With all the negativity out there in the world, it's great to find a corner with positivity even if it is in a fictional TV series. The CBC network shows Kim's Convenience is one such show that will brighten your day with its wholesome charm and family-centric theme. The portrayal of Korean accents is a bit over the top, but the family sentiment is just right!
The Premise of Kim's Convenience
Ins Choi and Kevin White's feel-good sitcom started as a play by Choi that was more grounded in reality than the comedic stylings of its TV adaptation. But the theme of family and the struggle of first-generation immigrants are retained in the series as well.
The exaggerated accents with the l's turning into r's each time were hard to get over initially. But once I got past this extraneous detail, the series got more relatable as it went on. The series serves as a global introduction to Korean traditions and culture from the perspective of a first-generation immigrant in Canada. Ins Choi tells the story of a Korean family that runs a convenience store in Toronto, Canada, and is also supposed to be semi-autobiographical of his life. The fact that the show is based in Canada might also explain why the characters of the show are so polite and lack a mean streak.
By the time you are done with a few seasons of Kim's Convenience, you will be craving bindae dduk (a mung bean pancake with different stuffings of meat and kimchi) or Gimbap (cooked rice roll wrapped in lightly toasted seaweed with different fillings such as vegetables, meat, and fish).
There are no special introductions to Korean terms by and large, which is nice. It is just woven into the dialogue and scenario, with the audience picking up on the context as time goes on. (I mean, how hard is it to google bulgogi?)
Kim's convenience feels like a Korean Nancy Meyers movie, with a quirkier background score, and soundtrack, but with a middle-class lifestyle. I personally find it especially relatable as the patriarch and matriarch are addressed as Appa and Umma in Korean for mom and dad! It's the same words in various south Indian languages as well. It shows how a nuclear family is close-knit and its members always watch out for each other.
Characters in Kim's Convenience
The heart and soul of the show are the titular Mr. Kim played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who will remind everyone of their hopelessly outdated and awkward dad. He is hardworking, tries too hard with his dad jokes, and struggles to convey the same to them even though he loves his kids. Jean Yoon plays Kim's loving wife Yong-mi-kim who won't think twice before charging into his son's apartment to make him some delicious homemade Korean food.
Cut to the second-generation immigrant kids Jung (played by Simu Liu) and Janet (played by Andrea Bang), who are your typical siblings from a middle-class family, with a dash of sibling rivalry and one-upmanship. Despite the adorably mild sibling envy, the brother-sister duo cares for each other deeply, helping in times of need.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Simu Liu's acting range - from an elder brother in a Korean family to a Marvel superhero in the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Andrea Bang is really cute and acts really well, doing justice to the role of the tiny younger sister.
Andrew Fung plays the highly likable KimChee, Jung's long-time pal, colleague, and roommate who serves as the Yin to Jung's Yang. Jung and KimChee work at Handy (a weird name to say the least, but it's Canada eh?) car rentals with a group of colorful colleagues (strictly no pun intended!).
Janet has a good set of friends as well with Gerald played by Ben Beauchemin and her art buddies. Gerald is shown to be a bit of a pushover and polite to a fault. While Janet is shown as a bit of a control freak and sassy, showing personal growth as the seasons' progress.
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Favorite Running Gags in this Canadian Series
The reason why Kim's Convenience is popular is its honest, straightforward nature, with wit that is devoid of a mean streak. This comes across in its dialogue. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. "OK! See you!" - Mr. Kim says this every time a customer exits the store, to make them feel welcome and wanted.
2. "STOP!" - This is when Mr. Kim suspects something is fishy and either wants clarification or wants to air something out. Janet is actually seen "catching" this phrase like a bad cold from her dad to address a similar situation in the store.
3. "Janeyyt" - This is Mr. Kim saying Janet's name with hilarious contempt whenever Mrs. Kim rains on Janet or backs him up. I thought this was ridiculously funny!
4. "Sneak Attack!" - When Mrs. Kim does something underhanded or secretive, she or Mr. Kim proclaims this phrase.
The opening scene is almost always in the store, with Mr. Kim speaking to Mr. Mehta or other community members. The humor comes from this conversation, or when Mr. Kim fumbles a sale with a customer.
Social Issues Covered in this Series with a Korean Cast
Kim's Convenience is not focused on socio-economic and societal ills that plague citizens of the world. It has been made as Ins Choi says "A love letter to his parents" which I think is beautiful. That being said, it does touch upon racism, gender identity, and financial struggles for a family of immigrants.
Season 5 - The Goodbye
The final season of Kim's convenience seems like a signature that is done when you have to leave in a hurry. Rushed and inorganic, the fifth season feels like an incomplete and slightly aimless piece of work. But the show is still entertaining and tries to speed up character growth while wrapping up its plotlines.
The producers say since the show's creator's Ins Choi and Kevin White are leaving, the upcoming seasons would have the same heart and quality as the last ones. This is an understandable concern, from an unbiased perspective. Although it makes one wonder if the producers could have tried a bit harder to find someone qualified to fill Choi's shoes. Considering that Nicole Power, the only non-Asian got a spin-off in a series about Korean immigrants, it does look and sound an awful lot like deferred whitewashing.
According to Simu Liu, the cast, who is largely Korean-Canadian has attempted to provide feedback to make the show more authentic to its viewers. They volunteered their life experience to enrich the show's script and plot but were met with closed doors and indifference by the producers (Ivan Fecan @ Thunderbird Films).
After everything is said and done, the fans will bid a tearful goodbye to their favorite Canadian general store albeit without a choice. What you can look forward to is Jung's career growth, Janet finding herself, and Shannon moving on to bigger career goals. Some of the jokes, while out of place and contrived, are still funny and entertaining.
Should You Watch Kim's Convenience? - Yes, Yes, and Yes!
This is a great show that you can watch with anyone and walk away feeling great at any time of the day. Its got good clean humor and shows what family attachment looks like. Any immigrant or middle-class family will be able to relate to and enjoy this show.
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