'Kim's Convenience' Is A Sitcom About Asian Immigrants — With Depth The Canadian television show, which centers on a Korean immigrant family in Toronto, is the country's first to have an all-Asian lead cast. Season 3 debuted Tuesday on the CBC.
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'Kim's Convenience' Is A Sitcom About Asian Immigrants — With Depth

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'Kim's Convenience' Is A Sitcom About Asian Immigrants — With Depth

'Kim's Convenience' Is A Sitcom About Asian Immigrants — With Depth

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The third season of the sitcom "Kim's Convenience" debuted last night on the CBC in Canada. The first two seasons are available in the U.S. on Netflix. Now, the show focuses on the Kims, a Korean immigrant family that owns a convenience store in downtown Toronto. It is Canada's first-ever show with an all-Asian lead cast. NPR's Ashley Westerman has more on this one-of-a-kind sitcom.

ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: "Kim's Convenience" is not your typical show about Asian immigrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KIM'S CONVENIENCE")

KEVIN VIDAL: (As Roger) Mr. Kim, are you homophobic?

PAOLO SANTALUCIA: (As Kevin) Roger.

PAUL SUN-HYUNG LEE: (As Appa) What word you using?

WESTERMAN: In the first episode, Mr. Kim, played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, has been accused by a customer of being homophobic for refusing to put up a gay pride parade poster in his store. But Mr. Kim honestly just thinks the poster is ugly and that parades are annoying and to prove it, he comes up with a clever ploy on the fly.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KIM'S CONVENIENCE")

LEE: (As Appa) Yeah, yeah, yeah, look, look, look, I am not homopebek (ph). Look, if I am a homopebek, then why - why do I give a gay discount?

WESTERMAN: The episode takes off from there into a humorous look at stereotyping. The first two seasons of "Kim's Convenience" take on everything, from running a convenience store to class issues in Korean church to generational differences between immigrant parents and their children. At the start of Season 3, daughter Janet, an aspiring photographer played by Andrea Bang, wants to change her name.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KIM'S CONVENIENCE")

LEE: (As Appa) This website - it belong to (speaking Korean).

ANDREA BANG: (As Janet) Yeah, me.

LEE: (As Appa) You Kim Janet.

BANG: (As Janet) That's my English name. This is my new, unique Korean name. It means Justice Treasure.

LEE: (As Appa) Who give to you this name?

BANG: (As Janet) I did. I need it to stand out because my parents gave me a super boring English name.

INS CHOI: I came in with an idea - write what you know.

WESTERMAN: That's Ins Choi, who adapted his play, "Kim's Convenience," into the show.

CHOI: My father is a pastor. He used to be a pastor of an immigrant church in downtown Toronto. All my friends growing up in the '80s, '90s, their parents owned convenience stores, and I wanted it to be funny. My family's funny.

WESTERMAN: Paul Sun-Hyung Lee has played Mr. Kim, or Appa, meaning father in Korean, both onstage and on TV. And no, he doesn't really have a Korean accent.

LEE: I read the first two scenes, and my heart - it exploded because that was my appa. And I'd never heard him represented that way before. And it was like a key turning in my head, and his voice just started coming out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KIM'S CONVENIENCE")

LEE: (As Appa) Korea used to be spelled C-O-R-E-A. Then Japan tell England Korea spelled with a K so that Korea come after Japan in the English dictionary.

BANG: (As Janet) That's your most messed up conspiracy theory yet.

LEE: (As Appa) I'm not conspiracy theory - conspiracy truth.

WESTERMAN: In Canada, like the U.S., Asians are the fastest growing minority group. Lee says this is why it's important for viewers to see well-written and well-rounded roles for Asians.

LEE: They're three-dimensional characters with wants, with hopes, with needs, with fears, and that's what's so exciting about playing them as, you know, an actor of color because we've been so cut off from playing real people.

WESTERMAN: Nancy Wang Yuen is a media critic and author of the book "Reel Inequality." She says "Kim's Convenience" is refreshing.

NANCY WANG YUEN: Compared to the U.S. family sitcoms with the Asian-American families, they tend to resolve everything kind of in one episode. And the humor, even when it takes on social issues, they're more I guess light. And I think that "Kim's Convenience" takes on a little bit more complex layers.

WESTERMAN: Yuen says she came to "Kim's Convenience" binge-watching it on a plane. You can binge-watch the first two seasons on Netflix, but then you'll have to wait for Season 3, unless, of course, you're in Canada.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KIM'S CONVENIENCE")

LEE: (As Appa) OK, see you.

WESTERMAN: Ashley Westerman, NPR News.

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