Goodbye ‘Kim’s Convenience,’ the wholesome comedy that quietly became a classic

A bittersweet final season aside, the Candian sitcom will always remain a wholesome watch for people to seek out and find solace in

In the latest season of Kim’s Convenience, Jung Kim (Simu Liu) says “Is Kim’s convenience a rare feeling in these trying times? A warm greeting for friends and strangers?”

Going more into the context behind this would mean giving away a bit too much. But Jung’s take on the convenience store that his parents own is an apt take on what the much-loved Canadian sitcom has come to mean for many people. Especially through the last year, the show has prominently featured in several lists of feel-good, fun shows for comfort-watching during the pandemic.

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This makes its abrupt cancellation all the more disappointing. Liu had recently penned a note on Facebook where he spoke, among many other things, about how he was disappointed at the lack of growth the characters had on screen. Just this week, some of the actors have also criticised the ‘overtly racist’ storylines and lack of representation.

Kim’s Convenience follows the lives of the Kim Family in Toronto: Appa or Mr Kim, Umma, and their children, daughter Janet and their estranged son Jung. Mr Kim runs a convenience store that’s quite popular among the diverse community, and as Asian immigrants, the show focuses largely on the parents adapting to the culture there, curveballs thrown at them by their children, and their large circle of friends of different ethnicities.

The final season of the show, which recently dropped on Netflix, definitely needed a lot more character development. It seems obvious towards the final episodes that the writers were trying to bring about a hurried conclusion. This is mystifying, given that the show was reportedly picked up for a sixth season before its cancellation was announced earlier this year.

Kim’s Convenience

  • Creators: Ins Choi and Kevin White
  • Starring: Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Jean Yoon, Andrea Bang, Simu Liu
  • Episodes: 13
  • Storyline: While running a convenience store in Toronto, members of a Korean-Canadian family deal with customers, each other and the evolving world around them

Contrary to expectations, the storyline doesn’t delve deeper into the lives of the beloved Kim family members. Barring a few scenes spread across 13 episodes, there’s not much about how Umma (Jean Yoon) deals with her recent health diagnosis. Janet (Andrea Bang) and a big reveal surrounding her character get minimal screen space, and even lesser time is spent on Jung’s plans for the future. Viewers are told that he’s gone to business school, but he’s back at Handy Car Rentals soon enough.

There’s also the crushing realisation that there will never be the big reconciliation between Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Jung; something that fans of the show have been eagerly awaiting. A lot more of this, and limiting the time spent on exaggerated sitcom tropes would have greatly elevated the season.

However, Handy Car Rentals gets a lot more attention this season, and Kimchee (Andrew Phung), and Shannon Ross (Nicole Power) are absolute scene-stealers. Shannon, in particular, probably walks away with the most satisfying character arc, and this probably has to do with reports of a spin-off series based on her character.

Shortcomings aside, Kim’s Convenience still manages to retain its wholesome, fun essence through the episodes. Appa and Umma continue their light-hearted bickering; Mr Mehta, Mr Chin and Enrique saunter in and out of the store; and Kimchee, Shannon, Jung and the gang at Hardy keep us entertained. Among the more heartwarming scenes are the ones where Janet struggles to get her mother to join an MS support group, while Umma admits she’s too strong and proud to seek help.

While many popular sitcoms over the years have been called out for their lack of representation, Kim’s Convenience stood out for its focus on a Korean-Canadian family, and the fact that five out of the six main characters were Asian. The writers also largely succeeded in ensuring that the humour was never just about reducing the characters to Asian stereotypes, but gave the viewers nuanced narratives — especially in the initial seasons — such as familial conflicts, racism, dreams of immigrant parents, and peer pressure. Umma consistently radiated warmth, and despite his occasional failure to be politically correct, we couldn’t help but take to Mr Kim and his ‘sneak attacks’.

A bittersweet final season aside, the Candian sitcom got so many things right, that it will always remain a wholesome watch for people to seek out and find solace in.

Kim’s Convenience is currently streaming on Netflix


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