Kim’s Convenience: a series review

At first, I was skeptical that I would find enough common ground between a Korean-Canadian family and myself to really get into a situation comedy about a culture and country different than my own.

I am an unrepentant Anglo- and Canuck-o-Phile. I’ve enjoyed many Canadian actors and comedians, and Canadian television ranging from The Kids in the Hall to The Trailer Park Boys. I feel a sense of kinship with Canadian comic sensibilities (which are a direct offshoot of British comic sensibilities), which often consists of a dry and wry wittiness, with a penchant for the absurd and bizarre. Plus, I had recently enjoyed another Canadian series, Workin’ Moms, so I was primed for more Canadian content. (Or, maybe I began watching Kim’s Convenience before I started Workin’ Moms: this isn’t really germane to my point and seriously mucks up the narrative.)

At any rate, I was predisposed to watching another Canadian sitcom. Plus, my wife and I had been fans of the television series Fresh Off the Boat, so I wasn’t necessarily Korean-adverse, either.

I was pleasantly surprised by this series. It is a situation comedy in the truest sense of the term. It is about a Korean-Canadian family that owns and runs a convenience store in Toronto, Canada.

There is the patriarch of the Kim family, known as Appa, which is Korean for “father,” I believe. He’s played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who gives the tradition of the semi-bumbling father a Korean twist.

His wife, Umma, played by Jean Yoon, seems to be a dutiful wife, but is in no way meek or submissive.

The Kim’s daughter, Janet—as played by Andrea Bang—still lives at home with her parents as she attends art school and works in the store.

Janet’s older brother, Jung, is estranged from his father when the series begins.

Jung works for a car rental company, and lives with his cousin Kimchee (Andrew Phung). While Jung remains in contact with his mother and sister, he and his father are not on great terms.

By the way, the part of Jung is played by Simu Liu, who has gone on to star in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The camera loved him even when he was just an actor on Canadian television.

During the course of the series, we are introduced to many other side characters, including a few quirky regular customers.

Standout characters include Shannon Ross (Nicole Power), the manager of Handy Car Rental, where Jung works. For several seasons, Shannon and Jung act out a typical will-they-or-won’t-they? sitcom trope. Gerald Tremblay (Ben Beauchemin) is Janet’s classmate, later her roommate and a part-time employee at the convenience store. Pastor Nina Gomez (Amanda Brugel) is also another of my favorite characters.

There are five seasons of thirteen episodes each available to watch on Netflix as of the date I’m writing this. These 65 episodes comprise the entirety of the wonderful series that is Kim’s Convenience. The show is at once original and familiar. You can expect the normal sitcom romantic entanglements, family drama and misunderstandings. A big part of the series is workplace comedy, at the convenience store or car rental company. Still, the series tackles some issues I’m not so familiar with, such as the generation gap between first and second-generation immigrants in Canada. There is also some character growth over the five seasons, with all of the characters. Not so much that the comforting sitcom status quo is completely destroyed.

I’m happy that I watched this series, and more than a little sad that it’s over. I have zero reservations about recommending this one for everyone. It’s good television.

Firewater’s Mr.-Kim-You-is-Bruce-Lee-and-Jet-Li-All-Rolled-into-One-Plump-Korean Report Card: A

This one is funny and heartwarming. Why haven’t you watched it yet?

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