It’s still one of the things you look for when watching an Asian male regular on TV: Does he get a love interest? In the past, it was more a surprise when one did actually “get lucky” with a member of the opposite sex.
I remember watching the original “Star Trek” series and realizing that every one of its seven-member cast got a romantic partner at one time or another — even Spock, who, outside of the Vulcan mating season, would’ve found one to be “illogical.” Everyone, that is, except Mr. Sulu (George Takei).
In more current times, every cast member CBS’ “The Mentalist” had a love interest… except for Kimball Cho (Tim Kang). It wasn’t until the middle of the second season in February 2010 that he as much as dated anyone. Out of the blue popped Elise (Sandrine Holt), already named his girlfriend. That was nice, but it was strange how unhinged this “just the facts, ma’am” cop (a modern-day “Dragnet” Jack Webb) became when she was beaten up and he angrily sought revenge.
Elise was never seen from again (in an interview, Kang said their pairing wasn’t a good match). This past November, Cho met Summer (Samaire Armstrong), a perky, blonde prostitute who showed sensitivity toward him and noticed he was still suffering from backaches after being hit by a car in a previous episode. Why, she even made him smile! Some viewers were aching to see the two of them get closer, loving their chemistry. That didn’t happen until February when Cho hired her to go undercover to catch a bad guy.
Summer was wired as she approached the suspect and Cho and Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) listened in, waiting for the right moment to make the arrest. But Summer couldn’t help asking nosy questions of the guy, which raised his anger and suspicions. The cops had to rush in and Summer was held at gunpoint until the suspect was disarmed and arrested.
Angry, Cho fired Summer. She pleaded with him to give her another chance. She really needed the job (apparently, she was trying to go straight). But he’d already made up his mind.
At the end of the day when Cho was ready to go home, Summer showed up again with the same pleas. Cho wouldn’t hear of them and entered the elevator. He angrily told her she blew the undercover operation because she thrives on drama and has issues. Summer shot back that he did too. She was frustrated because, even after working closely with him, she couldn’t figure him out.
When he continued to ignore her, Summer threw his papers on the floor, which got Cho even angrier. “You like me!” she asserted. ” And you don’t know what to do about it! Admit it!” Then she slapped him.
Realizing she’d gone too far, Summer apologized, caressing his face. He quietly admitted, yeah, he liked her. Then she aggressively kissed him. At first, Cho was surprised, but he thought for a second, then kissed her back. Ho hoooo!
A month later, at police headquarters, the regulars noted that Cho hadn’t come into work. Then we found him still in bed with… Summer! She turned off his alarm because she felt he needed more sleep. (By this point, Cho had developed an addiction to pain medication for his back problems. He fell asleep on a stakeout and Rigsby was almost killed because of it. At the end of the episode, Cho told his boss, Lisbon, he needed to talk about something really important. But he hesitated and instead, promised to never be late again. He went to the bathroom, looked at his bottle of pills, and flushed them down the toilet.
End of addiction? Stay tuned… I look forward to seeing more of this odd couple as they have great chemistry and Summer’s a lovable character. Also, it implies there’s no reason an attractive white woman wouldn’t fall for an Asian American man.
Testing Our Patience/Not Again Department: One of the new (midseason) shows that hoped to capture the fans of “Lost” was Fox’s “Alcatraz,” produced by J.J. Abrams, who co-created that classic show along with “Alias” and “Fringe.” Like “Lost,” it gave viewers a sense of the mysteries that were going to be revealed bit by bit but took an awfully long time getting there.
Dr. Lucy Banerjee (Parminger Nagra) worked with a team tracking down former prisoners of Alcatraz who disappeared in 1963 only to pop up in 2012 as if they hadn’t aged a day. Like “Lost,” scenes alternated between current day and flashbacks, this time to 1960, where we met the annoying warden (Jonny Coyne with an American accent that varied so much it was a distraction; at times, I thought he was from the South or trying to hide that fact. In the end, he kept curling his R’s too much, so I assumed he was British. Turns out he is), his staff, and the inmates.
Eventually, we learned that Lucy — as Dr. Lucy Sangupta —worked with the inmates as a psychiatrist back in 1960! There, she met a young guard named Emerson Hauser. The two dated. Now, in 2012, Hauser (played by Sam Neill) is in his 70s and old enough to be her grandfather. In any case, as was the problem with “Lost,” when characters finally admitted their past (Lucy finally came clean in the finale), the regulars didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and ask all the questions the viewers were wondering about.
In the season finale last week, after its 13-week trial, we still hadn’t learned who was behind the time jumps and why only that the inmates hadn’t just returned to the Bay Area, but were all over the country.
Eh. So what? As Archie Bunker would’ve said, “Whoop de doo!” I was on record as being furious at the producers of “Lost” for not even trying to answer half of the mysteries they teased us with throughout its six years by the series finale. I’m not sure if “Alcatraz” deserves another season (its ratings have been falling each and every week down from an initial 10 million to a low of 4.75 million).
Good Will Fading Department: Though he kept giving substandard performances of ballads on “American Idol,” viewers kept Heejun Han out of the bottom three week after week. Then he finally tried an up-tempo tune — Billy Joel’s “My Life” — prancing across the stage, singing its defiant lyrics to the judges (e.g. “I don’t care what you say anymore/This is my life!”) but those same people thought he was making a joke of the competition and criticized him for it. This time, his armor began to show dents; he landed not only in the bottom three but the bottom two. Luckily, someone else was sent home.
Last week, realizing he was in trouble, he wanted to show that he did take the contest seriously and sang the soulful ballad “A Song for You,” giving a moving performance. All three judges gave him standing ovations. It seemed as if the Korean immigrant was back on the road to recovery. Only, the judges gave a lot of standing ovations that night, and Han ended up receiving the lowest number of votes. So he’s gone. Jessica Sanchez, who’s half Filipino, remains in the competition.
Aw Crap! Department: When Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere in February, inspiring basketball fans around the country and giving a sense of pride to Asian Americans, I thought, “Just don’t get injured!” Well, as you probably know, he did. The Knicks guard has to get a knee operation that’ll take him out for the rest of the season. Hope he comes back stronger than ever because our community could use the morale boost. But Lin’s performance took a dive after the other injured members of his team returned, perhaps ruining the team’s chemistry.
How Low Is Still Go? Department: In its first season, “Nikita,” the only network program to star an Asian American in Maggie Q, was broadcast on Thursday nights. Because its numbers faded, this season, it was moved to Fridays— not a good sign, as that’s where all shows go to die on the least-watched television night next to Saturdays, where broadcasters don’t even bother putting on new shows anymore unless they’re dumping a series and just running out its episodes.
Predictably, ratings for “Nikita” continued to fall, down to the 2 million level. Last week, it hit a series low with just 1.3 million pairs of eyeballs.
Since it runs on the CW, where expectations are low (hell, even the much-publicized “Ringer” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar is in the 2 million range), that doesn’t mean automatic cancellation, but it doesn’t look good. I wouldn’t be a surprised if “Nikita” doesn’t get a third season.
Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.