Never Have I Ever

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31 Important TV Shows About the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience

Hollywood does not have a good track record of depicting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. They’ve traditionally been marginalized as the sidekicks to a (white, male) crime-fighter or have been stereotyped as punchlines or comic relief in sitcoms.

But, especially as there has been a bigger push for diversity in storytelling on TV, some shows have stood out as more positive portrayals of AAPI characters. We’ve rounded up a list of some of them, which include Anna May Wong’s groundbreaking work in The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong (it was a part written just for her and aired in the 1950s!) and Pat Morita’s work in the short-lived comedy Mr. T and Tina (the Welcome Back, Kotter spin-off was one of the first to feature a predominantly Asian American cast).

More recent series on this list include Young Rock, which is based on the life of the half-Samoan Dwayne Johnson, and PEN15, where half-Japanese comedian Maya Erskine plays a version of younger herself — and cast her actual mother, Mutsuko Erskine, to play her mom. Ensemble shows, such as the medical dramas ERGrey’s Anatomy, and The Good Doctor; dramedy Orange Is the New Black; and comedy Silicon Valley are also included for their work in spotlighting AAPI roles. And the miniseries The Night Of was included because of its portrayal of the racism that so many AAPI people face — in this case, Riz Ahmed’s Pakistani American Naz Khan.

Other shows were left off the list mostly on a technicality; Lost’s Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), Sun (Yunjin Kim), and Sayid (Naveen Andrews) were not included simply because their characters were not Asian American. Whereas, London-set Killing Eve’s lead, Sandra Oh, is Korean Canadian, but her character, the titular Eve Polastri, is from Connecticut. As Oh herself deadpanned at the 2019 Emmy ceremony when she was nominated for best actress in a drama series, “It’s an honor just to be Asian.”

Recommended: 

Read on to learn more about some of the most important series about the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience.

Are there shows you think should be on the list? Tell us in the comments! 

Andi Mack (2017)

#31
Synopsis: A 13-year-old girl has her world turned upside down when her older sister returns home in hopes of getting her... [More]
Directed By: Terri Minsky

All-American Girl (1994)
40%

#30
Synopsis: A Korean-American woman copes with her dysfunctional family in this culture-clash sitcom starring stand-up comic Margaret Cho.... [More]
Directed By: Arlene Sanford

Synopsis: Creator and writer Awkwafina (The Farewell, Crazy Rich Asians) stars in the half-hour scripted comedy inspired by her real-life growing... [More]

Black Sash (2003)

#28
Synopsis: An ex-cop teaches martial arts to a diverse group of teens in San Francisco.... [More]

Dr. Ken (2015)
7%

#27
Synopsis: An accomplished physician tries to balance his career and a hectic family life with two kids and a wife.... [More]

ER (1994)

#26
Synopsis: The multiple Emmy Award-winning ER explores the inner workings of an urban teaching hospital and the critical issues faced by... [More]

Fresh Off the Boat (2015)
94%

#25
Synopsis: A Taiwanese family deal with culture shock after moving from Washington, D.C., to Orlando during the '90s.... [More]

Synopsis: ... [More]
Starring:

#23
Synopsis: A talented young surgeon with savant syndrome ruffles feathers while saving lives at a prestigious hospital's pediatric surgical unit.... [More]

Grey's Anatomy (2005)
84%

#22
Synopsis: The story revolves around five surgical interns and their supervisors, showing their personal and professional lives.... [More]

Killing Eve (2018)
89%

#21
Synopsis: Starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, Killing Eve centers on two women: Eve (Oh) is a bored, whip-smart, pay-grade MI5... [More]
Directed By: Harry Bradbeer, Jon East

Kung Fu (2021)
86%

#20
Synopsis: A quarter-life crisis causes a young Chinese-American woman to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to... [More]

Synopsis: An 11-year-old girl with super-strength and magical powers deals with adolescence and monsters.... [More]

Master of None (2015)
93%

#18
Synopsis: Comedy following the personal and professional challenges that face a 30-year-old New York actor, whose trials range from the immigrant... [More]

The Mindy Project (2012)
86%

#17
Synopsis: A sitcom about an ob-gyn who wishes her personal life were as successful as her professional one and matched the... [More]

#16
Synopsis: East meets West when a widowed Japanese inventor moves his extended family from Tokyo to Chicago and hires a young... [More]

Synopsis: Fun family fare about a teenage girl with a penchant for whodunits. This Nancy Drew for the '90s got the... [More]

Never Have I Ever (2020)
95%

#14
Synopsis: A coming-of-age comedy series about the life of a modern first-generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling's own... [More]

Nikita (2010)
85%

#13
Synopsis: A spy emerges from hiding to seek revenge on a clandestine government agency that betrayed her after rescuing her as... [More]

Ohara (0)

#12
Synopsis: A Japanese-American detective relies on mental acuity over force to solve crimes (but could resort to martial arts if necessary).... [More]

#11
Synopsis: A New York woman struggles to adjust to life in a federal prison.... [More]

PEN15 (2019)
97%

#10
Synopsis: Two 13-year-old middle-school friends deal with the awkwardness of adolescence in 2000.... [More]

Quantico (2015)
70%

#9
Synopsis: A drama about FBI trainees at the FBI Academy in Quantico, one of whom is a sleeper agent who will... [More]

#8
Synopsis: The animated adventures of an enthusiastic boy and his best pal, a charming, cunning snake.... [More]

Silicon Valley (2014)
94%

#7
Synopsis: A series on the evolution of the Northern California high-tech mecca.... [More]

Sunnyside (2019)
36%

#6
Synopsis: A diverse group of hopefuls hires an out-of-work politician to help them become American citizens. Unemployed Garrett Modi was the... [More]

The Terror: Infamy (2019)
81%

#5
Adjusted Score: 83.842%
Critics Consensus: Real-world and supernatural horrors collide in Infamy, an exceptionally well-crafted ghost story that creeps under the skin and stays there.
Synopsis: Set during World War II, the haunting and suspenseful second season of the horror-infused anthology The Terror: Infamy centers on... [More]

#4
Synopsis: Musician and martial artist Jian-Wa Chang ran from the Feds after he was unjustly accused of killing two agents, and... [More]

Warrior (2019)
89%

#3
Synopsis: WARRIOR is a gritty, action-packed crime drama set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco's Chinatown in the second... [More]

Wu Assassins (2019)
83%

#2
Synopsis: An unassuming San Francisco chef becomes the latest in a long line of assassins chosen to keep the mystical Wu... [More]

Young Rock (2021)
90%

#1
Synopsis: A look at the formative years of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He will appear in every episode, bookending flashbacks to... [More]

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