Aug 25, 2018

[TV] Kim's Convenience: Season 1 Review

It's hard to avoid the lure of "relatable content" as it were especially when it comes to entertainment. And thus as a gay man I have watched more than my fair share of LGBT-themed movies just out of curiosity. Similarly I've ended up watching various Asian-flavor or sort of deals and thus I totally enjoyed the unique view on the Asian American experience that is Fresh Off the Boat.

So I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me when Netflix recommended Kim's Convenience as something that I'd enjoy. And on the surface I support it had a quirky mix of familiar elements but you replace America with Canada and that's what you get in the end.

The show is funny for its own reasons and the sort of jokes it delivers week after week have a distinct Korean flair versus other shows. And maybe that helps sell a particular experience that helps the show continue to grow its audience.

Synopsis: Kim's Convenience is a Canadian television sitcom developed for television by Ins Choi and Kevin White. The screenplay had been based on the book of the same name as written by Ins Choi as well.

In Moss Park, Toronto we meet the Korean Canadian Kim family. The father figure is Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and he's primarily busy with running the family convenience store together with Umma (Jean Yoon), his wife. They have had two kids - the younger one is Janet (Andrea Bang), who is studying photography at an arts college. But there's also Jung (Simu Liu), the older son who has become estranged from the family due to past events but now he's making a life for himself at a local car rental service. However by now the rest of the family sees him regular it's just Appa who steers clear.

The show bounces between following the bulk of the Kim family in how they run the store or how Umma handle other Asian families whether at the store or at the church where they're all part of the congregation and with Jun and his job a the car rental place. There we encounter the likes of Kimchee (Andrew Phung), Jung's longtime friend, roommate and work colleague and their quirky boss Shannon (Nicole Power), who clearly has a crush on Jung but of course cannot act on it given their work relationship.

What I Liked: First, the writing for this show is quite clever as it's more than just all great one-liners but also a fulfilling story with some great character-centric arcs. The writers really push things in a manner that keeps the episodes fresh and relevant on the whole. And I really enjoy how clever the show feels. Even though I've never been to Toronto, on the whole the material feels quite familiar to Asian families.

The tandem of Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon make for quite the comedic pair and I love how they manage to work off one another in terms of delivery. Everyone has their quirks after all and this show celebrates those character nuance tries to make sure everyone gets spotlight time. Hence special credit also goes out to Ins Choi for creating a fun fictional environment to tell these distinct stories.

What Could Have Been Better: The particular way Appa speaks along with Umma can be a little tricky to appreciate at first but it's not worth stressing out too much about. And while the Kim family got some great character development, a lot of other characters continue very little, especially when it comes down to the repeat customers visiting the store who get a decent amount of speaking lines in addition to mini story arcs within the show. But others just appear on and off again without much growth and that feels like a miss. A great example of this is Enrique (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll).

Also there were still a lot of stranger jokes that seemed to fall flat, especially given the seeming effort to given the show a distinct Korean flair. Of course not all jokes are equal and they're hard to determine but really a lot of the in-fighting in terms of who is right or other character quirks. It just didn't always work out perfectly in a noticeable way, but this is their first season.

TL;DR: Kim's Convenience is a distinct comedic experience from the likes of Fresh Off the Boat with a strong family push and a good amount of flair. There's a lot of good laughs that apply even if you've never been in Canada because the Asian experience has a lot of familiarities across its target market. And thus the first season gets a good 4 instances of Appa ordering "No, stop" out of a possible 5.

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