A dimly remembered 1994 series that lasted a scant 19 episodes may not seem like a good candidate for DVD release, but All-American Girl
deserves a second look. For Margaret Cho fans, this was the series that helped the diva of the disenfranchised find her comedic voice. For sitcom buffs, this series' tumultuous history is a textbook cautionary tale. And for actual fans of the show, it will be fun to be reunited with the wisecracking, TV-addicted Grandma (Amy Hill), the series' breakout character. All-American Girl
was created as a showcase for stand-up comedian Cho, and was the first primetime series to feature a Korean family. But network interference took its toll on Cho's health (she recalls in one of the episode commentaries that she was compelled to crash-diet after being informed by execs that "I was too fat to play myself") and the show's creative direction, dulling Cho's cutting edge.
Set in San Francisco, All-American Girl is a culture clash/generation gap comedy. Cho's free-spirited Valley Girlish Margaret works at a department store and lives with her tradition-bound bookseller parents (Clyde Kusatsu, Jodi Long); her Grandma; brother Stuart (B.D. Wong), a successful doctor; and her younger, assimilated brother, Eric (J.B. Quon). Margaret's relationship with her imperious mother is particularly adversarial. The show seemed to be finding its footing when it was canceled, and some episodes offer a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been had the show's creators been left alone. "Pulp Sitcom" is a clever homage to Pulp Fiction, complete with a guest-star appearance by Quentin Tarantino as a purveyor of bootleg videos. "The Apartment" spoofs MTV's The Real World as Margaret shares an apartment with her two co-workers, one of whom (comedian Judy Gold) has a penchant for walking around nude. The show took a fleeting Seinfeld-ian turn with "Take My Family, Please," in which Margaret performs a stand-up routine about her family, who are in the audience and are not amused. In solo episode commentaries and in an on-camera conversation with Amy Hill, Cho thoughtfully reflects on where All-American Girl succeeded and why it ultimately failed. But her through-the-Hollywood-looking-glass experience inspired her breakout performance piece, the highly recommended I'm the One That I Want, in which she chronicles the series' demise much more candidly and graphically. This is the unexpurgated Margaret we know and love. --Donald Liebenson