Janet (Andrea Bang) seated at the cash register.
Representation matters. However, it is not the only thing. Yes, it is important that marginalized groups and communities see themselves represented positively in large-scale TV and film productions. However, that representation on screen is wasted when it is not backed up by equal opportunities for both on-screen and production staff, that representation is hollow and empty. Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian television sitcom that premiered on CBC Television in October of 2016. It depicts the lives of the Kims, a Korean Canadian family that runs a convenience store in Toronto. The series is based on the 2011 play of the same name by writer and showrunner Ins Choi. The show was an immediate success in Canada and soon gained an international following when the show was added to Netflix. The shoe was viewed as an uplifting and wholesome comedy, bolstered by a lovable cast and positive representation. However, that image has been tainted since the show ended its five season run in April, 2021 with accusations from the cast of racist storylines and a lack of diversity among the writing staff.
Appa meets Janet outside the store.
The Kim family consists of parents “Appa” (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and “Umma” (Jean Yoon) – Korean for dad and mom, respectively. The family also includes their daughter Janet (Andrea Bang), a 20-year-old photography student, and their 26-year-old estranged son Jung (Simu Liu). The cast is rounded out by Jung’s best friend and coworker Kimchee (Andrew Phung), and his manager Shannon (Nicole Power). The show mainly focuses on the core family of Him’s though, with it being primarily set in the store for the first season. Appa and Umma are very loving if a bit overbearing parents. Janet, a chucks wearing student, wants more independence and freedom as she starts out on her own, while Jung has been estranged from the family for over a decade after Appa kicked him out. Janet’s slow-growing up in the shadow of her parents and the reconciliation between Jung and Appa are the two main plot points of the show. Janet continuously tries to rebel, and Jung and Appa have a “will they/won’t they” thing going on for most of the show’s run.
The Kim’s even have a chucks piggy bank behind the register!
The show is a comedy, but it’s not a comedy that is hitting you over the head with jokes for 22 minutes. It’s more of a heartwarming and sweet style of comedy, with the jokes coming from seeing the Kim’s earnestly try and work their ways through everyday life. This has led some to say that the characters aren’t over the top enough to be funny and that makes the show, not a comedy. However, this works for the show in a similar way to the popular Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso. Appa and Umma are the heart and soul of the show, and the performances by Lee and Yoon are the core reason this show has been so popular. However, with that popularity, and the sudden cancellation ahead of season 5, came unsavory production details.
Appa and Umma leave Janet in charge of the store.
Simu Liu (who is now officially a Marvel superhero after starring in Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings), came out upon the show’s conclusion detailing how he and the other actors felt marginalized by the lack of diversity amongst the writing staff, especially the lack of Korean writers. This led to an environment where the cast felt their voices were not being heard and the storylines were inauthentic. This has tainted the image of Kim’s Convenience after being such a bright spot on both the CBC and Netflix.
Janet brings some food down for Jung.
The words of Appa himself, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, perfectly wrap up the legacy of this show: “It’s a cautionary tale,” he says. “No matter how good it can be, if you don’t deal with issues from within and try to gloss it over because everything on the surface looks fantastic and idealistic, then you are just asking for trouble. I think that’s the unfortunate lesson from this whole thing.”
Janet surprises Appa.
Do you know of other television shows or series where a main character wears Converse All Star Chuck Taylors? Can you describe a favorite episode or two from the series, or do you have additional information about the shows described here already? Do you have videotapes, DVDs or shot captures of episodes from any of the series that haven’t been given an in depth article on this site? If you do, email us at email@example.com and we will add the information to the television pages.