Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Awkwafina is Nora from Queens in iAwkwafina Is Nora From Queens/i
Photo: Zach Dilgard (Comedy Central )

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, January 22. All times are Eastern. 

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Top pick

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m., series premiere): Tonight marks the debut of this new series from co-creators Awkwafina and Teresa Hsiao and showrunner Karey Dornetto, which seems likely to fill the empty place the end of Broad City left in our hearts. Comedy Central says that the half-hour comedy was inspired by Awkwafina’s “real-life growing up in Flushing, Queens,” with BD Wong as Nora’s dad, Lori Tan Chinn as her grandma, and Bowen Yang as her cousin. Look for Katie Rife’s review on the site later today.

The A.V. Club spoke with Dornetto about the show’s carefully balanced tone, one dream guest star, and the lightweight subject of death last week at the Television Critics Association press tour.

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The A.V. Club: Weird place to start, but what’s the role of death on this show? It opens with Nora having a somewhat contentious chat with the almighty in the afterlife.

Karey Dornetto: I don’t know if we were thinking of it in that way, but now that you bring it up, it’s almost like the death of her old self, a bit. She’s trying to grow up and do new things. But as far as it being any actual death, I would say there’s not.

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AVC: So we shouldn’t be worried about a Game Of Thrones situation at the end of the season?

KD: No, not in season one. Season two, I can’t tell you yet.

AVC: As a writer, how does your relationship to the material change when it has its roots in somebody else’s history? 

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KD: It’s Nora’s life, and it’s just about trying to tell those stories as best we can, and also hire writers that share the same experiences, whether it’s younger millennial writers, Asian writers, female writers, people who lived in New York. So it’s just a combination of all of that. And it’s about learning her sense of humor and to write for her. One of the things that drew me to her was her humor, how funny she is, her unique voice. It’s like I’m learning about it along the way as well.

AVC: What’s the makeup of your writers’ room?

KD: Last season we had all women, [a diverse group], and we had an Asian guy who was a writer’s assistant who wrote an episode, and now he’s moved up. We have another male Asian writer, and the rest are women. A lot of women.

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AVC: What appeals to you about balancing comedy, sometimes a kind of cringe comedy, and genuine pathos?

KD: I mean, I think it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes you make the audience uncomfortable, but I think we root for her so much that when she falls, we know she’s going to hop back [up]. She’s resilient. I feel like for the most part, it’s just a matter of telling funny stories that hopefully are relatable and then we definitely throw in some insane stuff too, which is what I like.

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AVC: As a person who’s not Asian American, what are the questions that you ask yourself when you sit down to work on the show?

KD: I feel like I was brought on the show for my comedy and for my experience. So for me, I am mostly wanting to help Teresa and Nora tell their story. So it’s like, if I can give input in any way, whether it’s about New York or the female experience, I will. I don’t know the Asian experience, so I usually will take a step back and let them tell their specific story. It’s not like I have any agenda of my own, you know what I mean? I’m just excited and feel super lucky to be part of the show because I think it’s really special.

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AVC: There are lots of great guest stars in this season—Michelle Buteau, Natasha Lyonne, others. Who would be on your wishlist for season two?

KD: My wishlist: Timothée Chalamet. No, I’m kidding. I’m obsessed with him.

Regular coverage

Riverdale (The CW, 8 p.m.)
Modern Family (ABC, 9 p.m.)
Vikings (History, 10 p.m.)

Wild cards

Stumptown, “Dirty Dexy Money” (ABC, 10 p.m.): There are four reasons that this episode of Stumptown is in can’t-miss territory for us. One is that Stumptown is really fun, we love Stumptown, we’re ready to get Stumped, and so on. See if you can spot the other three:

1. Cheryl Hines!
2. The look on Cobie Smulders’ face when confronted with those pectorals.
3. The episode’s title, “Dirty Dexy Money.” Can’t resist an ABC throwback. Let’s get Stumped, folks. It’s time for the Stumping to begin.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.

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