two detectives who try to “clean up the streets of Battle Creek.” Penn stars as detective on the show.

Detectives seem to be a popular theme in Fall TV this season because in Stalker on CBS, Maggie Q stars as—you guessed it—one-half a detective team that investigates—you guessed it again—stalkers.

In terms of Asians behind the camera, big time Hollywood blockbuster director Justin Lin will switch gears to TV by directing CBS’s Scorpion, a show where a bunch of super-geniuses fight against “complicated threats of the modern world.”

The Little Cult Show That Could

The cast of Community.
The cast of Community.

It was only a matter of time before NBC cult favorite Community got the ax. The show starring Danny Pudi and Ken Jeong has always been on the bubble, but the rabid fan base has always saved it and the show’s popular mantra of “Six Seasons and a Movie” has been a beacon of hope. But alas, the show met it’s demise….or has it? There were rumblings of Hulu stepping in to save it but those rumors were quickly put to rest. Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Yahoo recently swooped in and saved the show from its demise. The show will continue to live online with a sixth season like the mantra suggests. Does this mean a movie is in the near future?



The Last Hurrah for These Shows

The cast of Dads

It’s sad to see Nikita get the boot off of the CW’s lineup. As the first actor of color to play the popular action heroine, Maggie Q broke some major ground. Even so, it’s nice to know that she has a starring role on Stalker. Same goes with Liza Lapira. The actress of Filipino/Spanish/Chinese heritage was on Super Fun Night which was canceled due to poor ratings. Luckily, Lapira snagged a role on Battle Creek.

Finally, there’s Dads on Fox, which starred Brenda Song. It will not see a second season. It looks like all the talk about how racist the show was didn’t help.

Whether it is canceled TV shows, promising new pilots or the return of old favorites, it’s impressive to see the progress for Asians and Asian Americans on TV. There’s a lot of them on the screen. At the same time, it’s interesting to see the various portrayals. For every groundbreaking role (Lucy Liu playing a character usually portrayed by an English white male), there is always a borderline racist caricature (see 2 Broke Girls and Dads). We aren’t too far from colorblind casting, but we’re not exactly close to it either.

Dino-Ray Ramos

Main image: John Cho in Selfie, an upcoming ABC show. This article is crossposted at XFinity TV.


  • you forgot Chloe Benet (half chinese) from marvel’s agent of shield, and Kristin Kreuk(half chinese) from beauty and the beast

  • Didn’t mention Ken Leung from The Night Shift as Topher and his prior TV and film roles; LOST, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Shanghai Kiss, Person Of Interest as Leon Tao and Sucker Free City.

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