Kim’s Convenience

Can Canadians do sit-coms?

What’s The Show? Kim’s Convenience

What’s It All About, JG? It’s a Canadian sitcom about a Korean-Canadian immigrant family who run a convenience store in Toronto. It’s all very traditionally sitcom-y, with the patriarch of the family, Appa, running the titular store and family life revolving around it. That family life includes a n’er-do-well son trying to make things right after a spate of petty teenage crime led to a rift between him and his father, a loyal daughter trying to do the right thing by her family which trying to assert her independence, and Umma, the matriarch who, at least on the surface, feels more grounded yet can spin out just as easily as anyone else given the right circumstances. In other words, it’s a family sitcom. What that summary fails to do, though, is sum up how unutterably charming and delightful the show is. Which may be a bit of a spoiler for what’s coming up…

Why Did You Give It A Go? Peer pressure, largely. Also a vague desire that it would be nice to have a decent sitcom to watch. Score!

Is It Any Good? I think you already know the answer to that by now. It’s absolutely fucking great. It it, first and foremost, just unbelievably sweet and lovely and watching it is pretty much the ultimate TV comfort food. And yet there’s always just enough acidity retained that it never gets cloying, and the family life – while of course beholden to typical sitcom shenanigans – is portrayed realistically so that it becomes incredibly easy to invest in the characters. Appa, played with a simply limitless amount of warmth and humanity by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, is the very definition of a typical sitcom dad – getting into scrapes, misunderstandings, you know the sort of thing – yet there’s a real fragility under the surface which Lee ably brings to life and which makes the conflict with his estranged son feel all the more real. There’s a great subtlety to the performance, and that’s true of Umma as well – Jean Yoon is a delight, snappy and no-nonsense right up until the moment she isn’t, but again with the sense that the no-nonsense approach is a defence against what’s going on under the surface. Simu Liu, as Jung, is credibly believable as the son shut off from his family and trying hard to make things right while working at Handy car rental, and his sister Janet, rounds out the family with a character arc that makes the conflict between family life and independence the centre of her world. It’s really the believability that lies at the heart of the family dynamic that anchors the show and makes it one of the best sitcoms of the 21st century. Or the 20th.

How Many Episodes Did You Watch? All of them, as if you couldn’t guess. The show has five seasons and, at time of writing, has just concluded after a proposed final Season Six, which the show had already been renewed for, was cancelled.  This is genuinely heartbreaking.

Would You Recommend It? It’s simply impossibly not to recommend it. It’s ridiculously easy to invest in the show and its characters, and there’s simply nothing that doesn’t work pretty much perfectly. The final season feels slightly incomplete because a couple of storylines – Umma being diagnosed with MS, and the sudden break-up of Jung and his boss/girlfriend Shanon in the final episode – either end abruptly or don’t really go anywhere, a result of that unexpected Season Six cancellation. But none of that affects the actual quality of the show. Of course there are dozens of side characters from the significant – Jung’s best-bro / co-worker Kimchee, played with excellent guilelessness by Andrew Phung – to the very occasional that round out the world of downtown Toronto, and each works about as ideally as you could hope for. Kim’s Convenience is pretty much the Platonic ideal of a sitcom in fact – it really is that good. It has warmth and heart, it has conflict, it has a stellar cast that work phenomenally well with the material, and above all it is funny. Sometimes that’s in tiny little ways – a glance, a raised eyebrow – and sometimes in big sitcom-y it-all-comes-crashing-down ways, but it is always, always funny. If five seasons is all we get then, well, it’s five seasons of joy and bliss and happiness and you can’t ask for more than that, really. It’s sad that it’s ended but it’s amazing that it exists. OK, see you!

Scores On The Doors? 10/10, for the very first time on this blog.

EDIT! Since Kim’s Convenience ended, there have been some rather unfortunate comments which have come out about the show, the writer’s room and how difficult it was for any of the Korean-Canadian cast to have any kind of creative input. That’s incredibly disheartening, but rather than edit this post I’m letting it stand as an honest reflection of my feelings at the time, and adding this to acknowlege what has been said subsequently.

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