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Opinion

Amusing autumn ahead

Canadian comedy gets another boost from Citytv's sharp sitcom

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2016 (724 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Every now and then, the arrival of a new TV series prompts a very specific reaction:

“Well, this makes sense.”

Second Jen, the new Canadian-made comedy that debuts tonight at 7:30 p.m. on City, is one of those shows.

Sharp, funny, slightly cheeky and smartly in tune with this country’s diverse demographic mix, Second Jen has been touted in some quarters as groundbreaking because it features two young Asian-Canadians in its lead roles.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2016 (724 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Every now and then, the arrival of a new TV series prompts a very specific reaction:

"Well, this makes sense."

Second Jen, the new Canadian-made comedy that debuts tonight at 7:30 p.m. on City, is one of those shows.

Sharp, funny, slightly cheeky and smartly in tune with this country’s diverse demographic mix, Second Jen has been touted in some quarters as groundbreaking because it features two young Asian-Canadians in its lead roles.

One of the best things about Second Jen, however, is that it doesn’t feel like it’s breaking any ground or pushing any boundaries. It just feels right.

The series, which was co-created and co-written by its two stars, Amanda Joy and Samantha Wan, focuses on the coming-of-age experiences of a pair of second-generation Canadians of Asian descent who decide to take the big step of moving out of their parents’ homes and into a downtown Toronto apartment of their own.

For Filipino-Canadian Jennifer (Mo) Monteloyola (played by Joy), the feet-first leap into independence is a product of necessity — her parents have decided to move back to the Philippines, and at age 20, she can’t imagine leaving behind the only life she’s ever known.

Wan plays her best friend, Jennifer (Jen) Wu, who is in a very different situation, living at home with Chinese-Canadian parents who are determined to maintain as much control over her life as possible.

CITYTV</p><p>Munro Chambers, Samantha Wan, Amanda Joy and Al Mukadam star in the new Citytv comedy Second Jen</p>

CITYTV

Munro Chambers, Samantha Wan, Amanda Joy and Al Mukadam star in the new Citytv comedy Second Jen

Jen has reconsidered her long-ago-stated promise to move into an apartment with Mo after graduating university; instead, she’s leaning toward bunking with her folks until she has saved enough for a down payment on a house (which, in Toronto, she figures will be when she’s around 40 years old).

Mo is adamant — "Do you remember, in 10th grade, when you showed me your TTITTS?" she asks, referring to Jen’s glitter-enhanced poster of "The Things I’m Totally Trying Someday."

Shared-apartment living was one of them.

In addition to driving the narrative toward its inevitable BFFs-as-roommates transition, it also signals Second Jen is willing to speak frankly (in network-TV terms, at least) in order to maximize the funny. And while it’s fair to say that attitude plays a bit part in this likable series’ early success, there are actually several elements that make Second Jen a must-see production.

Joy and Wan are terrific in the lead roles — absolutely charming performers whom young Canadian viewers will find instantly relatable — and the supporting cast, led by Janet Lo and Richard Tse as Jen’s very traditional parents and Al Mukadam and Munro Chambers as the girls’ new upstairs neighbours, Lewis and Nate, provide the Jens with two very different environments in which to strut their comedic stuff.

The pilot episode, which is burdened by the necessary character introductions and storyline establishments, is a very strong introduction to Second Jen, but the second instalment is where the series really hits its stride.

By then, the girls are fully moved into their new place and embracing the kind of 20-something independence that sends them careening through Pride Day festivities, but are also still grappling with Jen’s inability to establish new boundaries of communication with her still-overbearing mother.

Arriving, as it does, on the heels of CBC’s newly launched Kim’s Convenience, Second Jen is further evidence that this could be a good year for homegrown, scripted comedies.

These are shows whose successful arrival, in a Canadian pop-culture context, should surprise absolutely no one.

But in the Canadian TV context, two successful new sitcoms in one year? Now, that’s something.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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History

Updated on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 8:07 PM CDT: removed incorrect trailer

8:10 PM: added provided trailer emailed by Brad

8:12 PM: added trailer emailed by Brad

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