I love television shows. I’m also keen on seeing more Asian representations on television. So when K-Town (aka Jersey Shore for Asians) finally made its online debut after casting changes and delays, I had to watch it, of course.
Lots of drinking, hair-pulling, drinks being thrown, etc. What else did I expect?
Despite my reservations, I dutifully introduced this show to another Asian Canadian friend, and we ended up having a K-Town marathon on her big-screen TV. After binging on the drama, we inevitably asked ourselves the question that many people have asked about this show: Is this show good for Asian Americans?
I mostly find the men’s portrayal on the show more interesting than the women’s, mainly because we don’t see many Asians in “jock” or “partier” (or I might even say “ditz” if I’m feeling mean) roles. It’s also kind of refreshing to see a host of Asian Americans existing as an entire world, rather than as tokens in a white-washed one of mainstream television. It has the Asians: they’re just like us! effect. Even if that “just like us” message is geared towards…shirtlessness and belligerence. (note: the pictures from the Disgrasian link feature some of the old cast members, who are no longer on the current version of the show)
Then again, K-Town’s failed distribution deal with MTV is perhaps telling of the racial landscape of television — whereas Italian Americans were seen as capable of capturing a wider audience, Asian Americans are not there yet.
But race might not be the only factor that hindered its success. In my opinion, there is a general absence of heightened drama in K-Town that prevent it from being a true guilty pleasure. From what I can tell, the show (as it is now, after some casting changes) seems to consist mostly of friends who knew each other before, besides a couple of additions. This gives the viewer a sense of intruding upon something that was already established, rather than growing with new relationships. MTV shows got this down pat, with The Real World as well as Jersey Shore – where a bunch of strangers came to live in one place for a designated purpose of drama for the camera. This helped the viewer to feel like s/he was a part of this relationship.
Also, house footages on Jersey Shore helped to add that dimension of intimacy — something K-Town also lacks. So really, watching K-Town is like watching loud and obnoxious people at a club, something I try to avoid in real life. I’ve seen obnoxious crowds before, so there’s nothing new there. But Jersey Shore gave me something more exclusive, behind-the-scenes workings of an obnoxious crowd (which I don’t get to see). This didn’t necessarily help me understand or empathize with them any more, but there have been the occasional moments of tenderness or friendship that have surprised me. I can’t say the same for K-Town, really.
So will I keep watching? Three episodes later, I remain unconvinced — but it is vacation time for me after all, so who knows?
(If you’re interested in learning more about the show, Schema has weekly updates as well as Twitter chats when new episodes air every Wednesday.)