Fans are mourning the abrupt cancellation of Canada's top sitcom Kim's Convenience, a lovely, funny, light comedy about an immigrant couple from Korea who runs a bodega in Toronto and their two grown Canada-raised kids. It has been a respite from the stresses and horrors of the world, as sitcoms are designed to be, and a hallmark in representing Asian talent and stories in the West. The cast is uniformly brilliant, and all headed for greater things, but the abrupt cancellation of the show before a proposed 6th season cut off the desired sense of gradually ending and closure. To earn that degree of commitment and love from a fanbase is not easy.
That's not to say the show is perfect. It falls into a lot of traps that sitcoms fall into, like repetition and a tendency to pull its punches. Then again, pulling punches is usually what a light sitcom should do. That, perhaps, is part of Kim's Convenience's job. It also ends up shying away from a lot of deep story background that had been there from the beginning. There are also a couple of unintentionally funny takeaways from the show.
All Canadians Can't Stop Lying?
This trope is a story point in literally every episode of Kim's Convenience, right from the start. It's not only the Kims but virtually every single character on the show, regardless of their cultural background. The characters might lie to scam a better deal for themselves, like getting into a club or bigging themselves up. Janet (Andrea Bang) is said to be smart, but she's frequently lying to make herself look hipper and cooler to her peers, only to be found out in the end. The other reason they lie seems to be a very Canadian one: the fear of getting embarrassed. This is a trait Canadians seem to have inherited from the British, and it forms a fundamental part of every character in Kim's Convenience. It's what makes it a Canadian show. It's also a moral, so everyone who lies has to be found out and suffer consequences. This is the required ending for every single plot that involves a lie on US and Canadian movies and TV these days, with virtually no exception. Too bad real life isn't that neat.
Jung has spent every season doing something that blows up his life due to his indecision and confusion about what to do with his life, often ending up back at square one by the end of the season. Actor Simu Liu hoped that season 6 would finally see Jung resolve that issue and for Jung to finally be able to move forward as a functional adult.
The Pain at the Heart of Kim's Convenience
There's a wound at the heart of the Kim family, which is Mr. Kim throwing out Jung when he was a teenager for stealing money from the store and ending up in juvenile detention. That was the story of the original play Kim's Convenience that creator Ins Choi wrote back in 2011. It now forms the backstory of the sitcom. Jung's juvenile delinquency was mentioned and hinted at during the first season as a scandal that hung over the family and the community for years.
An Asian family throwing out one of the kids is a big deal, and that painful event actually informs every moment in Kim's Convenience. Shame, guilt, injured pride and social embarrassment are major factors in that kind of family trauma. It's lurking in the background all the time. This being a light sitcom, its full impact never bursts forth into a full-blown confrontation. Jung's delinquency is barely mentioned and when it's finally mentioned, turns out to be a lot more hardcore than you thought. Jung and Kimchee (Andrew Phung) actually got into carjacking and joyriding, fights with gangs, and run-ins with drug dealers. Janet and Mrs. Kim (Janet Yoon) have been more forgiving of Jung and actually see him regularly. Mr. Kim (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Jung are civil with each other at best and frosty at worst, since Mr. Kim is too proud to let his son back in emotionally. As a result, the whole family has never been seen together throughout five seasons of the show, and fans and cast were hoping a full reconciliation would take place in Season 6 to end the show on a happy note.
Kim's Convenience: What Next?
A sitcom could keep going indefinitely by repeating the above conventions over and over again without moving forward from that. It was very common for sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s to do just that, and then end their runs with no resolution, just stopping when the network finally cancels the show. 21st Century audiences have very different demands and expectations now. They want to see a progression and eventual resolution of ongoing storylines and closure by the series end. It's useless to speculate on why the creators and showrunners suddenly left the show. Whether they make a statement or someone in the know does is up to them. No writer likes to leave their story unfinished, so Kim's Convenience may be canceled, but this story is far from over. It's only been abruptly stopped.
Kim's Convenience is currently streaming on Netflix. The 5th and final season will be on the streamer in April.