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The 15 Best AAPI TV Shows to Binge-Watch Right Now

From coming-of-age comedies and edgy dramas to reality TV, meet your next summer obsessions

The cast of Fresh Off the Boat and Awkwafina

Bob D'Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images; Danielle Levitt/Comedy Central

(Left to right) Randall Park, Forrest Wheeler, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang and Ian Chen star in "Fresh Off the Boat" and Awkwafina stars in "Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens."

En español | In the long overdue push for on-screen diversity, people sometimes overlook how much diversity there can be within one minority. To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) Heritage Month — and the vastly different generational, cultural and historical experiences that comprise America's fastest-growing minority — here are 15 of the best AAPI-relevant TV shows: comedies, dramas, action serials, documentaries, even a talk show. You'll find bawdy humor, winsome dramedy, mind-bending sci-fi, eye-popping martial arts, stately period drama and chilling horror — and that's all just in one episode of reality show Bling Empire! And now, choose your next favorite AAPI binge watch from this appetizing menu:

THE COMEDIES

Never Have I Ever (2020–)

Why to Watch: This gently spiky coming-of-age comedy from Mindy Kaling focuses on an Indian American teenager — with a temper — and her extremely relatable efforts to navigate parental expectations and friendship dramas and to reinvent herself, during her sophomore year in high school, as cool. Catch up with Season 1 now; Season 2 is due to drop in July.

Who to Watch: The series’ star, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, was chosen by Kaling out of over 15,000 applicants, so you know she's pretty special. But having the episodes narrated by a wry John McEnroe might be the show's oddest and most inspired flourish.

Where to Watch: Never Have I Ever, Season 1, on Netflix

What to Watch Next: Love this? You're clearly into creator Mindy Kaling's brand of daffy, self-deprecating humor, and all six seasons of The Mindy Project, her self-starring sitcom, are available on Hulu.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (2020–)

Why to Watch: Based on the Queens background of Awkwafina, the Chinese American breakout star of Crazy Rich Asians, this half-hour comedy is a swift and funny showcase for its writer and star's uniquely eccentric and energetic presence, as her character Nora takes her faltering first steps into independence, trying to move out of her father's house, find a decent job and generally start adulting.

Who to Watch: Come for Awkwafina, but stay for the supporting cast including BD Wong, SNL star Bowen Yang and a scene-stealing Lori Tan Chinn as Nora's grandmother.

Where to Watch: Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, Season 1, on HBO Max; it has been picked up for Season 2.

What to Watch Next: Can't get enough Awkwafina? Watch Lulu Wang's wonderful family drama The Farewell (available on Amazon). I can personally vouch for the authenticity and insight of its portrayal of a family get-together in China.

Aziz Ansari in the Netflix series Master of None

Netflix

Aziz Ansari

Master of None (2015–)

Why to Watch: Occupying that sweet spot between outright comedy and insightful drama, this show, cocreated by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang and based loosely on Ansari's own experiences as a struggling actor of Tamil/Indian background, was one of the nicest TV surprises of recent years. It ramped up even further in its still more ambitious, endlessly inventive second season.

Who to Watch: While the dramedy was developed as a very personal vehicle for Ansari, it is also notable for being the writing and acting breakout of an Emmy-winning Lena Waithe, who has gone on to become a one-woman TV powerhouse (Master of NoneThe ChiQueen & Slim).

Where to Watch: Master of None, Seasons 1 to 3, on Netflix

What to Watch Next: If you're a Master of None fan, be sure to check out cocreator Alan Yang's intimate immigrant drama Tigertail, also on Netflix.


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Kim's Convenience (2015–2021)

Why to Watch: For anyone looking for comfort viewing during the pandemic, this delightful sitcom, which follows a Korean family who own a convenience store and whose members express the first- and second-generation immigrant experience, might just be the easiest and most soothing binge of the summer. A new take on an old format, over its five seasons, it has matured and broadened without losing its freshness.

Who to Watch: The show derives a lot of its humor from intergenerational misunderstandings, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa (Dad) and Jean Yoon as Umma (Mom) lend a stalwart dignity — and sometimes an irascible stubbornness — to the parents’ point of view.

Where to Watch: Kim's Convenience, Seasons 1 to 4, on Netflix; the fifth, and sadly final, season is expected to show up there soon, too.

What to Watch Next: The short-form comedy show Special is quite a treat and features Punam Patel in an Emmy-nominated performance — also on Netflix.

Young Rock (2021–)

Why to Watch: Everyone's favorite American/Black Nova Scotian/Samoan ex-wrestler superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson's show might just be the most inspired long-term launch of a presidential campaign in history. Set in 2032, when Johnson has announced his candidacy, it's largely told in flashback, giving the megastar the opportunity to reflect on different phases of his early years — which are recreated by an excellent comedy cast — with his trademark bravado-humor and megawatt charisma.

Who to Watch: The Rock, obviously, before he comes to rule us all. But the show's talent bench is deep, and showrunner Nahnatchka Khan knows what's up, after running Fresh Off the Boat for years.

Where to Watch: Young Rock, Season 1, on Peacock

What to Watch Next: For similarly inventive, colorful comedy that also launched Kumail Nanjiani's career, you could do a lot worse than Silicon Valley's six seasons on Hulu.

Fresh Off the Boat (2015-2019)

Why to Watch: Basically the OG Asian immigrant comedy, Fresh Off the Boat is a success precisely because it doesn't reinvent the sitcom wheel in any way, but simply invests it with a new perspective and then lets its cast's charm do the rest. Following the comedic ups and downs of a Taiwanese family who move from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Florida, it's also a nostalgia bubble for its late-'90s setting. If it sometimes feels a little too gentle and generic, sometimes gentleness is exactly what you want.

Who to Watch: It has made stars of half its regular cast, including Randall Park (Always Be My Maybe) and Constance Wu (Crazy Rich AsiansHustlers), so if you're coming to it new now, you won't be short of familiar faces.

Where to Watch: Fresh Off the Boat, Seasons 1 to 6, on Hulu

What to Watch Next: You might now know that actress Ali Wong was a writer on this show. And if you're looking for comedy in a similar vein but with more bite, she has two foulmouthed and funny stand-up specials on Netflix.

THE DRAMAS

Warrior (2019–)

Why to Watch: Inspired by an eight-page treatment written by Bruce Lee himself, this gritty, pulpy action-packed show follows a martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco in the 1870s and becomes a highly skilled henchman for a gangster syndicate. Not the first time you've seen this kind of story, but with impressive and immersive period world-building, and fight choreography as much spaghetti western as it is Hong Kong kung fu, you'll be too busy having fun to notice.

Who to Watch: Japanese British stuntman turned actor Andrew Koji has the kung fu skills, and Olivia Cheng has the sly sizzle as a Chinatown brothel keeper, but Fast and Furious director Justin Lin's name in the production credits tells you all you need to know about the action bona fides.

Where to Watch: Warrior, Seasons 1 and 2, on HBO Max; it has also been picked up for a third.

What to Watch Next: For a more contemporary take on the gritty noirish drama, Riz Ahmed stars alongside John Turturro in the stunning miniseries The Night Of, also on HBO Max.

Giri/Haji (2019)

Why to Watch: This acclaimed BBC thriller limited series (eight episodes) is an undiscovered gem for those who like their brooding gangland shows to have a little cross-cultural hybrid vigor. A Tokyo detective teams with his London counterpart to track down his missing brother, who has yakuza and London gangland connections.

Who to Watch: The show stars the always terrific Kelly McDonald, who summons up a terrifically intricate and compelling chemistry with costar Takehiro Hira. Worth it for MacDonald's Scottish accent pronouncing Japanese names alone.

Where to Watch: Giri/Haji, on Netflix

What to Watch Next: If you're ready to move onto even stronger stuff, Thai sensation Girl From Nowhere is also available on Netflix. But be warned: It's weird and gory and not at all for the faint of heart.

Kung Fu (2021–)

Why to Watch: More family-friendly than some of these dramas, Kung Fu is nominally a reboot of the 1970s David Carradine show, but it's almost entirely unrecognizable — in a good way, if you want something a bit more relevant to today's world. A young woman returns home from her intensive Shaolin training in China to discover her hometown overrun with crime and corruption. And she resolves to use her new skills to clean it up, though the real surprise here is its culture-clash observation.

Who to Watch: Newcomer Olivia Lang not only has to anchor the emotional arc of the show, but she also has to kick convincing ass — and on this evidence, she deserves to break out in a big way.

Where to Watch: Kung Fu, Season 1, on The CW

What to Watch Next: At this stage, any Asian connection is largely moot — but if you're on a reboot kick and looking for something else to watch with your tween-age and teenage family members, Cobra Kai (the recent TV spin-off of The Karate Kid movies) is on Netflix.

The Terror: Infamy (2019)

Why to Watch: Following a triumphal Season 1, which was set during an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, Season 2 of The Terror (called Infamy) has a whole new backdrop — this time it's World War II, and there is a string of mysterious deaths in a Japanese American community. But the eerie atmospherics and air of supernatural horror remain. Both a powerful suspenseful ghost story and a haunting history lesson, this is a classy and absorbing watch for those who don't spook easily.

Who to Watch: The cast is uniformly excellent, though appropriately restrained, and George Takei's small role reminds us once again why he is a national treasure.

Where to Watch: The Terror: Infamy (Season 2), on Hulu

What to Watch Next: If you are on an Asian horror trip and don't mind tackling subtitles, Korean chiller serial Sweet Home comes recommended and is on Netflix.

Wu Assassins (2019–)

Why to Watch: An intriguing blend of astonishing action and surprisingly well-thought-out sci-fi/fantasy plotting, this story follows an unassuming, good-hearted San Francisco chef who is suddenly tapped to become the latest in a long line of assassins who have through history been tasked with keeping the mysterious powers known as Wu from falling into the wrong hands.

Who to Watch: The problem will not be finding a reason to watch Indonesian action star Iko Uwais. The problem will be working out how to stop watching him: The star of the pummelling, nonstop movie spectacular The Raid, he is perhaps the most talented action-thriller actor at work today.

Where to Watch: Wu Assassins, Season 1, dodging, spin-kicking and punching through on Netflix

What to Watch Next: More martial arts action mixed with fantasy and myth required? Coming right up: Three seasons of Into the Badlands are available on Netflix.

THE TALK SHOW

Lilly Singh taking a selfie with Rainn Wilson on a television monitor during a virtual interview on A Little Late With Lilly Singh

Matthew Misisco/NBC

Lilly Singh takes a selfie during a virtual interview with Rainn Wilson.

A Little Late With Lilly Singh (2019–2021)

Why to Watch: If you've found the standard talk show setup becoming a little stale, the fresh, irreverent approach taken by former YouTube star Lilly Singh, who is the first person of Indian or South Asian descent to host a major network's late night show in the U.S., is definitely for you. A mix of traditional interviews with comedy sketches and commentary, Singh's show shakes the fustiness out of the format and injects new life into late night. But don't get too addicted: The show will be ending after its current season as Lilly moves on to a Netflix comedy.

Who to Watch: You might not know Singh yet, but you soon will — while at the same time getting up close and personal with an outstanding and diverse range of celebrity guests and interviewees ranging from Paula Abdul and M. Night Shyamalan to Brie Larson and Tyler Perry.

Where to Watch: A Little Late With Lilly Singh, on NBC

What to Watch Next: Really, any of the shows on this list, most of which Singh has featured, in terms of their stars, on her show already.

THE DOCUMENTARIES

Asian Americans (2020)

Why to Watch: Tracing the history of American-born Asians since the first half of the 20th century — through the World War II-era internment camps, Cold War hostilities, the Vietnam War and on through the millennium into the present day — the only problem with this typically well-researched and provocative PBS documentary series is that even with five hour-long episodes, it could stand to be significantly longer.

Who to Watch: Real people who prove that truth can be stranger, more moving, enraging and inspiring than any fiction.

Where to Watch: Asian Americans, on PBS

What to Watch Next: Given how likely it is that this show will have you jonesing for more informative programming, there is also a very good series of short films made in conjunction with PBS called Unladylike, which features several Asians, such as actress Anna May Wong, activist Tye Leung Schulze, Hawaiian Queen Lili'uokalani and doctor Margaret Chung in its lineup of female pioneers. All episodes are available on YouTube.

Breakfast Lunch & Dinner (2019)

Why to Watch: The combination food show, travelogue and personal diary format that was pioneered so brilliantly by Anthony Bourdain, has its spiritual cousin in this globe-trotting docuseries hosted by famous Korean American restaurateur David Chang. The twist? This time, each of the show's four episodes also features a celebrity guest who discovers the culinary and cultural traditions of the various regions alongside the affable Chang.

Who to Watch: Chang's passion for food and food culture is the main draw, but the guests he spends time with, such as Seth Rogen and Kate McKinnon, are superb company, too.

Where to Watch: Breakfast Lunch & Dinner, on Netflix

What to Watch Next: This show is the perfect appetizer to the sumptuous main course that is Chang's subsequent Netflix food show Ugly Delicious. Just be warned: It's going to make you very, very peckish.

THE REALITY SHOW

A scene from the Netflix series Bling Empire

Netflix

Bling Empire (2021)

Why to Watch: If by any chance anything we've suggested here has seemed overly worthy or like eat-your-vegetables hard work — and all you really want to is to switch off and watch beautiful, vacuous rich people fling champagne at each other over the hoods of designer sports cars —this show has got you covered. Set amongst the super wealthy Asian American elite of Los Angeles, it's basically the definition of a guilty pleasure — but so fizzy and disposable that you don't even have to feel very guilty.

Who to Watch: Personally, I'd say Anna's the best character — but don't tell Christine or Kim I said so.

Where to Watch: Bling Empire, on Netflix

What to Watch Next: Still need a little more unreal reality? House of Ho on HBO Max follows the multimillion dollar Vietnamese American Houston-based Ho family instead.

Jessica Kiang is a freelance film critic for Variety who also writes for AARP, Sight & Sound, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times and The Playlist website.

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