Roush Review: Awkwafina Really Is ‘Nora From Queens’ in a Wacky New Sitcom

Danielle Levitt/Comedy Central

It was only a matter of time before Awkwafina, breakout movie star (Crazy Rich Asians) and Golden Globe winner (The Farewell), got her own TV show. What’s possibly less expected is that her show looks backward, to the comically exaggerated origins of the young woman known as Nora Lum—her actual name—before rapping and acting changed her life.

Her brash, screeching shamelessness is a good fit with the irreverence of Comedy Central’s brand, and comparisons to Broad City are already being made to this semi-autobiographical gig, in which she writes and stars as the exasperating yet wackily endearing Nora From Queens. (An alternate title could just as well be What’s Wrong With THAT Girl?)

True to slacker form, 27-year-old Nora lives at home, much like how the real Nora grew up, with a lovingly, passively indulgent dad (BD Wong) who calls her “Princess,” and a feisty grandma (Orange Is the New Black‘s priceless Lori Tan Chinn) who badgers her about her pot-smoking and hoarding, yet craves her company enough to invite her along to a memorable trip to Atlantic City. There, Granny initiates a small-scale race war against electrical outlet-hogging Koreans, and she’s such a scream that you begin to wonder if there’s a spinoff lurking here.

For now, the focus is squarely on Nora, whose misadventures include a number of hapless efforts to better her dead-end financial situation, whether by driving a ride-share—a disaster for someone so blabby and easily distracted—or hanging with a scam artist (Michelle Buteau) in a scheme that predictably goes sideways. With a smugly successful cousin (Saturday Night Live‘s Bowen Yang) forever lurking to remind Nora from Queens that her life is a dead end, the situations are funnier when her own lack of initiative bites her in the pocketbook. My favorite of the episodes I’ve screened involve Nora furiously trying to reopen an account at a bank that assumed she was dead.

As if! Nora’s just getting started, because the show already has been renewed for a second season, and for this fresh and irrepressible talent, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, Series Premiere Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:30/9:30c, Comedy Central