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All-American Girl (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

All-American Girl
Created byGary Jacobs
StarringMargaret Cho
Jodi Long
Clyde Kusatsu
Amy Hill
Maddie Corman
Ashley Johnson
Judy Gold
J.B. Quon
B.D. Wong
Composer(s)George Englund Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes19 (list of episodes)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Sandollar Television
Heartfelt Productions
Touchstone Television
Original networkABC
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1994 (1994-09-14) –
March 15, 1995 (1995-03-15)

All-American Girl is a 1994 American sitcom featuring Margaret Cho as the rebellious teenage daughter of a traditional Korean-American family. The main cast that plays the part of Cho's family includes Jodi Long, Clyde Kusatsu, B.D. Wong, J.B. Quon, and Amy Hill.[1][2][3][3][4][2][4][5][6]

Based upon the comedy material of Cho, the show premiered on September 14, 1994 and was cancelled on March 15, 1995 after one season, following an attempt by the network to reboot the series.

Cho directly states that although the ending credits say Based on the stand-up of Margaret Cho, the show did not in fact incorporate her comedy. Producers used this idea more as a plug for the program, which underwent nearly constant changes in an attempt to gain better viewership ratings.

"When you're the first person to cross over this racial barrier, you're scrutinized for all these other things that have nothing to do with race, but they have everything to do with race—its a very strange thing",[7] says Cho. Cho received heavy criticism for All-American Girl from the general public, from critics, and from Asian American viewers.

Footage from the show made a brief appearance in the ABC 2015 comedy series Fresh Off The Boat, which is ABC's second (and more successful) attempt at an Asian-American-focused sitcom. In the scene, an Asian-American watches All-American Girl and pokes fun at its faults.

Plot summary

In the pilot episode of All-American Girl, "Mom, Dad, This is Kyle", Margaret's mother, Katherine Kim, strongly disapproves of Margaret's boyfriend Kyle, and constantly tries to set her up with successful, intelligent Korean men, a recurring conflict between Margaret and her mother. Margaret, tired of her mother's constant matchmaking, convinces her to have Kyle over for dinner. At the dinner, Katherine makes no effort to accept Kyle, and a frustrated Margaret makes the rash decision to announce to everyone that she and Kyle are moving in together, simply to irritate her mother. Margaret realizes that she does not want to move out of the house and decides to stay in the end.

The pilot episode already exhibited problems with the series that would continue with subsequent episodes. Margaret's mother is portrayed as a typical "tiger mom" who only approves of her daughter dating Korean men from prestigious universities and who is unwilling to see things from her daughter's perspective. Even by the end of the episode, Katherine continues to be set in her own ways. Margaret's brother Stuart appears throughout the episode as a contrasting, nerdy, perfectly obedient, model son.

All-American Girl takes place in San Francisco, where Margaret tries to navigate life with her family, friends, and romantic partners. In the Kim family household, Margaret has many squabbles with her very traditional mother who wants nothing more than for her to settle down with a Korean boy and be successful. Her father plays more of the middle-man in these touchy debates, and prefers to spend time working in their family-owned bookstore. Also in the house are Margaret's brothers, and her eccentric grandmother, played by Amy Hill, who garnered popular reviews from the public. Outside of home, Margaret spends a good deal of time working the cosmetics counter in a department store with her friends Ruthie and Gloria. In one of many attempts to redesign the show, the producers decided to change the setting, having Margaret move into the basement of her parents’ house in episode 15 (Notes From the Underground), and then move out altogether with only her grandmother in episode 19. The last show, "Young Americans", was designed as somewhat of a trial version "to give ABC an additional option when it [came] time to decide whether to renew the series for the fall" of 1995. Ultimately, that option did not come to pass, and the show suffered from its inconsistency and lack of direction.

All-American Girl was heavily criticized by for portraying Asian Americans extremely stereotypically (Cho said, realistically). Stereotypes including the "tiger mother", the expectation for Korean women to be proper and demure, the overachieving nerdy Asian, and the obedient Asian child are prominent throughout the series. More problematic sly, there was a lack of character development, allowing no chance for the characters to have depth beyond their original identities, aside from Margaret.

While the show focused on a Korean American family, Cho was the only Korean American actor/actress cast (all other members being of Chinese or Japanese ancestry, in an example of non-traditional casting), which critics said perpetuated the idea that all Asians are the same. These critics did not appreciate the assumption that they should identify with the characters simply based on the fact that they were Asian.[8]

Furthermore, critics lambasted the "butchered Korean language".[8] With the majority of the cast not being Korean American, their ability to speak Korean was limited. None of All-American Girl’s directors, writers, or producers were Korean American.[8]



  • Margaret Cho plays Margaret Kim, the main character of the series and the daughter in the Kim family. She is much more Americanized than the other members of her family, which is often a source of misunderstandings between her and her family.
  • Amy Hill plays Yung-hee Kim, Margaret's eccentric grandmother who keeps Margaret from moving out in the first episode through unconventional methods. Her grandmother is unassimilated and often refers to the "Old Country".[9] She is nearly addicted to watching TV and is extremely excited to see The Oprah Winfrey Show, where Oprah guest stars.
  • Jodi Long plays Katherine Kim, Margaret's mother. She is portrayed as a "tiger mom", imposing strict rules on Margaret and her siblings and setting extremely high expectations for them, especially for Margaret's older brother, Stuart. She runs a bookstore with her husband, Benny Kim.
  • Clyde Kusatsu plays Benny Kim, Margaret's father. While also a strict parent, he is also more understanding of Margaret, mostly the straight man and sometimes assists in mediating disagreements between Margaret and her mother.
  • Maddie Corman plays Ruthie Latham, one of Margaret's best friends, who works with Margaret in a department store.
  • Judy Gold plays Gloria Schechter, another one of Margaret's friends who works at the department store.
  • J.B. Quon plays Eric Kim, Margaret's younger brother who looks up to Margaret.
  • B. D. Wong plays Dr. Stuart Kim, Margaret's older brother who is a successful doctor, and constantly under extreme pressure from himself and his parents to achieve more. He is considered the obedient and well-behaved son.
  • Ashley Johnson plays Casey Emerson, one of Eric Kim's friends who spend a lot of time at the Kims’ house.

Notable guest stars

  • Oprah Winfrey plays herself as a guest star in the episode "A Night at the Oprah".
  • Quentin Tarantino plays Desmond who asks Margaret on a date. While she is impressed with him, she later finds out that he sells bootlegged videotapes.[10]
  • Jack Black guest stars on "A Night at the Oprah" as Tommy.
  • Ming-Na guest stars on the episode "Redesigning Women" as Amy


No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Mom, Dad, This is Kyle"September 14, 1994 (1994-09-14)
2"Submission: Impossible"September 21, 1994 (1994-09-21)
3"Who's the Boss?"September 28, 1994 (1994-09-28)
4"Yung At Heart"October 5, 1994 (1994-10-05)
5"Redesigning Women"October 12, 1994 (1994-10-12)
6"Booktopus"October 19, 1994 (1994-10-19)
7"Mommie Nearest"October 26, 1994 (1994-10-26)
8"Take My Family, Please"November 2, 1994 (1994-11-02)
9"Exile On Market Street"November 16, 1994 (1994-11-16)
10"Ratting On Ruthie"November 23, 1994 (1994-11-23)
11"Educating Margaret"November 30, 1994 (1994-11-30)
12"Loveless in San Francisco"December 7, 1994 (1994-12-07)
13"Malpractice Makes Perfect"December 14, 1994 (1994-12-14)
14"The Apartment"January 11, 1995 (1995-01-11)
15"Notes from the Underground"January 18, 1995 (1995-01-18)
16"Venus de Margaret"January 25, 1995 (1995-01-25)
17"A Night at the Oprah"February 14, 1995 (1995-02-14)
18"Pulp Sitcom"February 22, 1995 (1995-02-22)
19"Young Americans"March 15, 1995 (1995-03-15)


All-American Girl first aired on September 14, 1994 on the ABC network. Cho stated the idea for the show came about at the time because "TV networks were giving development deals to stand-up comedians".[11] Cho was among a trend of female comedians becoming network stars at the time, such as Brett Butler, Ellen DeGeneres, and Roseanne Barr.[8] However, Cho was the only minority of this group and the only one who had no creative control over the process.[8]

She also stated that during the development process of the show her weight was never mentioned as an issue, but when it was almost time to shoot, the criticisms about her weight started.[11] Cho believes the real reason she was criticized was not because of her weight, but because they "didn’t know how to photograph Asian faces" and "didn’t know what to do with people who were different".[11] As a result, she lost 30 pounds (14 kg) in the span of two weeks, causing severe medical problems.[8]

The show's creators suggested other titles for the series such as East Meets West and Wok on the Wild Side, before deciding on All-American Girl.[8] All-American Girl was marketed as being based on Cho's stand-up comedy routines, "but that was mostly just a gloss".[8]



In All-American Girl, Margaret Kim comes across as a typical college-age girl with somewhat of a rebellious streak, much to the chagrin of her very no-nonsense mother. She has an edgy sense of style, wearing short dresses, leather outfits, and following the trends of the average American girl from the 1990s. She wears different clothes, speaks in a higher register, laughs daintily behind her hand, and comes across as very polite—a significant contrast from her typically brash character. She manipulates her femininity to get what she wants, but this inevitably backfires when she is rejected for not maintaining this desired trait.

This issue of desirable female traits unfortunately played a part in the production decisions behind the show. Producers told Cho to lose weight, resulting in her drastic weight loss of 30 pounds in two weeks, which had major health implications that still follow her today. Furthermore, because of the environment of the network, Cho states: "I didn’t have these attributes that they think of when they think of like a female star of a show. You know, I wasn’t thin [and] I wasn’t white" (the producers had, however, already likely noticed this).[12]

Romantic relationships

Throughout All-American Girl, Margaret Kim flutters around multiple male characters and maintains about 7 short-lived relationships, all of which last for only one episode. The first episode "Mom, Dad, This is Kyle", centers on Margaret Kim and her American boyfriend Kyle, whom her mother constantly claims is a "loser" and that he is not right for her. Margaret then counters that her mother only disapproves of Kyle because he's not Korean, and a fight ensues. Margaret does not in fact have strong feelings for Kyle, she simply refuses to back down to her mother, who appears to be equally stubborn. In this sense, Margaret's romantic relationship is downplayed in favor of highlighting the conflicting, but loving, relationship between Margaret and her mother. In the second episode, the opposite situation occurs and Margaret finds herself dating a Korean boy that her mother has set her up with. Margaret's mother is ecstatic, but Margaret finds herself slowly altering her behavior to suit the desires of her Korean suitor—by the end of the episode, she ends the charade by coming clean about her true personality and their relationship ends. Unfortunately, because Margaret was honest and true to herself, she ends up losing a relationship due to the discrepancy between her "American" self and her "Korean" self. In following episodes, Margaret finds herself dating a variety of male characters, including a Professor, a repairman, and a criminal.

Margaret's love life through the show appears to be whimsical, inconsistent, and insubstantial. Her suitors come across as short-term vehicles used to push the show along—these romantic encounters do not aid in developing Margaret's character, nor do they serve a larger purpose within the scope and plot of the show. Most notably, famous actor and director Quentin Tarantino guest stars as one of Margaret's love interests in "Pulp Sitcom".

Asian American family

The Kim family is intended to be portrayed as a typical Asian American family. Some values they exhibit that the show classifies as Asian American include waiting for everyone to be seated at meals before beginning to eat, placing high value on education and success, children being obedient to their parents, and placing the most importance on the eldest son.

In the episode "Malpractice makes Perfect", Stuart is excessively worried about being a disappointment to his parents when he makes a grave error at the hospital, putting his promotion in jeopardy. Margaret's mother is portrayed as not very assimilated due to presumably having been raised in Korea. This plays into the dynamic of the relationship between the unassimilated mother and the westernized daughter.


The Kim family has come under a lot of flak from viewers for contributing to an extremely Orientalized portrayal of an Asian American family. One of the most obvious examples is the voice of Margaret's mother, Katherine Kim. Jodi Long, the actress who plays Mrs. Kim, has an American accent, yet in the show her "Asian" accent is exaggerated to the point of coming across as a farce. Furthermore, there were several brief instances weaved into All-American Girl that furthered this stereotypical view of Asian Americans. For example, Jung cites instances such as Grandma Kim's (Amy Hill) pet cricket, the family's favorite restaurant, the "Happy Lucky Golden Dragon," and lines like "May you have the joy that comes from serving your husband" and "[We are] bound together by the vine of community" in the dialogue".[13] These instances of Orientalism are especially highlighted when pointed out by Casey, one of Eric's White friends, who has a recurring role in the series. Odd antics, such as Grandma Kim's attachment to her pet cricket, perpetuate this image of Asians as outsiders in an American community.

Additionally, the stereotype of the Asian American model minority is perpetuated in Margaret's older brother, Stuart, who is going through his residency in a hospital after leading a very successful academic career. However, in "Malpractice Makes Perfect", Stuart makes a small mistake after being overworked at the hospital, and his life comes crumbling down as he anticipates the disappointment he has caused his parents after his blunder.

Home media

The complete series was released on DVD in a four disc set from Shout! Factory/Sony BMG Music Entertainment on January 31, 2006, featuring commentary by Cho, joined twice by Hill, on one episode per disc and a new retrospective featurette featuring new interviews with Cho and Hill.[14]

Critical reception

Although anticipations were high for the first prime time sitcom featuring an Asian American cast, All-American Girl failed to appeal to critics and audiences alike.

The show particularly disappointed Korean American viewers, who found the briefly spoken Korean phrases were so flawed they were essentially unintelligible,[15] and the only ethnically Korean actor on the show was Cho herself. In a wider perspective, Asian American viewers “were especially galled by the assumption that they should identify with the Kims simply because they were Asian”,[13] and non-Asian audiences were equally unable to identify with “yet another example of Hollywood's ignorance and indifference when it comes to depicting an ethnic group about which it knows so little”.[15]

Martha Southgate of the New York Times claims the problems inherent in All-American Girl are very clear — the show struggles “to find its groove, a not-uncommon occurrence for a sitcom built around a stand-up comedian”[16] However, those who are familiar with Cho's comedic work argue “the show failed because it had no sense of Margaret Cho, or maybe, because she had no sense of it…She was smarter than any box the producers wanted to put her in, but that’s precisely what they tried to do”.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Du Brow, Rick (September 4, 1994). "COVER STORY : True Tales of TV Trauma: 3 Comics Chase Roseanne-dom : Margaret Cho : She's the freshman. But the 25-year-old Korean American has another role to play besides the 'All-American Girl.' Cho is hoping to be a groundbreaker". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  2. ^ a b Chung, Philip W. (December 5, 1994). "All-American Girl': Is It Good or Bad Television? A Positive Look at the Sitcom". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  3. ^ a b Matsumoto, Jon (October 22, 1996). "She Takes Failure Standing Up". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  4. ^ a b Matsumoto, Jon (October 25, 1996). "Skewer Days : In the Study of Stereotypes, Margaret Cho Is a Sharp Student". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  5. ^ Braxton, Greg (September 14, 1994). "It's All in the (Ground-Breaking) Family : Television: As a sitcom centered on Asian Americans, 'All-American Girl' is being monitored by advocacy groups concerned about racial stereotypes. Welcome to the pressure cooker". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  6. ^ Kang, K. Connie (March 11, 1995). "'Girl' Undergoes Major Changes Amid Criticism". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  7. ^ ...Open. "Watch Full Episodes Online of Pioneers of Television on PBS | Margaret Cho on "All-American Girl"". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "All-American Girl at 20: The Evolution of Asian Americans on TV - The Los Angeles Review of Books". 2014-11-09. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  9. ^ Tucker, Ken (1994-10-07). "TV Show Review: 'All-American Girl'". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  10. ^ "Quentin Tarantino on All-American Girl (February 22, 1995)". Chronological Snobbery. 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  11. ^ a b c "20 Years Later, Margaret Cho Looks Back on 'All-American Girl' | KoreAm Journal". 2014-09-15. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  12. ^ ...Open. "Watch Full Episodes Online of Pioneers of Television on PBS | Margaret Cho on "All-American Girl"". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  13. ^ a b c "All-American Girl at 20: The Evolution of Asian Americans on TV - The Los Angeles Review of Books". 2014-11-09. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  14. ^ "All American Girl". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  15. ^ a b "'Girl' Undergoes Major Changes Amid Criticism - latimes". 1995-03-11. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  16. ^ Southgate, Martha (1994-10-30). "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Prime Time". Retrieved 2016-03-11.

External links

This page was last edited on 8 June 2019, at 07:02
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